Common Mistakes People Make When Getting a Divorce
Sometimes divorce can be the best course of action for those who are facing difficult relationship circumstances. Even though it may be the right thing to do, a divorce can be intensely painful and emotionally devastating.
It’s important to understand that divorce can turn your whole world upside down and trigger painful and unsettling emotions. It may leave you confused, isolated, and fearful about the future. During this difficult time, it is easy to make mistakes that may affect your life. However, there are a few ways to help you handle divorce proceedings to ensure the best possible outcome. To help you deal with this difficult phase in your life, C.E.L. and Associates has compiled a list of the most common mistakes to avoid when getting a divorce.
1. Comparing your divorce to someone else’s divorce. Your divorce is about you, your soon-to-be ex, your children and no one else, period. As a divorce mediator, we caution our clients against listening to others, as they do not know the details of your family’s lives nor will they have to live with the final agreement you and your spouse create. However, you are legally bound by your divorce agreement, so make sure it is unique to your family. Avoid getting advice from anyone unless you are sure that they are looking out for what is best for your entire family, which is what a divorce mediator is trained to do. There is some useful information online, but there is also a lot of bad information online. Be careful.
2. Hiring one attorney to represent both parties. Another mistake is believing one lawyer can represent both parties when they mediate. This is one hundred percent wrong, no matter what anyone else tells you. An attorney is ethically obligated to represent one party in a divorce, only. Though it is not required for each party to retain an attorney, and thus increase the cost of the divorce, one of you can retain the attorney, who can draft the legal pleadings for the divorce, and the other can go "pro-se" or without an attorney. Just keep in mind that though the attorney can only represent the person who retained them, when there is a well-structured mediation agreement, they will use that agreement as the basis for the final divorce agreement.
Be leery of attorneys who state that both parties to a divorce are required to have an attorney. Simply put, this is not true. It is you and your soon-to-be ex's choice as to whether one of you retains the attorney or you each retain an attorney. It is your choice, as it is your family’s future. Don't let anyone tell you what you must do. When in doubt, speak with your mediator about your concerns. They are trained to know the right time to retain an attorney.
3. Believing that they can agree to whatever they want. Another mistake divorcing people make is assuming they can agree to whatever they want, and that a judge will simply "sign off on it" because it is what they want. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. Every piece of a divorce agreement needs to be equitable, and every divorce is different. Divorce mediators and Judges will make sure that the divorce agreements are objectively fair, balanced, and make sense - unlike a lawyer who represents only one party in a divorce. If an agreement is considered "unconscionable," a Judge may reject it. A good divorce mediator knows what is equitable and will help facilitate discussions that lead to fair agreements.
4. A child should ideally live with one parent. Many people think it’s best for children to live primarily with one parent and for the other parent to only see them once a week for dinner and every other weekend.
Though this might make sense for some families, this schedule is outdated and is not what is best for children. Having as much contact with both parents has been proven to be better for children than one parent being the every-other-weekend parent and having little or no influence on the children's lives.
With a well-structured schedule that considers many factors, children do very well spending weeknights with both parents and alternating weekends. This allows for both parents to be instrumental in their children's development and upbringing.
5. One parent should have sole decision-making power. A misconception that truly boggles my mind is that one parent should have sole decision-making power when it comes to decisions related to their children's school, health, extracurriculars, and religion. 99% of my clients share the major decisions in their children's lives, as they agree they want to jointly be active in their children's lives and work together for what is best for them. Sole decision-making power for one parent typically happens when parents live in different states, in domestic violence cases, or where one parent has a mental health diagnosis or a substance abuse problem that negatively affects their ability to make rational decisions for their children.
Sadly, I still run into family law attorneys in 2017 who tell their clients that they should have sole decision-making authority for their children despite their client having a good relationship with the other parent and always working together for their children's best interests. The only reason I believe they do this is to push their clients to fight with the other parent, thus increasing their attorneys’ fees.
6. Battles in a courtroom are the ultimate solution. Some people believe they need to hire a "shark" of an attorney, fight with their spouse, close out joint bank accounts, cancel joint credit cards, stop talking to their spouse, and take all the available cash and hide it from their spouse to "win." Though this might be necessary in a small percentage of divorces, this myth starts good parents down a destructive road toward divorce litigation, fighting over everything, and putting their children in the middle.
There are divorce attorneys who believe that every divorce should be a litigated battle, me versus you, and that their clients should never discuss details of the divorce with their spouse. Though handling a divorce in this manner only benefits the lawyers, it is a sad myth that some people believe to be true despite their common sense telling them otherwise.
To avoid these and other divorce or separation mistakes reach out to C.E.L. & Associates, Inc. C.E.L. & Associates, Inc. is an experienced group of divorce mediators, therapists, and parenting coordinators serving Chicago, IL and surrounding areas.
We help couples through separation, divorce, and post-decree issues and assist the breakup of their marriage and restructuring of their family unit. We also handle same-sex relationships, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements and couples who have never been married and assist individuals having employment or partnership disputes and community or neighborhood issues. We promise our clients that we will be honest, straightforward and respectful regardless of the circumstances or facts they present to us in mediation. For a complete list of our services, please click here. If you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you, click here to contact us.