Common Divorce Mistakes To Avoid
Divorce can be complicated, especially when there are children involved. Though our role in a divorce is to help our clients reach good parenting and financial agreements, we start out by making sure our clients are ready to start the mediation process and the ultimate legal dissolution of their relationship.
Over the years, we have seen people make negative comments, assumptions that are untrue, work off of bad information from friends, family, the internet, and come to the mediation process with “lines drawn in the sand” and ultimatums. Knowing these are things that may sabotage the mediation process, we strive at the beginning of the process to ensure our clients are set up with the correct information to have a successful mediation process. Nothing is more important than both parties having the buy-in to be civil, work together, empathize and do what is best for both of them and their children. With this in mind, here are some mistakes to avoid and be cognizant of as you participate it the mediation process:
1. Not exploring your options before choosing how to get a divorce or selecting an attorney - There are many options to consider before deciding to file for divorce and going down the litigation path, and the attorney you chose may sway you one way or the other if you are not careful. When you are emotionally ready to start the divorce process, are sure this is what you want to do, and that you desire to go through it calmly and amicably, then you are ready to find an attorney who shares your views about how you want the divorce to go and will honor and respect your wishes.
2. Not considering mediation as a way to get divorced peacefully - Getting divorced does not mean you are required to litigate and fight versus using a mediator to facilitate agreements and make the legal process more efficient and less expensive. By choosing to mediate, you decide the parenting plan and holiday schedule for your children and work through finances in a mutually-beneficial way. Though mediation is not right for everyone, not giving it a chance is detrimental to you, your spouse, your children, your emotions and your finances.
3. Not discussing and working out agreements for your children through college graduation and everywhere in between - Good mediators will not only help their clients with the required agreements they must reach to get divorced but also with agreements that are “real life” ones. How do you handle a car, cell phones, non-education expenses while your children are in college, introducing a new significant other to the children, life insurance beyond the legal minimum, paying for college? We work with clients who are divorced and who come to us because they are in conflict regarding something that is not spelled out in their parenting agreement, that is not detailed or makes no practical sense. We use this information to help our clients who are going through divorce to reach agreements now so there is not a conflict in the future. Agreements about anticipating the future typically do not come from going to court.
4. People sometimes assume they can get divorced without ever going to court and can agree to whatever they want for their divorce - It is always important to discuss what might happen in court, even if you hope to meditate without hiring attorneys. We often advise our clients to consult with an attorney before they hire us to mediate so they understand the law and can mediate a better outcome. People often think they can get through the divorce process without spending an additional amount on attorneys’ fees. While the idea might seem like a smart one, most of our clients hire attorneys to draft the necessary documents to complete their divorce. However, if they choose to handle the legal part of the divorce without a lawyer, we will respect their wishing and assist them in any way we can. We just cannot ensure the outcome.
5. Couples do not realize they need to communicate and solve problems together after they are divorced - Divorcing parents need to discuss problem-solving techniques when they are going through the divorce to make this easier later. If they know various issues will come up later, you should address them before finalizing everything. We help our clients focus on activities, what happens if their child needs a different doctor or a therapist, or a special school. Learning to communicate better in mediation makes it easier to solve problems in the future.
6. People should be able to support the decisions they make - People may decide one person wants to keep the house when that may not be financially feasible. The person keeping the house should be able to afford it and take care of it on their own. Same thing can be said for parenting agreements, make sure you understand what you are agreeing to and what those agreements mean, today, tomorrow, next month, next year. You have to live these agreements, so please make sure you are able to follow through with what the decisions you are making.