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The Pitfalls of the Divorce Process
Be careful of the following:

  • Listening to your spouse's version of the law - it is usually wrong.
  • Not answering or ignoring legal papers - court judgments can be made against your interest.
  • Retaining a lawyer who you are not comfortable with, does not answer your questions, and does not inform you of conferences and court dates.
  • Not receiving itemized bills from your lawyer and other professionals - you need to know how your money is being spent.
  • Sexist or racist behavior towards you by your lawyer, spouse, your spouse's lawyer, court employees or the judge. There should not be unwanted physical touching, flirtations, derogatory remarks, or inferior treatment toward you and your case because of your sex, race or sexual orientation.
  • Your lawyer, your spouse and your spouse's lawyer seem buddy-buddy and you feel left out of the process - remember, you have a right to switch lawyers at any time.
  • Using a mediator without obtaining independent counsel, particularly, if you are the spouse who possesses less income and assets in the marriage.
  • Depleting savings to survive and/or observing money or financial accounts disappearing, large or unusual expenditures on credit card statements, new loans and debts, and changed beneficiaries on insurance and pension plans.
  • Waiting too long to obtain temporary emergency relief for maintenance (alimony), child support, an order of protection, an order prohibiting your spouse from transferring assets or changing beneficiaries on insurance or pension plans and/or attorney fees.
  • Settling for too little because you have low self-esteem or continuing unnecessary litigation and negotiations solely because you are angry or unwilling to let go emotionally.
  • Transferring your anger from your spouse to your children, lawyer, family members or friends without justification.
  • Using your children as messengers or pawns against your spouse - this is very destructive to your children's well-being.
  • Agreeing to joint custody when you will be the primary caretaker of the children and you and your spouse do not agree on significant issues affecting the children's lives. This is particularly true if it means that you will be obtaining less child support by entering into a joint custody agreement.
  • Consenting to an agreement that prohibits you from relocating with the children.
  • Signing a temporary agreement that is not fair and equitable because you think that you can always obtain a better deal in the final settlement - temporary agreements usually set a precedent for the final settlement.
  • Signing agreements under pressure, without proper thought and without discussing it with one or two people who care about you. Any signed agreement is very difficult to reopen, so be sure you can live with it and that it is fair and equitable.
  • Thinking that a separation agreement does not represent a complete division of the property and that you will have an opportunity to further negotiate at the time of the divorce. A separation agreement should be fully negotiated as if it was a divorce.
  • Dividing the assets without full disclosure of such property. All assets and debts must be identified, classified as marital or separate property, evaluated to determine their worth and tax impacted before negotiations can commence. The tax consequences of the entire agreement be determined before an agreement can be reached.
  • Not having sufficient documentation to prove cash businesses and off-the-books income. An accountant or investigator may be needed.
  • Not including your spouse's business deductions as imputed income if your spouse derives personal benefits from such items.
  • Not providing for life and if possible for disability insurance to cover the financial obligations of the disagreement in case your spouse dies or becomes incapacitated.
  • Not having a clause in the final agreement that protects you and your children in case your spouse declares bankruptcy.
  • Omitting a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) from the final court papers. Most divorce cases where a pension exists should have a QDRO instructing the pension administrator what to do with the pension.
  • Omitting enforcement and penalty provisions in the final agreement in case your spouse violates his or her obligations. Attorney fees, income executions, fines, liens, bonds, appointment of a receiver or other forms of security may be utilized.
  • Continuing litigation or extensive negotiations without doing a cost/benefit analysis. Analyze whether it is worth continuing the process, financially and emotionally, instead of settling.
  • Not following up with your lawyer about all the documents and filings that need to exist to close the matter properly and to ensure that you legally obtain what you are entitled to.

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