7 Stupid Mistakes People Make During Their Divorce
Most people start their divorce process expecting it to negatively affect every area of their life. However, many people make avoidable mistakes that can make an already difficult process even harder for themselves and everyone else involved. After nearly three decades of representing clients in divorce and child custody cases, I try to warn my clients about things that will make it harder for me, as their attorney, to achieve the results they are seeking. If you are facing the possibility of separation or divorce, it will be especially important to avoid making these mistakes as you begin the process:
Not Hiring a Lawyer Right Away
While this one may seem self-serving for an attorney to state, I assure you that the biggest mistake you can make is not hiring a divorce lawyer to represent you, especially if your divorce becomes a high conflict case. In my experience, people who try to represent themselves in divorce proceedings often have unrealistic expectations about the family court system, are woefully unfamiliar with basic court procedures, and are unprepared for the legal terrain they must traverse. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to help you navigate the process from start to finish without causing unnecessary delays and will use the rules and processes in your state and county to actively protect your interests.
Many people mistakenly believe that the clerks of court and judges will be able to assist them or offer them advice on what they should do at each stage of their case, but this isn’t true. The family court clerks in South Carolina may direct you to the pro se representation materials produced for the public by the SC Bar, but that’s about it. The questions they can answer for you are very limited and will not include anything which interprets how our state’s laws will affect the specific facts of your case. In fact, both clerks and judges are specifically prohibited from providing any legal advice. However, when you hire an experienced family court lawyer, he will be responsible for explaining how the law applies to your case and will take care of all the necessary paperwork to set forth your claims and requests for relief to the family court in a way which complies with all the applicable court rules.
Talking About the Divorce with Friends and Family
This is a mistake for two reasons. First, it’s important to remember that anything you say to your friends and family about the divorce can be used against you later in court. Your spouse’s attorney will be looking for anything they can use as evidence to paint you in a negative light and make it harder for the judge to rule in your favor. People who seem like friends today may have other loyalties now or in the future. Second, talking about the divorce with friends and family can put them in an awkward, if not, difficult position. You may want their support during this tough time, but if they end up having to testify against you in court, it could damage your relationship them moving forward.
It’s natural to want to confide in someone about what you’re going through during such a difficult time, but it’s important to choose wisely when deciding who that person will be. You should avoid talking to anyone about the divorce who could potentially be called as a witness later, such as friends, family members, or your children’s babysitter. Instead, consider talking to a therapist or counselor who can help you deal with the emotional aspects of divorce in a healthy way. If you have never sought the services of a therapist before, ask your attorney for a trusted referral. Most family law attorneys keep a list of well-qualified therapists who specialize in helping family court litigants deal with the unique stress caused by separation, divorce, and child custody cases.
Posting About the Divorce on Social Media
This is another mistake that can come back to bite you later. You may be tempted to vent about your divorce on social media or use it as a platform to air your grievances about your spouse – but you should resist the urge. Simply put, cases can be lost as a result of something that was posted on social media. Anything you post, whether it’s a status update, Tweet, photo, or video, can be used against you in divorce court. Your spouse’s attorney will be looking for anything they can use to paint you in a negative light and make it harder for the judge to grant the relief you are seeking. If you are actively posting things intended to embarrass, harass, or ruin your spouse’s reputation, you could find yourself facing heavy consequences in the form of contempt findings, sanctions, or other financial penalties.
Taking Things Too Personally
It’s important to remember divorce is a legal process, not a personal one. The harsh reality is that the family court typically doesn’t care who is right or wrong in the break-up of a marriage, the judge will only care about what is equitable in the division of assets and what is ultimately in the best interests of any children of the marriage. If you find yourself getting wrapped up in trying to prove that your spouse is a bad, immoral person, you’re likely going to end up disappointed and frustrated. Instead of focusing on all the negative things about your spouse and your impending divorce, try to focus on the positive aspects of your new life and move forward in a positive direction that you can control. It can be difficult to divorce without feeling like you’re constantly being attacked, but it’s important not to take things too personally. If you feel like you can’t handle everything on your own, consider seeking out therapy or counseling services to help you deal with the divorce in a healthy way.
Assuming That Your Spouse Will Change Their Mind
If you’re hoping that your spouse will have a change of heart and decide they want to work things out, you’re likely setting yourself up for disappointment. In most cases, by the time people file for divorce, they’ve already made up their minds that the marriage is over and that there’s no going back. It’s important to accept this fact and start to move on with your life. One way to do this is to focus on yourself and your own happiness. This may mean spending more time with friends and family, taking up a new hobby, or simply enjoying your free time. It’s also important to be realistic about the situation and not expect that things will suddenly get better. Divorce is often a difficult process, but eventually, you will be able to move on and rebuild your life.
If you find yourself in the minority of people who do reconcile after filing for divorce, be prepared for a long road ahead as you rebuild trust and try to repair the damage that’s been done. Talk with your attorney before dismissing the divorce case, too. Depending on your particular situation, it may be advisable to draft and sign a reconciliation agreement to protect yourself in case the reconciliation fails and you decide to ultimately divorce later. Your spouse may have a financial interest in attempting to reconcile, but a well drafted reconciliation agreement can help protect your financial interests and be worth its weight in gold.
Trusting Your Spouse Over Your Attorney During Settlement Negotiations
It’s not uncommon for divorce settlement negotiations to turn into a battle of he-said, she-said. If your divorce seems amicable, you may be tempted to trust your spouse when they tell you certain things about the divorce, their intentions, or their finances. However, it’s important to remember that your spouse is not on your side anymore and will not have your best interests in mind. In fact, it’s highly likely that things they tell you after the separation are motivated by self-preservation and an attempt to gain some financial benefit for themselves. It’s always best to discuss everything in detail with your attorney before agreeing to anything. This will help ensure that there is no misunderstanding or misrepresentation down the road and that you are not unwittingly giving away assets or other things you are rightly entitled to under the law.
Giving Up Too Soon
Going through a divorce isn’t easy. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things you may go through in your life. However, it’s important to remember that you can and will get through this tough time. It may take a while, but you will eventually be able to rebuild your life and find happiness again. Most importantly, don’t give up on yourself. You’re going through a difficult time, but you are strong enough to get through it. Divorce is often just a new beginning, and it presents an opportunity for you to start fresh. With time and effort, you will be able to create a new life for yourself that is even better than the one you had before. Trust in yourself and have faith that things will eventually get better.
If you or someone you know is considering divorce, it’s important to seek out legal assistance as soon as possible. An experienced divorce attorney can help you navigate the divorce process and protect your rights every step of the way. If you’re in South Carolina, you can reach out to Ben Stevens today to discuss your specific situation. If you are not, Mr. Stevens is happy to provide a referral to a well-qualified attorney located in your state. He is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and he is a Board-Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He has represented parents in child custody and other Family Court cases across South Carolina for well over twenty-five years. If you or someone you know is facing a child custody or visitation case, contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to request a consultation.
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ABOUT J. BENJAMIN STEVENS
Ben.Stevens@offitkurman.com | 864.598.9172
Aggressive, creative, and compassionate are words Ben Stevens' colleagues freely use to describe him as a divorce and family law attorney. Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He is one of only two attorneys in South Carolina with those simultaneous distinctions. He has held numerous leadership positions in the AAML, and he currently serves as one of its National Vice Presidents. Mr. Stevens has a statewide practice and regularly appears all across South Carolina. His practice is focused on complex divorce and child custody cases.
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