Ten mistakes to avoid during your divorce
1. Not knowing the extent of your assets and debts. Do you know the nature and extent of your marital assets and debts? Do not leave all the money issues in your marriage up for guesswork during your divorce!
2. Not knowing the value of retirement assets. This is a critical issue. While a spouse?s retirement account balance may be small today, the present value of a pension can be enormous. You may need to get a QDRO.
3. Not insisting that your spouse get insurance to cover maintenance and child support. It would behoove you to insist that either your spouse gets insurance or that you buy insurance on your future ex spouse because otherwise upon death, all payments cease.
4. Comingling separate property with marital property.
With real property and other titled assets, if you title the property in your spouse?s name, half of the asset will be considered a gift to your spouse. Plus, if you pay for the asset with marital funds you create a presumption that it is marital property.
5. Failing to realize that paying child support can be a good thing. It reduces your taxable income!
6. Comparing yourself to your friends. No two divorces are alike. Just because your neighbor got life time maintenance and her husband has to pay the mortgage on the house till the children are 18 doesn?t mean that you will get the same. The law/courts look to such things as educational levels, length of marriage, income of parties, and other factors to determine on a case by case basis who will get what. As for child support, it is largely formula based. Unless there is compelling reason to vary from the formula, the courts will look to the CSSA-Child Support Standards Act to determine how much each parent pays.
7. Choosing the wrong lawyer. Because divorce is such a difficult, emotionally charged issue that could take years to resolve, it is critical that the right parties ? attorney/client ? are matched up as early in the process as possible. This is a situation where chemistry is really key.
8. Entering into settlement talks too soon. Sometimes, just to get over an unpleasant experience you might be tempted to simply settle for the first offer that is made to you by your spouse and his/her attorney. This is not good. First, you must exhaust the discovery process to make sure that you know what the assets, liabilities, and true worth of your marriage is. You must be sure that the correct ?parenting time? arrangement is set up ? with clearly articulated terms, including time, place and manner. You must be sure property issues are ironed out, and that you are not giving up your valuable entitlement for the sake of getting over the divorce fast.
9. Sweating the small stuff. Don?t win the battle and lose the war. While you?re busy fighting over who will get the bicycles, you may be overlooking your right to get a share of the bungalow in Maui. Look at the big picture.
10. Thinking you know it all. An informed client is good, but there is such a thing as a client who ?knows too much for their own good,? sometimes. If you didn?t? go to law school chances are there are a few things about the law that your lawyer may know more about than you. While your lawyer works for you and MUST listen to you and try to make your wishes come true, it is important to learn when to listen to your lawyer too.
Originally published June 30 2006