It’s easy to make mistakes in any legal matter. It’s especially easy when your emotions are running high, as they tend to do in the middle of a divorce.
But sometimes getting a good outcome in your divorce case is as much about avoiding missteps as it is about making good moves. Here’s some common ones.
1. Moving out of the marital home.
We know. You want to get away from your spouse as quickly as possible.
After all, he or she either drove you crazy enough to seek a divorce in the first place. Or he or she rejected you by handing you divorce papers.
But if you move out of the marital home you tend to send the court a couple of important messages. Messages like: the kids are perfectly fine living with your spouse and not you. Messages like: you have enough money to set up shop in another home while staying responsible for the bills of the marital home.
These messages can come back and bite you later.
There is an exception of course. If your spouse is abusing you and the kids then of course you want to get to safety as quickly as possible. You want to leave the home and you want to take the kids with you.
But if this is a normal divorce where you and your spouse are simply at odds, you might just want to take over the guest room instead.
See also: Should You Move During Your Divorce?
2. Fighting over the marital home.
Accepting the marital home as part of the divorce settlement is rarely a good move for you.
It might feel great. You have memories in that home. You’re sure it’s the key to building a stable life for your kids.
In reality your kids will be fine if you move down to an apartment complex that’s in their same school district. One you can afford. Financial instability is way worse for kids than a location change.
Your budget is going to change. That means you’re going to have a much harder time keeping up with the mortgage, the insurance, and all those pesky repair bills. January tends to bring unpleasant surprises in the form of property taxes, especially in the Philadelphia metro area.
Usually both spouses are better off just selling the house and splitting up either the proceeds or the debt that results.
3. Spouting off on social media.
Anything you say on social media can be brought up in court and turned against you. This is true whether you are talking about your divorce case, talking about how awful your ex is, or even if you’re talking about your daily activities, like a party you attended or a great new person you just started dating.
The other side’s lawyer can turn you into an irresponsible, malicious party animal with plenty of money to spare without much effort at all if you’re just going to hand them evidence which can be handed over to a judge in hard copy form.
We advise all our clients to stay off Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites throughout their divorce cases. The exception may be if you use these services for professional purposes and only for professional services. Nobody’s going to be able to do much with your social accounts if you’re just tweeting accounting advice, or the latest SEO tidbit, or whatever it is you do.
4. Getting divorce advice from family members and friends.
Your mom is not a lawyer (unless your mom is a lawyer). Even if she is, she’s not a family lawyer or you wouldn’t be reading our posts.
Your sister isn’t either. Nor is your best friend who went through a divorce.
This won’t stop them from trying to tell you all about how they think your divorce case absolutely will or should go.
Their advice will be a mash-up of half-remembered stuff their own friends told them, misunderstood scenarios from their own divorces, stuff they read about in a book once or saw in TV once, and the various myths which just seem to float through the cultural air constantly.
Most of it will be dead wrong, and if you start taking action as a result of this advice you could create problems even your divorce attorney won’t be able to help you solve.
Getting all your advice from your divorce attorney tends to be the smarter strategy.
5. Fighting tooth and nail over everything.
There is probably very little that you own that costs less to replace than it does to fight over. If it’s a family heirloom that’s been in your family for generations it’s probably already nonmarital property and you don’t have to fight about it. If it’s a dining room table you just simply love, maybe just order another one if your spouse insists.
Spend way more of your time trying to get your reasonable share of cash assets, like retirement funds, or support payments. Then you can spend that cash on things you want and need later.
Same with the car. If your spouse wants the car? Let them have it. It’s a depreciating asset anyway. Focus on giving yourself the means to buy another one.
6. Attempting to use divorce to “punish” your spouse.
Divorce law doesn’t work that way.
The judge doesn’t really care how awful your spouse was to you. Unless he or she spent a huge portion of the marital assets on an affair, the judge doesn’t really care about that either.
Pennsylvania is a no-fault state. That means the judge doesn’t really need to take what went wrong into account.
The purpose of the divorce is to dissolve the business portion of your relationship. And there was a business portion: the money, assets, and debts you accrued together. It is also to make sure the children’s best interests are protected.
The sooner you adopt that mindset, the better off you are likely to be.
7. Failing to hire a divorce attorney.
Divorce is never a DIY task.
It is the exact opposite of a DIY task. It gets complicated fast, and one small mistake on those print-out divorce forms can lead to a lifetime of regret.
Don’t put yourself in a bad position by assuming you can replace 3 years of law school and years more of practice with a few hours of reading on the Internet. Even if you’re reading our blog!
Instead, understand you’re going to need an attorney to protect your interests, and plan accordingly.
Want to find out if we’re the right attorneys for you? Contact us to schedule a free consultation today.