For the past 25 years of my life, I have been specializing in high-conflict divorces. Over the years, I have observed a lot of things. I have seen things that work, and things that don’t. Here is some advice for those contemplating a dissolution of marriage and some of the most common divorce mistakes I’ve seen people make.
4 Common Divorce Mistakes
1. Having Unrealistic Expectations and the Wrong Mindset
Having unrealistic expectations and the wrong mindset are the two most common divorce mistakes people can make.
There are many people that approach divorce as a battle and make decisions accordingly. While this makes divorce professionals a lot of money, rarely is it a good litigation strategy.
Divorce is hard and traumatic. If you are going through this life change you should be trying to mitigate the financial and emotional damages that occur as a result. Your divorce attorney serves a critical role here when setting expectations for your divorce process.
3. Making Decisions Without Understanding Them
Being transparent and educating my client so they are in a position to make good decisions about their divorce case is important.
It’s key to note that I do not make decisions for my clients. Instead, I offer guidance and advice. I am not the one that will be living with the consequences of those decisions.
Any good attorney will educate their client so the client can make an informed decision. But if an attorney makes decisions for you, instead of explaining things to you and letting you make decisions, it might be a red flag you have the wrong attorney.
4. Thinking You Can Only Settle Your Divorce in Court
The two things I see people fight the most over are issues concerning children and finances. Most people can reach an accord without resorting to a judge – the stranger in the black robe.
For some reason, a divorce is a lawsuit. This automatically pits the spouses against each other, and the professionals employ zealous advocacy, meaning the professionals try and win at any expense so long as it is ethical.
I do not think this is the best framework to do this work in. Litigation is extremely expensive. I have seen people spend more money on the fight than on what they are fighting over. This leads to a phenomenon known as “charring the walls”. High conflict litigation is very much like taking a flame thrower and burning everything in sight. If the spouses have children, this makes it very difficult to co-parent after. The person making the decision, the one in the black robe (the judge), is human and makes mistakes. Most people can avoid falling into this hole, some can’t.
Two good attorneys should be able to guide their clients to a fair settlement without going to court. If not, they should seek the assistance of a qualified mediator. Sometimes there are impediments that prevent one or both parties from acting fairly.
Last Words of Advice
Above all, choose your battles wisely. Every “fight” you engage in has a cost. Don’t forget to breathe: oxygen in the brain is necessary for making good decisions.