Divorce is one of the most difficult life transitions anyone can face, but the truth is, everyone handles divorce in their own way. Women going through divorce can face unique stresses and may be more prone to making certain errors and missteps during the process (the same goes for men, which we will explore in a future blog). Here’s a look at some of the most common divorce mistakes women make – and how to avoid them.
Mistake: Being afraid to ask for what you want.
Many women put their partners first, to the detriment of themselves. If you’ve been over-accommodating in the marriage, you will probably be inclined to acquiesce during the divorce. While you don’t want to be unreasonable, now is not the time to be “nice.” Property settlements are forever and custody arrangements are not easy to modify. What you do no now will impact the rest of your life, and your children’s lives, so push past your comfort zone if need be and ask for what you’re worth. Do not be a doormat!
Mistake: Believing that the courts favor mothers in custody arrangements.
The days when judges believed that children needed to spend all, or most of their time, with their mothers are long gone. New Jersey family courts are now gender-neutral, meaning both parents have rights to their kids. When determining custody arrangements, judges will consider such factors as work schedules and participation in children’s activities. If you travel frequently for your work, this may impact your visitation schedule. You must understand that your gender does not determine custody – but your ability to actively participate in your child’s life does.
Mistake: Failing to become financially literate. If you’ve let your husband handle the money, you must become financially literate pronto. Even the gainfully divorced will have to learn to scale down their lifestyle. If you’re not sure how to do this, consider hiring a financial planner. These professionals can help you develop a monthly budget, invest money wisely, and plan for retirement. They can also advise you on other important issues, such as whether or not it makes financial sense to own a home or rent.
Mistake: Insisting on keeping the family home, even if you can’t afford it. Women tend to be “nesters” who derive much of their identity from the home they are able to provide for their children. While it’s certainly easier not to move residences when so much of your life is in flux, staying in a home that you can’t afford will make things much harder down the road. When deciding whether or not to remain in the family home, you must set your emotions aside and ask yourself practical questions. On top of the mortgage, can you pay property taxes, homeowners’ insurance, and regular maintenance? Will you have money set aside to cover inevitable pricey emergencies such as leaky roofs and busted sewer pipes? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” or, “I hope so,” then selling your home is the wise choice. Moving to a new place that has no association with your marriage will also help you disentangle yourself psychologically from your ex.
Mistake: Clinging to your former station in life. Sad, but true: even in the 21st Century, society tends to smile on married women with children, and look askance at single mothers. Stepping down on the social pecking order can be especially painful for women who have based their identity and purpose on being a wife and homemaker. The tangible impact of downward mobility – moving to a smaller place, trading in a fancy car, foregoing shopping sprees, vacations, and pedicures – also pours salt in the wound to one’s pride. As wrenching as it may be to say goodbye to your old life, it’s imperative to accept where you are now. Pining for the past is an exercise in futility and will hinder you from creating a better future.
Mistake: Allowing yourself to be bullied. Any bullying you received during the marriage will increase exponentially during the divorce. If you’re naturally passive and accommodating, it may feel uncomfortable asserting yourself, but change you must! Bullies don’t respect you if you back down. Do not allow yourself to be pressured into accepting a bad settlement, and be prepared to litigate if need be. Think of this experience as an opportunity for personal growth; it’s time to stop being a doormat and learn assertiveness skills.
Making certain choices, as benign as they may seem at the time, can make a bad situation even worse. Making the right decisions now won’t make divorce easy – but they can steer you on the path to a brighter future.
Not sure how to move forward in your divorce? Our attorneys can help you make the right choices and decisions to protect your children and secure your future. Please contact us to schedule your initial consultation.