If you are considering divorce, you have probably made yourself a lengthy list of all the many “DOs” the divorce process will require of you. But what about the “DONTs” of divorce? Here’s a look at our top five things you either shouldn’t worry about as you file for divorce — or should downright avoid. It might be a good idea to keep a separate list for these:
Don’t Lie: When you get divorced, you will need to fill out paperwork (actually, a lot of paperwork) that discloses your financial situation, including all sources of personal income, your assets and investments, your household expenses, and your children’s expenses (if applicable). This information will be used to determine issues ranging from asset division and distribution to alimony and child support awards. Depending on your situation, there may be a temptation to overstate or understate or hide certain pieces of information. Don’t fall into this trap. Whatever short-term reward you may reap, in the way of higher or lower alimony amounts, for example, is not worth the repercussions of being caught. For more on the consequences of hiding assets, please see: Finding Hidden Assets.
Somewhere else where honesty is always the best policy includes aspects of divorce that deal with establishing child custody. Sure, it’s normal to have bitter feelings towards your spouse, but think twice before letting that bitterness spill over into false allegations that your spouse is an unfit parent. In the end, it is your child who will be hurt by this.
Don’t Rush: That saying, “you get out of something what you put into it,” is a good one to keep in mind when getting a divorce. If you rush by haphazardly filling out paperwork and agreeing to whatever terms your spouse presents just so you can get it over with, you are putting yourself at risk for potentially living with a subpar divorce settlement that can have lasting consequences. See our blog, “A Do-It-Yourself Divorce Gone Wrong” for a case study example of how one woman’s rush to get her divorce over with affected her retirement. You don’t want to drag your feet either (this can add up costs in other ways), but you do want to make sure that you understand and feel comfortable with every step of your divorce.
The key to not falling into this particular divorce trap? Find a good attorney who understands your goals, your budget, and your desire to move on with your life as soon as possible AND as smartly as possible.
Don’t Forget to Change Your Will: Getting divorced does not automatically revoke a will. If you want to prevent your soon-to-be-ex-spouse from receiving the monies and privileges granted them in your will, you need to update your will. You can re-do a will at any time. You can read more about estate planning and divorce here: What is Estate Planning and Why It Matters When You’re Divorced.
Don’t Increase Your Debt: Thinking about indulging in a little retail therapy? Try to channel your frustrations in a different — and lower cost — way. Divorce carries with it certain expenses, including the cost of hiring an attorney and paying court filing fees. Because having money stress on top of divorce stress is no one’s idea of fun, create a new “solo” budget that takes into account the short term costs you will incur in the actual divorce process as well as a longterm spending and savings plan.
If you have joint credit cards, resist the temptation to max them out to teach your spouse a lesson. Some think that just because the cards are joint, debt on them will be split 50/50. Depending on the nature of the purchases, this is not necessarily the case. What to do with those joint credit cards lingering in your wallet? Cancel them and start over with cards of your own. And then use them wisely!
Don’t Keep Your Feelings To Yourself: Divorce can brew a strong and confusing mix of emotions, ranging from anger, bitterness and sadness to relief and even happiness. It’s normal to feel “fine” one day, and the next, find yourself an emotional wreck. Maybe there’s someone in your life, a friend or a coworker who has been through divorce, for example, who can lend a listening ear. This may be the help you need, or you may need some extra support.
For many people, the best way to deal with their negative feelings is to seek counseling. Making an appointment with a therapist may be the single most important step you can take in your divorce after meeting with your attorney, mainly because staying positive and keeping your situation in perspective are two important ways to keep moving forward. Families with children may especially benefit. For tips on how to choose a therapist, please see our blog: How to Find a Divorce Therapist.
Looking for some divorce DOs? We’ve got plenty of those. For those starting the divorce process, please read: 5 Steps to Take Before Filing for Divorce.