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54 Costly Divorce Mistakes


Divorce Mistakes BW1. Not having realistic expectations before the wedding. If you can’t become an equal partner and always do your share of work, communicating and being thoughtful then perhaps you should go back home and let your parents raise you some more.

Divorce Mistakes BW2. Not considering the advantages of a prenuptial agreement and getting one signed especially if your net worth far exceeds your partner’s or you have separate children to protect.

Divorce Mistakes BW3. Allowing a family lawyer inexperienced in writing prenuptial agreements to write your agreement. There are specific and detailed standards to follow or the prenupt can easily be ineffective. Hire only a family lawyer and only one that is experienced in such agreements (preferably a family lawyer that has had her agreements hold up during a divorce).

Divorce Mistakes BW4. Failing to properly budget before and during the wedding. There are good debts (commercial real estate, businesses) and bad debts (material items, personal extravagances). Going into debt for a wedding may easily be a bad debt in more ways than one.

Divorce Mistakes BW5. Mentally considering marriage a contract instead of an eternal commitment.  Performance contracts rarely ever anticipate all possible future situations and events and therefore often leave one or both parties dissatisfied.  A mutual and unselfish commitment to work together as a lifetime team is much more likely to last.  It is amazing how much satisfaction, love, happiness and accomplishment can come from a 50 or 60 year marriage.  It is not surprising that 50 or 60 years of being single can cause a person to be unhappy, unfulfilled and unsatisfied in life.


Divorce Mistakes DM1. Not having realistic expectations during the marriage. Living has a lot of overhead and mindless duties to share equally. A divorce is supposed to divide up the assets fairly and equally. A good marriage divides up the responsibilities, chores and duties and then a divorce should not become attractive or seemingly necessary. Did or do you and your spouse both take marital responsibilities seriously? Did you both try to be a good spouse, parent, provider, mate, citizen, neighbor or did one or both of you marry a “child”?

Divorce Mistakes DM 2. Allowing your separate property to become commingled or titling separate property in both spouses’ names.

Divorce Mistakes DM 3. Failing to properly budget. There are good debts (commercial real estate, businesses) and bad debts (material items, personal extravagances). Going into debt to try to gain lifestyle will be disastrous and lead to many marriage problems which often lead to divorce.


Divorce Mistakes 1.  Losing control of yourself, your temper, and your legal bill. Keep your emotions in check.

Divorce Mistakes 2.  Hindering your case. Do whatever you can to help your cause and do not hinder your divorce lawyer. Pestering her with numerous phone calls each day with trivial questions will alienate the one person who is trying to help you. Save up several questions or items for discussion before calling. Talking to your attorney’s paralegal may be just as helpful and cost you less. Ask your attorney what you can do to help her.

Divorce Mistakes 3.  Make appearances at your divorce attorney’s office without an appointment.

Divorce Mistakes 4.  Expecting or demanding unrealistic things from the divorce. You will not get everything you want just like in the marriage.  It is best to make your demands reasonable. There are no winners in a divorce. The best you should expect is to be treated fairly but that may happen only if you insist on it with the help of your divorce lawyer.

Divorce Mistakes 5.  Letting divorce lawyers or their paralegals gather and organize your paper work when you should be doing it.

Divorce Mistakes 6.  Being afraid to rely on your own judgment.

Divorce Mistakes 7.  Giving up control of the divorce to your divorce lawyer, friends or relatives. It’s your divorce and you should be making the important decisions that affect you. Don’t let friends and relatives steer you too much – use your own judgment and get through this your own way. However, confiding in and getting moral support from one or more close friends can help immensely.

Divorce Mistakes 8.  Not listening and following your divorce attorney’s advice. If your attorney’s advice isn’t good enough to follow, get a new attorney.

Divorce Mistakes 9.  Staying with a divorce attorney that makes you unhappy. Hiring a different attorney can be the best decision you make.

Divorce Mistakes 10.  Failing to calculate the after-tax value of your house and other real estate as well your vehicles, household belongings, stocks, bonds, IRAs, retirement plans, and other financial assets. Get help as necessary. Divorce lawyers and Family Law Judges may not be concerned enough with tax consequences and advice from an accountant can be useful.

Divorce Mistakes 11. Dividing up property without a thorough inventory and accurate valuations. You should make an inventory list of marital assets including description, year purchased, purchase amount and present value:


Personal property of significant value including sentimental value (jewelry,

guns, recreational toys, appliances, etc);

Real estate;

Investment accounts (stocks, mutual funds etc.);

Cash accounts (savings, checking, money market, certificates of deposit

and bonds;

Ownership interests of businesses;

Retirement accounts;

Life insurance policies;

Taxes owed or refunds due.

Also make a list of marital debts including description, year acquired, interest rate and present amount owed as of a certain date: mortgages and liens on real and personal property, credit cards, loans including student and personal ones.

Divorce Mistakes 12. Failing to be precise when negotiating child custody and visitation. Get specifics on the court record to insure which parent gets to do what and when and which parent is responsible for what.

Divorce Mistakes 13.  Letting stress or depression cause you to give up your routines. Regular exercise, good eating habits and resting will help get you through major challenges. Drink plenty of water; don’t get dehydrated.

Divorce Mistakes 14.  Avoiding therapy or counseling when a little help of this type could go a long way. Using your divorce attorney as a therapist does not count and is not cost effective.

Divorce Mistakes 15. Not having realistic expectations during the divorce. A divorce is costly in many ways and you will unlikely be able to predict your emotions. Read some self-help books – many people have preceded you and understanding what you are going through will help. Your divorce attorney can only do so much. You will have to work at this too.

Divorce Mistakes 16. Thinking your spouse will be fair and cooperative while you are emotionally vulnerable and upset and maybe in a state of denial. Your spouse may have moved on already and is looking out for number one. You better look out for yourself and your children because as any divorce lawyer will tell you, divorce is an adversarial process.

Divorce Mistakes 17. Not calling a divorce attorney soon enough. You’ll need advice from a knowledgeable impartial outsider. This is a time to protect yourself and your children. Getting first hand knowledge up front will help you plan.

Divorce Mistakes 18. Do not listen to or respond to advice or threats from your spouse or ‘ex’. Do not argue. Find out the facts from a divorce attorney. If you argue at all with your ‘ex’ you are inviting the “Dreaded TPO” (Temporary Protective Order). This will cost you lots of money and agony.

Divorce Mistakes 19. Not asking your divorce attorney enough questions. Divorce is complicated and asking a reasonable amount of appropriate questions may help insure your divorce attorney stays on track. Don’t be intimidated by the legal system and the divorce attorneys nor accept things with blind faith. Especially do not sign documents without reading and understanding them. Check all facts and figures, insure all peoples names are correctly spelled including the children’s.  Attorneys make mistakes.

Divorce Mistakes 20. Not waiting until your divorce is concluded before engaging in a new relationship. At the very least, do not talk about any new relationship with your spouse or ‘ex’.

Divorce Mistakes 21. Ending a marriage a few months before it would have lasted 10 years.  A wife is entitled to half of her husband’s social security at retirement if the marriage has lasted 10 years while her ex-husband’s social security benefits are not affected.  The wife must have been divorced for two years and not be remarried to make a valid claim.

Divorce Mistakes 22. Not trying to negotiate before you litigate; insist on this with your divorce lawyer. During such negotiations avoid accusations that would inflame your spouse’s or “ex’s” sensitivities. Don’t add fuel to the fire and discourage both divorce lawyers from doing so.

Divorce Mistakes 23. Not knowing the value and liquidity of marital assets. How can assets of unknown value be split fairly? Get professional help in having marital assets appraised. Get financial advice from an accountant or a financial planner. If your settlement is fair but you end up with few of the liquid assets, your cash flow may not work for you.

Divorce Mistakes 24. Not understanding the tax ramifications and potential penalties involved with retirement accounts, selling real property and other complex tax issues.

Divorce Mistakes 25. Overlooking debt and credit rating issues. Get your and your spouse’s current credit reports to understand what needs paid off during the settlement so bad credit won’t follow you in your after divorce life. Try to pay off all the marital debts as part of the marital settlement. Eliminate all joint ventures, investments and debt with your spouse – otherwise your financial future can still be adversely affected.

Divorce Mistakes 26. Not understanding a benefit of paying alimony. Paying alimony which is tax deductible instead of paying child support or to decrease a property award (both not tax deductible) can save the payor money after taxes. The ‘ex’ receiving alimony must report it as taxable income but may be in a low or zero tax bracket.

Divorce Mistakes 27. Being victimized financially by your spouse liquidating or retitling marital assets. You can prevent that from happening by notifying the appropriate companies in writing and getting a restraining order from the court. Especially protect cash in joint checking, savings and brokerage accounts and the cash value of life insurance policies. You don’t want to have to pay for additional legal and forensic accounting fees and more court time to sort out your finances.

Divorce Mistakes 28. Failing to gather all marital financial documents before they disappear or get horded by your spouse. Your divorce lawyer will need these, so get them soon as you or your spouse is contemplating divorce. Otherwise you’ll pay your lawyer for requesting and collecting such documents and she may not be able to get them all or when needed. Include account statements from:

Savings, stockbroker, real estate partnership, checking, credit cards,

money market, certificates of deposit and bonds;

Mortgages and liens on real and personal property;

Loans including student and personal ones;

Corporate and personal tax returns;

Corporate documents;

Titles to vehicles, boats, trailers;

Real estate deeds and notes;

Investment accounts (stocks, mutual funds etc.);

Retirement accounts;

Life insurance policies;

Records of taxes owed or refunds due.

Divorce Mistakes 29. Failing to identify your spouse’s hidden assets especially if a business is owned. Also there could be hidden checking, saving, brokerage accounts and retirement pensions. Children’s custodial accounts have been used for hiding assets. If you have a lot of complicated assets, you may need advice from a forensic accountant.

Divorce Mistakes 30. Failing to freeze brokerage accounts. If you have such joint accounts, fax and also call the companies immediately and notify them that you are separated from your spouse. Insist that no transactions are made without your written approval.

Divorce Mistakes 31. Failing to protect marital assets during the divorce. Protect yourself from your spouse withdrawing funds from your accounts or diverting your mail (checks).  Ask your divorce attorney how best to do that so you won’t be fraudulent.

Divorce Mistakes 32. Failing to cooperate with your spouse concerning the IRS. Working together with a divorce financial planner or tax accountant can save you both money in taxes.

Divorce Mistakes 33. Failing to be patient. In negotiating, the impatient party typically looses ground. Budget your “time mind-set”. Consider your divorce a year long business deal and make deliberate and logical moves including out waiting the other side on important issues. It took awhile for your marriage to go south and it will take awhile to unravel it without loosing advantage.

Divorce Mistakes 34. Being lazy, complacent and un-attentive. The divorce process requires a lot of energy and effort to be done properly. Your job, though temporary, is to do what is right for yourself and your children (if any) effected by the divorce. Don’t leave everything up to your divorce attorney – be an active participant.

Divorce Mistakes 35. Failing to properly budget money during your divorce. Your new budget needs to be based on your new life and it is easy to over spend.

Divorce Mistakes 36. Failing to communicate with your spouse and divorce attorney thereby wasting legal fees to get the information and embarrassing  and compromising your divorce attorney’s effectiveness by allowing her to be misinformed especially during court hearings and trials.

Divorce Mistakes 37. Not trusting your divorce attorney enough to tell her everything pertinent.  Your attorney needs to know the whole truth to do the best job representing you.

Divorce Mistakes 38. Using a divorce attorney as a financial planner, therapist, friend or messenger.  For emotional support, career counseling or financial analysis, use qualified professionals and save money. Friends and relatives may be able to give you the emotional support you need.

Divorce Mistakes 39. Not realizing that everything you say or write or do can become part of the divorce court record. During the divorce process, avoid sending mail, e-mails, chat mail, text messages or have phone conversations concerning your divorce or lifestyle with anyone except your divorce attorney. Don’t blab on Facebook or other social networks. Such indiscriminate communications may easily be detrimental to your case.

Divorce Mistakes 40. Failing to open up your own credit card account before you get divorced. Your spouse could run up high balances on marital accounts but if you get your own account while it is still possible, it will help your credit score and financial future.

Divorce Mistakes 41. Asking for the house. The house carries tremendous expenses and you may easily give up so much in the divorce settlement in order to keep the house that you won’t end up with the cash flow to maintain it. Usually the best plan is to sell the house before the divorce is final and split the proceeds.

Divorce Mistakes 42. Endless fighting using the courtroom for a battleground. It will wreck your emotions and finances and make your divorce attorney and your spouse’s divorce attorney wealthy. Pick only important rational fights and concentrate on them.

Divorce Mistakes 43. Failure to acquire proper insurance for the divorce settlement in case your ‘ex’ dies or becomes disabled. Such insurance can guarantee your payments and your family’s security.

Divorce Mistakes 44. Not being prepared, not being an active participant in the divorce process. Gather and organize all your financial and legal documents, including tax returns, bank statements and a list of your outstanding debt. Give copies of such items to your divorce attorney without delay. You may benefit from a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) that has extensive training in the financial issues of divorce.

Divorce Mistakes 45. Rushing into divorce. Keep her, it’s cheaper. In the long run you may regret not working out your differences. Consider getting help from a good therapist. Try really talking and listening to your spouse. Use a go-between family member or friend if available. If all this fails and you really need a divorce, get the best divorce lawyer in the area before she does.

Divorce Mistakes 46. Don’t move out of the house even if you feel like it or are invited or ordered out. When the father moves out, the court views it that his pain, convenience and freedom are more important to him than his children are. If he moves out leaving the temporary custody of his children with his wife, it sets a dangerous precedent for the Court – to leave the apparent custody situation intact. Seek a divorce attorney’s advice before moving out.

Divorce Mistakes 47. Expecting the legal system and courts to be fair. No matter what you and both divorce attorneys think, the judge will see things from another viewpoint and because of procedural rules, judges often rule on limited information. Don’t bet the farm that your viewpoint will prevail. Remain calm, rational and composed; do your best at problem solving for the best outcome.

Divorce Mistakes 48. Rushing to court. Court is costly and unless you have a very complicated divorce, you are likely better off reaching a settlement with your divorce lawyer’s help.  If your lawyer seems too eager to litigate or has a reputation for always litigating, find a more helpful lawyer. A mediocre settlement could be better than a good court decision.

Divorce Mistakes 49. Rushing into a settlement can cause you long-term financial or emotional consequences. Take enough time to do it right.

Divorce Mistakes 50. Selecting the right divorce attorney for you is the single most important divorce decision you will make. If you end up unhappy with her or select one without a well-deserved good reputation, you will add another regret to your list. Hiring a divorce attorney inexperienced in divorce or divorce court will cause you regrets.

Divorce Mistakes 51. Hiring a combative divorce attorney to punish your ‘ex’. This will likely be counter productive and cause you more punishment than to your ‘ex’. This type of attorney will probably charge you plenty and have a bad reputation with Judges who will then tend to rule against him in close cases. Keep your divorce businesslike and get your revenge by living well after the divorce.

Divorce Mistakes 52. Being overly generous with your spouse to try to win her back, or look good, or alleviate guilt. Being a passive wuss and acquiescing to manipulative demands from your spouse or ‘ex’. These are forms of temporary insanity that will likely disappear and leave you resentful.


Divorce Mistakes AD1. Not having realistic expectations after the divorce. It may take some time to get your career and finances back on track not to mention your emotional health. Eat, drink and re-marry but do be prudent and patient.

Divorce Mistakes AD2. Failing to properly budget after your divorce. Your new budget needs to be based on your new life and it is easy to over spend.

Divorce Mistakes AD3. Failing to attempt to modify alimony, child support, child visitation etc. with the court when substantial changes have taken place in your life.

Divorce Mistakes AD4. Failing to file modifications such as alimony, child support, child visitation etc. with the court in case problems develop later.

Divorce Mistakes AD5. Failing to keep good records and proof of paying or receiving alimony or child support payments.

Divorce Mistakes AD6. Using children to seek revenge upon your ‘ex’ or to gain information about your ex. Poisoning your children’s minds against your ‘ex’ will hurt your children. During the divorce process, the Court is always considering the best interest for the children. After divorce, the children need the same consideration. Do not make children be messengers between you and your ‘ex’.  Don’t make them responsible for negotiating issues that you and your ‘ex’ fail at.

Divorce Mistakes AD7. Failing to get emotional help for your children and yourself.

Divorce Mistakes AD8. Failing to understand the importance of both parents being in their children’s lives. Foster all such relationships so fractured families can make the best of it and go on.

Divorce Mistakes AD9. Making sure children know their parents did not divorce them and that both parents will always love them and be in their lives.

Divorce Mistakes AD10. Not letting go of bad feelings and grudges against your ‘ex’. Forgive, forget and move on to a positive life. Continually talking about your divorce will eventually alienate your friends and burden other relationships. If you have common children, learn and practice good parenting cooperation with your ‘ex’ to benefit your children.

Divorce Mistakes AD11. Forgetting to update estate documents such as their Will, life insurance policies, Trusts and investment accounts. The ‘ex’ could end up with it all.