The stakes are high in divorce cases. The stress of the proceeding is heightened by the fact that there are, with rare exception, no “do-overs” in family court.
Unnecessary errors can be made that may result in an unjust outcome – or put you at risk.
Here are the top ten mistakes I see litigants make in divorce cases:
- Overconfidence. There is no certainty in family law cases. The reality is that the court may not see the facts or law your way. The best way to manage the risk involves making an effort to resolve matters outside of the courtroom.
- Failing to Account for Taxes. Tax is not a very exciting subject. But, understanding the tax implications concerning a settlement or sale of marital assets can make a big difference to your bottom line at the end of the case.
- Going Solo. The best decisions are made in concert with others. Use your friends, family and lawyer as a resource. You still have control over the decision you make, but it will be an informed decision.
- Using Children. Too often I find parents using their children to get to the other parent. The relationship you have with your kids may be impacted permanently if you take things too far. Best to keep adult topics with the adults.
- Withholding Information. Sometimes a client will hide information or fail to reveal the “rest of the story.” Understand that the attorney/client privilege applies and your lawyer can only do their best for you if they have all the facts.
- Running on Pure Emotion. There is no doubt divorce is stressful. Anger, hurt, sadness and vengefulness are natural feelings. The best decisions are made, however, when you are thinking clearly about the pros and cons of a particular proposal.
- Misbehaving in Court. In most cases, you will have a limited amount of time in front of the judge. First impressions matter. How you react to the adversarial nature of the proceeding matters. Be polite and business-like. Treat your time in front of the court like a job interview and you’ll do fine.
- Being Untruthful. Credibility is everything in a courtroom. The first thing judges do when they sit down to ponder the evidence is decide who is more credible. Good lawyers know how to uncover the truth and impeach witnesses. There is no “perfect” person or client. Better to just tell the truth and let your attorney take care of the rest.
- Unwillingness to Learn. If you are bound to participate in a process that may take a year or more to conclude, best to understand the rules of the game. Take some time to read about the court process and the laws that apply to your situation. Your divorce lawyer should be able to steer you in the right direction.
- Failing to Keep Counsel in Check. The same suggestions made above apply to your lawyer. Your family law attorney is your advocate, representative and mouthpiece. Make sure they are working “for you and with you,” not consumed by their own agenda or a desire to make things more complicated than they need to be.