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Five Divorce Mistakes to Avoid

By Sarah Jacobs, Esq.

Being future-focused can be a big asset during a divorce. Looking ahead keeps you focused on your goals and reduces the likelihood that you will dwell on current circumstances or become “stuck.” But dissolving your marriage involves a series of critical decisions that must be made in the present—ones that set you and your family up for the future you want.

Divorce is notoriously stressful, and the number of things added to your plate while you’re already handling your day-to-day life can seem overwhelming. But it doesn’t all have to be anxiety filled. One way to reduce stress during this time is through careful planning and the right support. This can help you avoid many of the problems clients commonly face.

(In fact, an experienced family law attorney can help you avoid these mistakes and make the process as simple and stress-free as possible.)

Here are five common mistakes to avoid as you navigate your divorce.

1. Not obtaining legal assistance from a divorce attorney

The biggest mistake you can make in a divorce? Not hiring a qualified family law attorney

Divorce isn’t just complicated while it’s happening. Court orders are legally binding, and you’ll be navigating the impacts of your agreements and any court orders for a long time after your divorce is final. Without the help of an experienced divorce lawyer, you risk making uninformed or short-sighted decisions you won’t understand the true impact of until months or even years down the road.

Family law attorneys understand the nuances of divorce law as they pertain to your unique circumstances. They can help you with everything from preparing for the tax implications of dividing your financial assets to understanding how your social media posts could affect child support or parenting time agreements. 

In short: with an attorney by your side, you’ll have another pair of eyes not only making sure you navigate a complicated system with more ease but that divorce strategy is realistic and supportive of your long-term goals.

2. Having unrealistic expectations

Whether they realize it or not, people going through a divorce have many unanswered questions and, often, mistaken understandings about divorce. 

Expectations—whether set from research on Google or your neighbor down the street—can influence your understanding of how long the process will take, how much it will cost, what support payments will look like, how parenting time will be divided, how assets will be split, how contentious the process will be, and more. 

While you might have an ideal outcome for how each issue should resolve, without realistic expectations, disappointment and frustration may impede clear thinking.

During your divorce, it’s wise to consider your desired outcomes, but it’s just as crucial to prioritize what’s most important. Which areas are you open to compromise, and which areas do you want your attorney to help you fight for? 

3. Rushing through the process or being unwilling to let it end

It’s normal to want your divorce to be over as quickly as possible. But there is a real difference between expediting the process and rushing into either an unfair agreement or settling on terms you didn’t really consider the long-range impact of. 

Getting a divorce decree amended is possible, but it’s not always straightforward, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get what you’re asking for. A judge will often agree to an amendment if one party was dishonest about their assets or if a legal mistake was made, but it’s much harder to get a truthful but biased settlement vacated if both parties signed it willingly. 

If you’re tempted to agree to a settlement just to end the divorce process, take a deep breath and remind yourself of your long-term goals. 

That said, the exact opposite is also true. Continuing to fight every single issue without being willing to compromise, can also cause frustration, unnecessary delay, and can be emotionally and financially costly. Sometimes, settling an issue, even one that could have had other outcomes, can be the most supportive of your long-term goals.

Any good decision will have a balance of risk and reward. Delving into challenging issues and examining them—instead of skirting around the hard parts—is more likely to give you the tools and resources you need to succeed long-term.

4. Assuming key issues will resolve themselves

At a time when you likely want to avoid confrontation with your ex, ignoring problems and avoiding communication will make the process more difficult, not less. 

As painful as it is to hash out specific details regarding child and spousal support, asset division, and parenting time schedules, avoid the temptation to stonewall or deflect during difficult conversations. Refusing to negotiate doesn’t look good to the court, and it increases the probability of a lengthy and expensive divorce process. 

Instead, you’ll find that proactively engaging in the process can help things resolve more quickly. Another by-product is having the document you or your attorney need to help support your claims. For example, track how much you spend on your children’s medical appointments and extracurriculars, who drives the carpools, who pays the bills, and which account the payments come from. 

On a similar note, ensure every agreement between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse is in writing. While verbal agreements may seem easier and more efficient, they’re more challenging to enforce and can lead to issues down the road.

5. Not updating your estate plan post-divorce

Under New Jersey state law, a divorce decree automatically revokes your ex-spouse’s right to survivorship of jointly owned assets and disposition under a will, but it does not void beneficiary designations.

If your prior spouse was previously the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or retirement account, those sections of your will might be voided. If there are too many unresolved issues, it’s possible that your will could be successfully contested or even thrown out.

If you want to make sure your beneficiaries are taken care of according to your wishes, you should make sure your estate plan is updated as soon as your divorce is finalized. 

Get help from an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney

The attorneys at Jacobs Berger, LLC have extensive experience helping our clients get through divorce proceedings with less stress to secure a stable future. Make an appointment to coordinate your strategy session with our team today and see how we can help you.

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.