When you’re going through the planning stages of a divorce, it’s a tough transition for everyone. Despite the potential for unimaginable stress, you must still make prudent choices. That’s often difficult when you’re experiencing so many emotional changes. Still, it’s important that you strike a balance between living a normal life and avoiding the mistakes that inevitably make your divorce even more stressful.
Attorney Steven M. Bishop understands that divorce is hard, even during the planning stages. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, he’s often seen consequences when a divorcing couple makes mistakes before seeking legal advice. He created this list of the top 5 divorce planning mistakes to encourage you to think carefully before you act.
1. Including Your Children in Your Conflict
As parents, you must try to keep your children out of the middle of what is essentially an adult conflict. That’s often difficult when they’re the object of so many critical decisions. California Family Statutes include a helpful standard that should guide your actions before, during, and after your divorce. Their goal is to make decisions based on “the best interests of the child.” That must be your goal as well.
The Psychology Today article, “Understanding the Effects of High-Conflict Divorce on Kids” discusses how profoundly parental conflict can change a child. Studies have shown that bickering parents cause childhood problems from mental health to self-esteem. You and your future ex-partner or ex-spouse must decide together how to meet this challenge. Here are a few solutions to consider.
- Provide reasonable age-appropriate answers to your children’s questions. They deserve simple facts about what’s going on. If they can’t get answers from you, they will find them elsewhere.
- Don’t argue in front of the children. The above article suggests communicating via email to avoid emotional interactions.
- Consider accessing the California Court-recommended website, Families Change. It provides resources to help parents, children, and teens deal with divorce.
- Work together on a parenting plan that’s acceptable to both parents.
- Establish workable traditions for dealing with future conflicts.
2. Insisting on Your Day in Court
Some spouses and partners want their day in court. They want a judge to hear what they’ve been going through. They want the court to grant them sole custody of the children. They want spousal and child support. They want to air their dirty laundry, no matter the emotional cost. If you’re anticipating this volatile, TV-version of the divorce process, you should probably consider non-court alternatives instead.
Collaborative Divorce: You and your spouse or partner work with attorneys who help you negotiate an agreement without going to court. You may seek input from specialists to help you make decisions about child support, community property, and other matters. You can sign a document designating that you agree to resolve your differences outside the courtroom.
Mediation: Divorcing parties and their attorneys work with a trained mediator to discuss their divorce issues. It’s facilitated negotiation where the mediator encourages the parties to communicate and find solutions. The mediator has no authority to make decisions on your behalf.
3. Going Into More Debt
If shopping is your go-to activity for easing stress, you’re not alone. While shopping might be the ideal activity to calm you during your divorce process, it’s probably not a good idea. Whether you pay with credit or cash, your purchases will affect your divorce-related financial issues one way or another. Before you plan a shopping trip, you must consider your financial future.
You will eventually settle into a new home or apartment. You’ll have to pay all the bills you and your spouse or partner once managed together. If you don’t have custody of your children, the court will order you to pay child support. If you do have custody of your children, you will likely pay extra expenses that aren’t included in the support agreement. You’ll owe court costs and legal fees. Also, when you spend money, your spouse could accuse you of depleting community assets.
4. Hiding your assets
Divorce often brings out a natural instinct to protect your property and financial resources. Some divorcing spouses do this by attempting to hide them. You might think up an elaborate plan to retain assets your spouse might not know about. That’s something you should never consider for two reasons.
- Your spouse will likely find out.
- If you lie about your assets during a divorce process, it’s perjury.
If your soon-to-be-ex suspects that you’re hiding assets, she or he can hire a forensic accountant to confirm or disprove their suspicions. Forensic accountants specialize in criminal matters, but they also provide valuable services for divorcing spouses. It’s a fee that spouses gladly pay when they believe their future exes are hiding community property assets.
If the Family Court learns about your subterfuge, the judge has the option of referring you for criminal prosecution. When you misrepresent your assets during a court process, you’re not simply misleading your spouse. You’re lying to the court, and that’s perjury. While the court might not choose to refer you for criminal charges, it has the discretion to use that option.
5. Forgetting to Change Your Beneficiaries
Some life insurance policies won’t pay if the beneficiary doesn’t have an insurable interest in the insured person. Not all financial instruments work that way. If your spouse or partner is a named beneficiary on your will, irrevocable trust, or some other financial instrument, you must make the changes immediately. Retirement plans are a little more complicated. You can’t remove an existing spouse’s name from an ERISA-governed retirement plan. If your plan doesn’t become a part of the community estate, you should change the named beneficiary as soon as you can do it legally.
Contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop
As you consider divorce or legal separation, you must know and understand your legal rights and responsibilities. Even if you don’t understand the legal ramifications of your actions, the court will still hold you responsible. Contact Attorney Steven M. Bishop to schedule a consultation. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, he can help you from the early planning stages to the final disposition.
To schedule your consultation contact Attorney Bishop at (619) 299-9780 or complete our Contact Form.