Fatal Mistakes That People Make In Divorces
Having totally unreasonable expectations or demands.
Too many people enter into a divorce proceeding and expect that they will get everything that they want. They frequently create a fantasy world as to what they think they are entitled to. They do not measure their expectations in relation to the availability of resources or assets. People who have lived their entire married life from paycheck to paycheck all of a sudden believe that they are entitled to a huge sum of money. People that have lived very well because their spouse has been very successful job frequently believe that they will continue the same lifestyle after divorce. People that have never worked while married frequently think that they can just continue not working after divorce.
People expect that the Court’s can make a person change. They demand that the Court make him quit drinking or make her quit smoking. A spouse who was lazy when you got married, remained lazy throughout the marriage, will be lazy after divorce. Sometimes I ask clients to carry an index card in their pocket or purse throughout the divorce. Once I get the commitment from the client, then I write on an index card “I will not ask my attorney to make my spouse be a nice person; I will not ask the Court to make my spouse be a nice person; I admit that my spouse is not a nice person; I admit that I am powerless to do anything about it.”
Probably one of the most important things any client can do is to spend time figuring out what are their reasonable expectations in connection with a divorce. These expectations should include housing, investments, retirement, income, medical needs, etc. Then the party should take a long time looking at what is the probability that those objections or desires will be able to be met. Generally, people do need to plan a budget while going through a divorce and need to develop several different scenarios concerning their budget. If a client will work through their desires and develop realistic expectations, focus on achieving expectations, and look at the reality that those expectations, they are much more likely to have a successful divorce.
Assuming that your case will settle, so not preparing for trial.
Many people who go through divorce have a relatively amicable relationship with their soon‑to‑be ex-spouse. Therefore, they assume that because they’re amicable, that their case will not go to trial. They frequently tell their attorneys that the case is “uncontested”. A divorce is just like any other lawsuit – there are two ways that it will be concluded. First, both parties will agree on every detail of the settlement and present it to the Court for approval. Secondly, if both parties do not agree on every detail, then a Judge is going to decide the issues for the parties.
It is important for people to remember once a divorce is filed the parties frequently lose control of their divorce. Courts set deadlines. There are discovery deadlines. There are deadlines for filing inventories and financial information statements. Meanwhile, people frequently operate on the premise that they don’t really need to adhere to any of these time deadlines because they are eventually going to work out a settlement and the divorce will be uncontested. Unfortunately, this gets people in a tremendous bind in many cases. In many cases, a client’s expectation of settlement is really no more than a mere hope. By relying upon hope rather than reality the client is really operating at a disadvantage. Over the years I have found that the greatest way to increase the probability that your case will actually settle is to very early on assume that the case is going to trial, and get the case prepared for trial. Frequently this is the most economical way. Furthermore, if your case does go to trial, you can expect a better result when you’re well prepared.
Assuming that your spouse will treat you fairly.
Just because you have an amicable relationship with your spouse does not mean that your spouse is going to treat you fairly. Frequently clients are in somewhat of a state of denial about their spouse. They think that their spouse would never treat me in a bad way. They believe that their spouse will take care of them financially forever. However, the reality of it is that many times a spouse, even an amicable one, is angry or grieved, and if given the opportunity to take advantage of you. Furthermore, you have to remember that your spouse has made the decision that he or she is going to go forward in life without you being part of that life. Therefore, when your spouse takes a look at the finances, property, retirement, etc. your spouse is frequently making decisions that are designed to benefit your spouse, even if it is to your detriment. I think that you always have to operate on the premise that your spouse is selfish and self-centered, and that that may hurt you.
Unnecessarily alienating your spouse.
I just previously discussed that you should not always believe that your spouse will be fair and cooperative. By the same token, you should not go out of your way to unnecessarily alienate, irritate, or embarrass your spouse. Many times objectives can be obtained through cooperation that cannot be obtained through the courts. Frequently creative lawyers are able to structure very rewarding financial settlements for their client, provided the soon‑to‑be ex-spouse feels like they have been treated fairly and with dignity. Therefore, don’t do dumb things like call up your ex-spouse boyfriend or girlfriend, or embarrass them at their place of employment, or threaten them, or seek to embarrass them in front of their family. Also, if your case does go to trial, the way you have treated your spouse during the pendency of the case frequently has a very strong bearing on the way the judge treats you in the final decision.
Entering into new relationships.
Divorce is one of the most stressful times in life. All of the plans, dreams, and hopes that you and your spouse have worked together for years are shattered and thrown to the winds. The direction that you have had in your life is yanked out from underneath you. I frequently joke with clients that a divorce is about like being a spider hanging on a spider web— you’re constantly blowing back and forth in the wind. It takes time to reshape your values, objectives, directions, and plans. Furthermore, it also takes a substantial commitment of time to work with your attorney to provide your attorney with adequate information so that you can thoroughly and completely prepare your case. Entering into a new relationship while a divorce is pending is almost always a prescription for disaster. It frequently means that you’re engaging in conduct that your soon-to-be ex-spouse may find offensive, it means that you are using what precious time you have to party with a new person, rather than devoting yourself to the preparation of your case. It frequently means that you end up neglecting your job or profession. Furthermore, entering into a relationship while your divorce is pending leaves you in a position where the new relationship is built upon the misery that you’re suffering from. Who wants to start a new relationship that is built on past misery? If there’s any way possible, do not enter into new relationships while your divorce is pending. Instead of an anchor into your family, your job, your religion, and the planning process of the divorce.
Not cooperating with your attorney.
All too frequently people fail to cooperate fully with their attorney. They withhold critical information from their attorney. They fail to provide their attorneys with requested documents in a timely manner. If you’re served with discovery, people frequently fail to adequately and completely respond to the discovery, or simply neglect it altogether. People frequently will not cooperate with their attorney in preparing an inventory or a financial information statement. If you fail to cooperate with your attorney, there is not a whole lot your attorney can do to fully and forcefully prepare, present, and argue your case.
Not following your attorney’s advice.
This is a delicate issue because in an attorney/client relationship you are the employer and your attorney is your employee. You are responsible for your attorney’s actions. You should not allow your attorney to run completely wild in a case. Instead, you should be the one that is calling most of the decisions in the case, after conferring with your attorney. Conversely, your attorney should be a person who is knowledgeable about the family law courts, the applicable family law, and frequently the opposing counsel. If you’ve chosen your attorney wisely, your attorney can give you the wealth of direction and guidance. Unfortunately, clients all too frequently choose to disregard the advice of their attorney, and rather rely on somebody else’s advice. Relying upon the advice of family members who have an ax to grind, co-workers, or friends— all the while without informing these people of all the facts of the case, is a prescription for disaster. If you’ve hired the right attorney for you, follow your attorney’s advice.
Being overly generous.
Once a party decides that they are going to get divorced, they want to do it right away. This is generally a bad move. Keep in mind that it took you a long, long time to get into your present predicament. You may have spent 10, 20, or 30 years working with your spouse, acquiring assets, acquiring retirement accounts, investments, houses, weekend properties, etc. To think that you’re going to get this over with immediately is simply a fallacy. Once you enter into the divorce process you somewhat lose control over your own destiny and you lose what influence you had over your soon‑to‑be ex-spouse. If your ex-spouse is not inclined to get it over with quickly (as many people are not), and you are very, very anxious, the chances are you’re going to be overly generous to your spouse. While this may ensure that you get a quick divorce, it frequently means that you get a really bad deal.
Allowing your emotions to override logic.
As I pointed out earlier divorce is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. Frequently they are emotionally and physically exhausted by the time they enter into the divorce process. They’re distraught. They cannot really see how they’re going to work through the situation and develop a life after divorce. They’re angry. They’re mad. They lack direction. All of these are normal reactions. People need time to grieve. However, once you enter into the divorce process, from a legal standpoint, it is much more of a business decision than it is an emotional decision. I urge that all my clients seek professional counseling. While lawyers have a wealth of practical knowledge, the simple fact is that we are not trained as counselors. Additionally, we are very expensive counselors. I found that clients that will work with a professional counselor are able to get their emotions in check and operate through a divorce in a logical, methodical manner. Clients that want to approach a divorce on an emotional level can expect poor results.
Believing your spouse is going to going to behave logically.
As I pointed out divorce is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. Many times one spouse assumes that the other spouse is going to react and analyze things logically. But that is frequently a faulty assumption. People who otherwise are logical, quite often become irrational in the middle of a divorce. If you find yourself starting to try to rationalize to your spouse and showing them that your position is logical, stop – most of the time this does not work and frequently backfires.
For more information on our family and divorce services, contact Houston attorney, John K. Grubb.