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10 Divorce Settlement Mistakes That Can Cost You & Your Family


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Divorce is tough, even if you and your soon-to-be-ex part ways relatively amicably. If one of you doesn’t want to get divorced, blames the other person for the split, or seems to be doing everything in their power to draw out the process, things get even tougher.

Divorce is a trying time financially as well as emotionally. Fortunately, there are things you can do — and avoid doing — to help keep the process moving and potentially reduce the cost. As you work with your spouse to divide up your life together, here’s what not to do.

Mistakes to Avoid During a Divorce Settlement

1. Sharing Too Many Details Online

If you’re like billions of other people, you probably have at least one social media account. You might use your account to share photos of your kids, details about your hobbies, or pictures of your family pets.

One thing you shouldn’t use social media for during a divorce: revealing all the details about what went down or who did what to whom. What you share on social media could potentially come back to haunt you, so your best bet is to say nothing about your divorce online. As you go through the process of splitting from your spouse, don’t even mention the fact that you’re getting divorced on your social media profiles. Tell the people in your life who need to know, but don’t share the info with the entire world yet.

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You also want to be careful with any non-divorce related items you share. For example, if you’re trying to get spousal support from your ex, it’s not a good idea to share photos of your latest designer clothing haul, nor is it a good idea to talk about the expensive vacation you’re planning to take or recently took.

This rule applies even if you have your profiles set to private and even if you’ve blocked your soon-to-be-ex. You might still have friends in common, and some of those “friends” might be all too happy to let your former spouse know what you’ve been saying about them online or any other details you’ve posted that could be used against you during the divorce proceedings.

2. Getting the Kids Involved

Divorce is complicated enough when there are just two adults involved. Add children to the mix, and things can get more complex, especially when the parents try to use the children to get back at each other.

There are a few reasons to leave your kids out of your divorce proceedings. For one thing, they shouldn’t be a part of your battles with your spouse. For another, sending a child the message that one of their parents is a “bad” person can cause lasting emotional damage and make a child wonder if they too are a bad person.

From a financial perspective, trying to use your kids to get back at your ex can bite you. A judge or mediator might see through your actions and award full custody to your ex or ask you to pay more in child support.

3. Neglecting the Kids

While you don’t want to use your kids like pieces in a game of chess during your divorce, you also don’t want to get so wrapped up in the drama of the process that you ignore or neglect them completely. Remember that divorce has an effect on your children’s financial security as well as their emotional health. A 2014 study published in the Linacre Quarterly found that children of divorced parents had lower economic security compared with children whose parents stayed married.

You don’t have to discuss the nitty-gritty details with your children, but it’s a good idea to check in with them from time to time to get a sense of how they’re doing and what they’re feeling. While you don’t have to provide your children with all the details of your financial situation, it can be helpful to try to put their minds at ease when it comes to any money concerns they bring up.

Depending on your children’s ages, you can also ask them what they would like when it comes to certain aspects of the divorce. For example, some children are old enough to have a say when it comes to which parent they live with or how much time they spend with one parent over the other. Don’t try to force your children to do what you think is best for them. Remember that they’re going through a hard time too and try to accommodate their needs.

4. Focusing on the House

Divorcing couples often see their house as the ultimate prize. Getting the house seems to suggest you “won” the divorce and nothing else can go wrong.

But the house usually isn’t worth the fight, nor is “winning” it always the best outcome. If you end up with sole ownership of the house, you’re responsible for paying all homeownership expenses, including the mortgage, real estate taxes, upkeep, and surprise expenses like a sudden major repair.

It’s difficult to part with a house you feel an emotional connection to or a place where you’ve had many happy memories. But you and your ex are probably better off if you sell the house and split the proceeds rather than fight over who gets to keep it. That way, you both have a chance to start over.

5. Refusing to Budge

Compromise is a crucial element during a divorce. You and your former partner aren’t going to get very far if you refuse to budge or you insist on having things go your way.

There are a lot of reasons why you might feel inclined to be stubborn or take a “my way or the highway” approach during your divorce. You might think slowing down the process will keep the divorce from happening or make your spouse decide not to go through with it after all. You might hope to come out the “winner” of the divorce by obstructing the process.

But in the long run, refusing to budge will do you more harm than good, both emotionally and financially. For one thing, the longer your divorce proceedings drag on, the higher your legal fees will be.

Additionally, being stubborn might keep you from getting the things you want from the divorce. If you refuse to give on anything, you might find all of the things you want end up getting taken away. And even if you do you get a few — or even all — of the material things you want, your relationship with your ex will be forever damaged, even more than it’s been damaged by the divorce in the first place. If you’ll be co-parenting children after you get divorced, this can make things especially difficult moving forward.

Your best bet is to try to be flexible and to work with your ex to come to an agreement that serves you both.

6. Agreeing to Whatever Your Spouse Wants

Maybe you’re not the one who’s being stubborn during the divorce process. Maybe it’s your spouse who’s making the demands or refusing to listen to reason. Some partners dig in their heels because they assume that if they don’t move an inch, their partners will be forced to give in and give them what they want.

In some cases, this tactic works. A partner eager to get the process over with might acquiesce just to make things move faster. But think about what you’ll miss out on if you do give in to all your former spouse’s demands. You might not get the child support or alimony you need, or you might give your ex more than their fair share of your joint assets.

If you find yourself dealing with a stubborn spouse, it’s a good idea to get outside help. A divorce mediator can help you and your ex come to an agreement and work together to create a plan that works for everyone.

7. Dividing Assets Based on Current Value Alone

Part of the divorce process involves deciding how to divide your assets and property.

When splitting assets, it’s easy to focus on what an asset is worth today rather than think about the long-term value of it. For example, you might have an investment account that’s worth $100,000 and a rental property worth $150,000. The rental property looks like the better option now if you look only at its current value. But there’s also the cost of managing the property and the taxes involved in owning an income property.

For each asset, take a step back and think about both the potential for gain over time and the cost of ownership before deciding how to split things up.

7. Trying to Hide Money

Trying to hide money from your ex, their attorneys, and the court is one of the oldest divorce tricks in the book. There are many reasons people try to hide money or assets. A sole income-earner or primary breadwinner often thinks they’re entitled to more than their ex in the settlement. Some worry the court will make them pay a lot in support or alimony.

But the consequences if you’re caught are much worse than any support or alimony the court might order you to pay.

Plus, if you try to hide money, you’ll come out of the divorce process looking like the bad guy.

8. Assuming You Have to Go to Court

There are plenty of myths about divorce, and thinking you have to go to court is one of them. Depending on your circumstances, you might be able to court and avoid the hefty legal fees a court case often requires.

There are some factors that determine whether you and your spouse can avoid going to court and having to face a judge. You both need to be willing to work with a neutral third party, such as a divorce mediator, or with attorneys who are willing to collaborate with each other rather than argue against each other.

9. Going on a Spending Spree

Once your divorce is finalized, you’ll likely be living on less than you previously did. It can be tempting to go on a shopping spree in the weeks and months before you and your ex formally split your accounts and assets.

But any debt you rack up on your spending spree won’t magically disappear in the divorce process. If your ex was the primary breadwinner in your relationship, they aren’t going to automatically assume responsibility for debts incurred during the marriage. What’s likely to happen is you’ll end up splitting the debt. And if your ex can prove you rang up a lot of credit card or other consumer debt in the months before the divorce on your own, you might be the one left solely responsible for paying it back.

10. Stepping Out With Your New Beau

Even if you and your soon-to-be-ex are parting ways on the best of terms, and even if you’ve both agreed you’re fine with seeing other people, it’s still not a good idea to go out and about with a new partner while you’re still going through the divorce process. The same is true of buying your new beau expensive gifts or taking them on pricey dates paid for with a credit card you and your almost-ex share.

You don’t want to give your spouse any new grounds for divorce. If your ex is able to prove you’re in the midst of a new relationship before your divorce is final, you might end up with less after the divorce is over. Even if you and your ex were on the same page, a judge might still give them more of your joint assets or leave you responsible for more debts because of your new relationship.

Things can get even more complicated if you and your ex aren’t on the same page and you’re seen around town with a new partner. They might try to get sole custody of your kids or make more demands on you in court.

Wait until after your divorce is over to start buying your new partner gifts and introducing them to your family and friends. And don’t post pictures online of the two of you together until after you’ve finalized your divorce.

Final Word

When you’re in the midst of a divorce, you want it to end as quickly — and, preferably, painlessly — as possible. Avoiding the above mistakes will help you speed the process along, make it less stressful, and keep the costs of the divorce down.

Once you’ve gone through a divorce, it’s time to start rebuilding your life and planning for the future. Just as there are things to avoid during the divorce itself, there are things to avoid after getting divorced to help you set yourself up for financial success.

Are you in the middle of a divorce? What has been the biggest challenge, and what have you done to help the process along?


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Amy Freeman is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia, PA. Her interest in personal finance and budgeting began when she was earning an MFA in theater, living in one of the most expensive cities in the country (Brooklyn, NY) on a student's budget. You can read more of her work on her website, Amy E. Freeman.