Even when couples wish to part amicably and agree to use divorce mediation instead of attorneys, emotional and mental stress may lead to regrettable actions during a divorce. Misjudgments may occur regarding issues such as spousal support, property division, child support, and child custody. The San Diego divorce mediation experts from Divorce Options San Diego advise couples to avoid the following pitfalls during the divorce process.
1. Not Having a Pre-Divorce Budget
Many divorcing couples don’t know all the details about their financial status. This information is required to determine asset distribution as well as spousal support. To prepare for divorce, write up a household budget showing your living expenses versus income. Without this budget, you risk not allocating enough funds for spousal support. Thankfully, spousal support duration and payments can be changed, but only if your settlement agreement includes this option. If the term “non-modifiable” describes your spousal support order, you can’t alter it after finalizing your divorce. Plus, for equitable asset distribution, a divorce mediator needs copies of your relevant financial and legal records. Make sure to gather all documents concerning your debts and assets, both jointly and individually, including tax returns, vehicle titles, property deeds, trusts, wills, and insurance policies. Additionally, make copies of your account statements, such as those for checking and savings accounts, credit cards, retirement funds, and investment services.
2. Lacking a Post-Divorce Financial Plan
After divorcing, a couple’s financial situation often changes markedly. For example, one spouse may keep the house while the other rents an apartment, or a formerly nonworking spouse must now find employment. For financial security, you must both project what your new living expenses will be and how you’ll meet them. To formulate sustainable budgets for the future, consult with a financial advisor. With professional guidance, you can devise separate financial plans for you and your spouse based on your respective incomes, expenses, assets, and liabilities. Financial planning eases the transition to a single lifestyle. Additionally, many couples don’t realize that marital assets received in divorce settlements may be taxed. Consequently, expected settlement payments can differ markedly from actual amounts. To ensure you can cover any taxes due, discuss this detail with your financial advisor.
3. Haggling Over Every Issue
To produce an equitable agreement, couples must modify their expectations. If you butt heads on each issue and refuse to compromise, you could end up in court. The purpose of negotiations is to reach a middle ground that works for both spouses. Try to be reasonable and practical when discussing settlement terms. While it’s hard to release emotional ties to assets, remember you’ll be financially responsible for them after divorcing. For example, with a house, make sure you can afford the ongoing costs of maintenance, repair, mortgage payments, and property taxes.
4. Not Giving Thought to Insurance
If you have children, you and your spouse should each purchase life and disability insurance policies. Unexpected injury or the death of an ex-spouse could result in the loss of child support, tuition coverage, and property settlement payments, leaving children unprotected financially. Regarding health insurance, after divorcing, don’t immediately cancel dependent coverage. If your ex-spouse or children have chronic medical conditions, you may be responsible for paying their uncovered healthcare expenses. While it may be possible to reinstate insurance, waiting for an open enrollment period can bleed your funds. Additionally, appraise and insure any substantial assets you gain through settlement, such as a house and pensions, and remember to update the beneficiaries on your respective wills and insurance policies.
5. Letting Emotions Overrule Good Judgment
During divorce proceedings, intense feelings can derail rational thinking, causing short-sighted choices you’ll regret down the road. Stay mindful of two goals. First, prepare yourself for future financial changes. Second, make decisions that protect the emotional stability of your family. A mediator can keep you focused during negotiations. However, it may be challenging to control volatile feelings and thoughts outside those sessions. While family and friends can be supportive, their closeness to you may prevent objective input. For help in maintaining your equilibrium, see a licensed counselor. If your children are showing signs of divorce-related stress, obtain counseling for them, too.
6. Speaking Badly About Your Ex-Spouse to Your Kids
While you may be justified in your grievances concerning your spouse, don’t criticize him or her around your kids. Frequently, children fault themselves for marital problems and divorce. Bad-mouthing your ex-spouse can fuel a child’s guilt, insecurity, sadness, and depression. By speaking respectfully of your former spouse, the divorce will be less rattling for your kids. Counseling can help you keep your cool. When you must discuss your ex-spouse, see him or her through your child’s eyes. If possible, express gratitude for everything your former spouse does for the family. Then take the goodwill a step further and thank your ex-partner directly.
7. Publicizing Your Pending Divorce on Social Media
Venting on social media works against settlement agreements. If your spouse sees any negative posts, it could impede your progress. If you’ve already aired grievances, remove any adverse comments from the Internet. You might even want to consider locking down your privacy settings or temporarily deactivating some social media accounts. If you and your spouse decide to announce your divorce, discuss when to do it. A joint decision prevents unpleasant surprises. To protect the privacy of children, in your settlement agreement, you can include a policy on child-related posts. For example, you could agree to limit posts and pictures that hint of spousal separation. Additionally, ask family and friends to refrain from posting anything that casts your family in a poor light. Such publicity could sabotage other aspects of your lives, such as job prospects. Going forward, avoid mentioning any lifestyle improvements resulting from your divorce. Such bragging will only hurt your children and their ongoing relationship with your ex-spouse.
8. Rushing Divorce Proceedings
Some couples, eager to end their marriages, don’t give careful consideration to their agreements. Consequently, they may not be at peace with some of their joint decisions. Take your time to work out a mutually beneficial settlement. Generally, the mediation process can span weeks to months, and the specific length is determined by several factors. One is your thoroughness in compiling information. Another is the degree of spousal collaboration. During mediation sessions, you’ll discuss substantive issues, such as debt, asset value, property division, spousal support, child support, and child custody. Outside mediation sessions, you’ll need to meet with a financial advisor and asset appraisers. Once you and your spouse agree on all pertinent issues, the mediator will draft a settlement proposal. The next step is your joint review and signatures before presenting the agreement to a judge. Then you can face the future, confident that your family is financially and emotionally secure.
If you’re at the point where you think divorce is the right choice for you, mediation provides an ideal alternative to hiring lawyers and having to make countless court appearances. The expert San Diego divorce mediators at Divorce Options San Diego provide a one-stop shop, offering comprehensive services that cover all aspects of divorce from beginning to end, and we focus on helping couples form mutually satisfactory agreements based on trust and respect. Give us a call today at (858) 281-2628.