Common Divorce Mistakes: What Not to do When Waiting on Divorce
August 2nd, 2022
The time between when you decide to get a divorce and when you are actually divorced can be emotional, stressful, and financially challenging. The choices you make while waiting to be divorced can significantly increase the costs of pending litigation, and make it harder to co-parent when your case is over. Here are ten common divorce mistakes to avoid if you want a streamlined divorce in Maryland.
What Not to Do While Waiting to File Divorce
Maryland law creates challenges for couples even before they file for divorce. If you are waiting out a divorce separation period, it is important to make smart choices about what you do, and how you spend your money.
Do Not Hook Up With Your Ex-Spouse
In the absence of a written separation and property settlement agreement that resolves all issues, Maryland has a mandatory 12-month separation requirement for no-fault divorce. That means before you can file, you and your spouse must live separately for 12 consecutive months. No sleeping under the same roof. No sex. If you and your spouse engage in sexual activities or spend the night together, even if both of you still intend to get divorced, it will restart the clock on the waiting period and delay your divorce.
Do Not Continue Depositing Wages into Your Joint Account
When you separate households, you may also want to separate finances. This may include changing a direct deposit of wages and the automatic payment of credit cards and recurring expenses from your joint accounts to a new individual account. Set up a new account solely in your name, and point all those payments and deposits to the new account. Otherwise, your spouse may continue to have access to money that you need for your individual living expenses and/or your individual bills. If you are unsure about redirecting your pay and expenses, you can still open a new individual account and have it ready for when the time for separate finances arrives.
Do Not Use Credit Cards to Pay for Household Expenses (if Spousal Support is an Option)
Separation can be financially difficult. You and your spouse likely pooled your resources to pay for things like the mortgage, utilities, and child care expenses. If you can’t cover these costs during separation, it can be tempting to just put the expenses on a credit card and sort it out later. However, if the credit card is only in your name, you may end up solely responsible for the debt, even if the card was used for marital or child-related expenses. Instead, consider filing a Complaint for Limited Divorce ahead of, or soon after separation. While it is difficult to run a financial deficit, this will allow the Maryland family court to consider your actual financial needs when being asked to consider an order for child support and spousal maintenance.
Most Common Divorce Mistakes
There are some common divorce mistakes that make their way into the majority of cases, to a greater or lesser extent. Being aware of these ahead of time can help you avoid the most severe consequences.
Turning Your Divorce Into a Weapon
In many high-conflict cases, the litigation process itself can become a weapon. When both sides file motions or make discovery demands unnecessarily, no one benefits. Don’t use your divorce to “get back at” or hurt your ex-spouse. Instead, try to approach your divorce and separation with neutral emotions, relying on your attorney to make the best deal, or best case available.
Bad-Mouthing Your Ex-Spouse
When you are mad at your ex-spouse it is very common to complain to your children or online. Simply put, don’t. Find a few confidantes that you can talk about your feelings with (or a therapist or divorce coach), but keep your divorce matters private. Otherwise, what you say could be used against you in deciding child custody or other issues.
Comparing Your Divorce to Someone Else
When you tell people you’re getting a divorce, they will want to tell you about their divorce. They may have “advice” based on their own experiences. However, no two divorces are the same. The Maryland family courts are required to consider each case based on its own facts and circumstances. If you compare your divorce to someone else’s, instead of listening to your attorney’s advice, you could end up making a bad and costly decision in regard to settlement.
Most Expensive and Biggest Divorce Mistakes
While less common, the biggest divorce mistakes are the kind that can cost you thousands of dollars or more. Avoiding these big-ticket errors is essential.
Hiding Assets During Divorce
Failing to disclose property, even if you believe it is non-marital, can be a costly divorce mistake. If you hide assets during divorce and your ex-spouse’s attorney finds them, you could face sanctions for misleading the court. This might include losing the property you have hidden, or having to pay your ex-spouse’s attorney fees. Secreting assets can also damage your credibility with the Court, which could also impact the way the Court assess your statements and testimony regarding non-financial issues, like custody.
Fighting Every Fight
Another costly mistake comes from failing to prioritize your needs and pick your battles. Sometimes, parties in high-conflict situations end up spending more on attorney fees than the value of personal property or debt they are trying to assign. In other cases, a party may fight to be awarded the family home, only to realize they cannot afford to keep it. Try to look at your divorce from a practical, financial perspective and weigh the cost of going after each issue with its importance and value to you - both financially and sentimentally.
Relying on Your Divorce Attorney to Do Everything
When finances are tight, it can be a mistake not to take an active role in your divorce. Your attorney can obtain bank statements through subpoenas and hire someone to take an inventory of your assets. However, you can often get discovery information quicker, with less hassle, and without the extra cost or attorney fees. Leaving everything to your lawyer can sometimes be the biggest divorce mistake you can make, and it is one that will likely never come up in court.
Avoid Making the Biggest Divorce Mistakes with an Experienced Attorney
One of the biggest divorce mistakes hasn’t made the list so far: trying to D.I.Y. your divorce. Many couples try to handle everything themselves without talking to an attorney. There are out-of-court divorce options that can save couples who still get along time and money, but handling your divorce entirely on your own may end up costing you more than you stand to save if mistakes are made. Sometimes, the mistakes made by people that don’t hire a lawyer cannot be undone. If you or your spouse are thinking about divorce, you will need answers to your questions. We invite you to review our Divorce FAQs to learn more about the Maryland divorce process and your options
Making mistakes along the way through your divorce process can be time-consuming and expensive. The team at the Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram is ready to guide you through the process from start to finish, to help you avoid the emotional and strategic pitfalls along the way. Our Maryland divorce lawyers are trained in collaborative divorce, mediation, and litigation strategies. To explore your case-specific divorce options we invite you to contact our office at (301) 658-7354 to schedule a confidential office consultation.