By: Bruce P. Matez, Esquire
Spouses who are considering divorce, are beginning the divorce process, or are in the process of divorcing, often begin to plan for the divorce and take actions that quickly derail settlement discussions, negotiations, mediation and the collaborative process. Sometimes they take such actions as a result of advice from counsel. The following are five common mistakes people make when divorcing which most often wreak havoc on the divorce process, cause unnecessary tension and mistrust, and make it very difficult to reach a resolution.
- Dating and new long-term relationships. When one spouse starts to date before spouses are divorced, especially if he/she begins a long-term relationship, often the other spouse, even if he/she wanted the divorce, is not emotionally prepared for that inevitability. New significant others also often interject their own values and judgments into the divorce, which tends to cause problems between the spouses. There is no law that prohibits a person who is divorcing from dating or engaging in a new long-term relationship, yet it has been my experience that this issue becomes a major road-block. It is also generally not a good idea to introduce a new significant other to children during the divorce. Aside from the emotional and mental impact this has on children, it causes all kinds of problems within the divorce process. From my perspective, it is really quite simple… be patient and just wait a while.
- Transferring funds out of joint accounts. One divorcing spouse sometimes transfers funds from joint accounts to individual accounts just prior to or after the filing of a complaint for divorce or upon the commencement of divorce negotiations, mediation, etc. While there may be limited situations in which such actions are necessary and appropriate, normally and generally this is not something that is necessary, especially without notice to the other spouse. The result of taking this action almost always creates tension and mistrust that lawyers, mediators and collaborative lawyers spend considerable time trying to resolve. It is extremely hard to undo the damage that is caused by such actions. If you absolutely MUST take such action, I urge you to notify your spouse immediately or in advance, and make sure to be able to show that the funds are safe and protected and will not be utilized without consent.
- Cut-off access to credit cards and home equity lines of credit. Similar to transferring funds out of joint accounts, spouses often close joint credit card accounts and/or home equity lines of credit so that the other spouse cannot incur significant debt during the divorce process. This is another action which is sometimes necessary and appropriate, but not always.
- Overspend on credit cards. Don’t start spending money and charging to credit cards. It is ok to keep spending in the same manner that you had been. Be reasonable, be smart, be rational. Don’t overspend!
- Engage your children (at any age) in the dispute. Children do not need to know “the truth”. Children have the right to be children and not be involved in parental disputes nor exposed to adult issues and discussions. Many adults who experienced divorce in their homes tell me that their parents shared adult information with them that they would have preferred not have been shared with them AND I have heard many times from similar adults that they believe their parents robbed them of their childhood as a result of involving them in their divorce disputes. This is true for adult children a well as young children; just LEAVE THEM OUT OF IT.