What Not to Do During Your Divorce

By Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C.Divorce attorney

Woman divorcing and taking off wedding band

The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale ranks the stress of divorce second only to the death of a spouse or child. Divorce stresses people out more than imprisonment, death of another family member, personal injury or illness, or losing employment.

High levels of cortisol stress hormone can alter the brain’s ability to function properly, including:

  • Disrupting synapse regulation
  • Causing a decline in sociability
  • Killing brain cells
  • Making it harder to make decisions
  • Shrinking the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning
  • Increasing the size of the amygdala, which can make the brain more sensitive to stress
  • Putting you in constant fight-or-flight mode

So, the best step you can take is to assemble a team of trusted counselors who can help you navigate this troubled time. A New Jersey or New York divorce attorney at KGG Law brings decades of experience in divorce law. Here we discuss common mistakes people make during divorce proceedings that can spell financial ruin and lasting regret.

Failing to Adjust Your Lifestyle and Mind Your Finances

Once the divorce seed has been planted, you will need to immediately set money aside for all the expenses that will arise and for the change of lifestyle you may encounter. If you’re used to living in a $200,000-a-year household, you will not be able to maintain the same standard of living on a $100,000-a-year salary. Downgrade your expenses, wherever possible, and prepare for the inevitable. The average divorce costs between $15,000 and $20,000.

Don’t think you can hide money in a new bank account, “gift” thousands of dollars to your best friend, or sell off your assets quickly and pocket the cash. A lot of times, nefarious activities can be traced back, and it leaves a bad taste in the judge’s mouth.

Instead, make copies of all your financial records – bank and investment statements, tax returns, property deeds, insurance policies, vehicle titles, wills, and trusts. Don’t rely on electronic copies, as a vindictive ex could block your access. Keep these copies in a secure, private location. Hire a trusted financial advisor you connect with – one who can explain the situation in a way you understand.

Reacting Dramatically, Erratically, and Impulsively

While experiencing a flood of emotions may be inevitable, how you react is under your control. You may feel blamed, shamed, or manipulated, and crave revenge to regain the power you feel you have lost. Fear causes some people to spread salacious rumors about an ex. They send angry emails, leave hate-filled voicemail messages, and dish their personal business all over social media. They scream, cry, and fight in front of the kids. Some people medicate with drugs and alcohol, or flee to the arms of a lover. All these hasty actions could result in big losses. As one financial planner put it: “If you go to war, you’re basically giving away your money.”

The best you can do in this situation is nothing. Recognize that anger and sadness are natural parts of the grief cycle – and, in due time, they will subside, as acceptance moves in. Instead of projecting outward, turn inward. Journal and seek counseling from an experienced divorce therapist to help you keep an even keel and take reasonable action toward healing. If you have children, focus on taking care of them during the process.

There is no amount of “talking it out” that will resolve the heartache at this point. It’s over. Now you must look at the relationship as a business deal. Divorce court cares little about photo-documented evidence of infidelity or “he said / she said” accounts of the events leading up to divorce. The judge is going to care about the financial statements above all else. The stress of divorce makes it difficult for the smartest people to make good decisions, which is why working with a team of advisors is so crucial. 

Trying to Represent Yourself in Divorce Court

You may be able to represent yourself in small claims court, but it is not recommended that you attempt to proceed through divorce without legal representation. Even if the divorce seems amicable enough, as if you agree on all fronts, unexpected twists and turns often arise. Pro se litigation is much more time-consuming and often more expensive.

Instead, hire an experienced divorce or family law attorney, rather than relying on a friend who happens to be a lawyer or calling a “Jack of All Trades” firm you saw online. Divorce law is complex and varies from state to state. The process can last months or even years, so finding a lawyer you feel comfortable with is key. The best divorce lawyer is someone who:

  • Gives you the confidence to speak candidly
  • Listens to what you say
  • Assuages your fears about the divorce process
  • Answers your questions
  • Outlines the costs in a transparent manner

The attorney you seek will provide an informed, honest opinion of what you can expect in divorce proceedings. You will receive assistance filing paperwork, assembling documents, and dividing assets in an equitable way. If you’re still on the fence about the divorce, a marriage counselor may be a better bet.

Looking for more direct help with a divorce in Bergen County, NJ or Rockland County, NY? Contact KGG Law.

Additional resources:

  1. https://goodmenproject.com/divorce/9-things-you-should-never-do-during-divorce-cmtt/
  2. https://www.mydomaine.com/things-you-should-never-do-before-during-and-after-divorce-1102731
  3. https://www.businessinsider.com/things-you-should-never-do-if-youre-about-to-get-divorced-2017-2
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