Published: December 23, 2017

person holding up a card saying Learn From MistakesThe stress, conflict, and cost associated with divorce can be reduced by avoiding some of the more common mistakes made by couples who decide to separate. Even a single mistake made early in the divorce process can lead to multiple repercussions. Or there is one bad decision after another, leading to ever higher levels of stress and conflict, not just for the respective spouses, but also for children and other loved ones.

Don’t fall into the same trap. Look at other options, such as a collaborative divorce, or simply commit to not making the common divorce mistakes that lead to so much trouble.

Divorce mistake #1 – Hiring the wrong lawyer
It is not in your interests to be represented by a hyper-aggressive, all-or-nothing lawyer who makes big promises. The other side will respond in an equally aggressive manner, the conflict will spin out of control, costs will escalate and you may still not get a satisfactory agreement.

It is also a mistake to hire a passive lawyer with little or no divorce experience. Once again, you will end up with an unsatisfactory agreement because the other side exploited your lawyer’s mistakes and oversights.

Divorce mistake #2 – Failing to think about the children
Some spouses are so focused on winning that they forget about what is best for their children, not only during the separation but afterward when they will need help to deal with the breakup of their parents.

Divorce mistake #3 – Not thinking ahead
There is life after your divorce — something that is often forgotten “in the heat of the battle.” Don’t act out or get overly emotional as that almost always leads to unnecessary financial costs and stress, particularly for your children.

Divorce mistake #4 – Starting off your case with a bang
Never accept a recommendation to hit the other side hard right at the start. Your spouse may respond by “lawyering up,” and attacking you back. Worse still, you may burn up any goodwill that could have made the entire divorce process easier.

Divorce mistake #5 – Not protecting your rights
Never assume you can secure your rights whenever you feel like it. Certain entitlements (support, parenting rights) can be lost simply because they were not secured at the right time.

Divorce mistake #6 – Not acting to protect your interests
Watch for any inappropriate actions by your spouse, such as the disposal of assets without your knowledge or approval. Don’t wait if you notice something untoward. Speak to your lawyer immediately to investigate what can be done to protect your interests.

Divorce mistake #7 – Failing to collect important documents
Never wait to collect important financial documents. Make copies immediately as some or all may be removed by your spouse.

Divorce mistake #8 – Venting on social media
Resist the temptation to make disparaging remarks about your spouse on social media. At a minimum, this will make it much more difficult to get a divorce agreement. At worst, your postings could backfire by becoming information the other side uses against you.

Divorce mistake #9 – Not knowing your finances
A key aspect of your divorce — a fair division of assets — is only possible if you fully understand (and can document) the assets and debts held by you and your spouse. Do not depend on your former spouse to provide an accurate accounting of your finances — even if you are going through a collaborative divorce. Go over all your financial records. Get supporting documentation and give the entire package to your lawyer. There are ways to get key information if you are not sure about your spouse’s assets and debts.

Divorce mistake #10 – Confusing custody and access
Some of the stress associated with divorce is a direct result of misconceptions and misunderstandings that could easily be avoided. A common mistake is to assume child custody and child access are the same things. They are not. When there is joint custody, it generally means that children reside primarily with one parent, but both parents share decision making and have access to children. Even if one parent has sole custody, the other parent has access. It is also important to not equate child custody with child support. The decision on who pays child support and how much they pay depends on the incomes of each spouse and where the children live.

Divorce mistake #11 – Failing to See the Big Picture
You can win a battle — but lose the war — by focusing on a single issue. Since parenting, support, and property division are often tied together, it is counterproductive to focus on a single issue. Setting reasonable goals and considering a wide range of options is more productive.

Learn more about divorce and separation in Alberta by requesting your free introductory consultation with a lawyer in the Edmonton law offices of Coley, Hennessy, Cassis. You can reach us by phone at 1-877-460-2551 or online.