Whether you are at the beginning of your divorce or several months in, you probably have a very good sense of how important this process is. Divorce involves disentangling two people’s lives legally and financially and creating new agreements to govern how issues like child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division are all handled.
Suffice it to say there’s a lot at stake during your divorce. You stand to lose custody over your children, property acquired during your marriage, and face financial difficulty because of unfair support orders. Avoiding these outcomes is possible by getting assistance from an experienced attorney, but avoiding certain mistakes is just as crucial.
Read about a few of these common mistakes below.
1. Violating Court Orders
During your divorce, the judge may issue any of a variety of court orders. Because your divorce isn’t finalized, they’re usually temporary in their nature or purpose. A good example of this would be a temporary child custody order, which may or may not resemble the permanent order issued once the divorce is finalized.
After your divorce is finalized, court orders concerning child custody, child support, spousal support, and other important issues will be decided. These are standing orders that are unlikely to change unless either party seeks a modification at a later date.
Violating any court order is a serious matter that could impact the outcome of your divorce or the results you got from your divorce. In some cases, violating a court order may be pursued as a criminal matter (contempt of court), leading to potentially worse consequences.
Always obey a judge’s orders – if you think they’re unfair, have an attorney help you fight to appeal or modify them.
2. Hiding Marital Assets
From the time you and your spouse were married until the time you were legally separated or divorced, all of the money, property, and debt you accumulated is shared 50/50 in California. This is because California is a community property state, where spouses each have a 50% stake in their marital assets.
Some people are tempted to shift this balance toward their favor by hiding income, valuables, and other assets during the divorce process. Never attempt to do this during your divorce because you are legally required to provide a full disclosure of your finances. If your spouse, their attorney, or the judge believes you’re hiding assets, forensic accountants might be called in to investigate and ferret out any unlawfully obscured money or property.
If you are caught hiding assets in your divorce, you may lose their community value as a result of willful fraudulent nondisclosure. You may also be held accountable for perjury.
3. Failing to Account for Debt
When you think about what you “own” in your marriage, you probably don’t consider your debt. The fact is not enough people do. These days, more people have more debt: In addition to a mortgage or credit card bills, people could owe tens or hundreds of thousands in student loan debt. Whether or not this debt was created during marriage affects who’s responsible for it.
Community property laws in California require that no matter which spouse created debt during the marriage, each spouse is 50% responsible for it. That means that if you and your spouse bought a house after getting married, each of you is 50% responsible for paying back the mortgage. If your spouse racked up a ton of debt in credit card bills, 50% of that balance belongs to you. Likewise, if you decided to get a college degree and took out student loans to do it, your spouse is 50% responsible for that debt, too.
Debt incurred before marriage and after a legal separation is usually considered separate property, which means it solely belongs to the individual who created it.
4. Refusing Mediation or Negotiation on Principle
There’s no doubt that divorce can be a highly contentious matter, especially when spouses disagree on many issues. No matter how hurt, betrayed, or angry you feel, though, it’s not worth it to refuse negotiation or mediation on principle.
Duking out your divorce strictly through litigation can mean going through a much more costly and drawn-out process than necessary. Mediation and negotiation, though, provide better ways for spouses to work out their disagreements so that each can walk away with as much of what’s important to them as possible.
5. Representing Yourself without an Attorney
Among the mistakes you could make in your divorce, choosing to represent yourself could be the most disastrous. This is because a professional divorce lawyer can guide you through this process and help you manage certain legal procedures that you may not be equipped to handle on your own. In doing so, your attorney not only helps you avoid mistakes like this listed above, but he or she can also fight for your interests and ensure your rights are protected during this difficult time.
If you’d like to learn more about what our divorce attorneys can do for you, request a consultation when you reach out to Claery & Hammond, LLP online for help!