There is plenty of quality research and advice material out there for anyone who wants to handle their own divorce. Now from my 14 years of handling family law issues as a legal document professional, I’d like to share some of the problems I’ve witnessed firsthand that hopefully you or someone you know can avoid.
1. Not seeking legal advice. If you have complex issues which are usually involved in a long term marriage, you should know the issues. Sometimes when my clients seek an attorney’s advice for answers to their particular legal questions, they also become aware of important issues they hadn’t thought of. If you are able to cooperate with your spouse and keep your case out of the courtroom, you will be able to negotiate a fair settlement when you are both aware of all the issues and their ramifications.
2. Not seeking help in other areas besides the administrative. Getting divorced is much more than filing papers and making an appearance at the court. Counseling or support to work through the anger and hurt, and to grow, (yes, grow from the ordeal) with the help of a friend(s), a therapeutic professional, support group, spiritual advisor or any combination of the above.
3. Not putting the needs of your minor children above all else. Make this a priority over consuming yourself with negative and destructive behavior. And using your children as your messenger to the other party, sounding board, or any other form of emotional support is not healthy for them. Find another adult for help.
4. Withholding your children from the other parent because they didn’t make the child support payment on time. Unless there is any form of substance abuse, violence or other harmful behavior, children need to have access to both parents.
5. Making verbal agreements with the other party that conflict with court orders. If you both agree to something other than what is contained in your judgment, file the necessary papers to modify current orders. Too many times, I’ve seen it backfire on people when they don’t update their cases to meet changing circumstances.
6. Not keeping a journal of important dates and events. Document dates of actual visitation, important events, names of witnesses to events and child support payments. You might need this factual information for the court, Department of Child Support Services, the Internal Revenue Service, or other authority. Your words alone are not enough.
7. Paying your child support in cash. A check or money order receipt provides proof of payments. Again, your words alone are not enough if the other parent is stating that you aren’t paying when you have been.