Smart Divorce Attorney Advice in Virginia
It’s bad enough that you’re faced with the emotional and financial stress of a divorce, but there are ways to reduce how bad it can be. If you want your marriage to end, there’s no reason to make matters worse. Or if you don’t want a divorce but your spouse does, doing destructive things won’t make your spouse change his or her mind. While there’s no perfect way to complete a divorce and resolve the many complex issues that arise through the process, there are definite things you should NOT do. If you abide by this list of things not do to, you can protect yourself, perhaps come out better than you might otherwise, and avoid extra attorney costs and unnecessary strife.
#1 Do NOT avoid seeking an attorney’s advice. An experienced family law attorney will be able to help you navigate the areas of child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, and equitable distribution (the division of your assets and debts). An attorney with legal experience in divorce can properly advise you about your options and whether it’s in your best interest to agree to a proposed settlement offer. If your divorce is contentious and your case proceeds to court, a knowledgeable lawyer will ensure your interests are properly represented. Even in a non-contentious divorce, having an attorney file all of the necessary pleadings on your behalf and guide you through the process and the court system can save you time and energy and help you to avoid additional stress.
#2 Do NOT sign a mediated agreement without seeking advice from a lawyer If both you and your spouse agree to participate in mediation or negotiate settlement terms on your own, it may save you considerable money, reduce stress, and help you finalize your divorce sooner. If you decide to participate in this process, do not sign a separation agreement or other agreement without seeking advice from a lawyer. Once you both sign an agreement, you are bound by it.
#3 Do NOT neglect your finances. It’s important that you have documentation of your income and assets. This includes bank accounts, investment statements, tax returns, property deeds, insurance policies, wills, trusts, pension statements, and vehicle titles. While your spouse should also have access to these documents, it’s important that you have at least one copy of each kept in a secure location that is not accessible by your spouse. Also, if you can, you should set aside money for the expenses you’ll incur through the divorce proceedings.
#4 Do NOT forget about taxes. There may be tax consequences associated with your divorce. For example, if you want to keep the former marital residence after the divorce, you will need to evaluate whether you’ll be able to afford not only the mortgage and home maintenance but also property taxes. If not, you may be better off accepting a buy-out from your spouse or listing the property for sale.
#5 Do NOT increase your debt. Besides the cost of the divorce process, which is almost inevitably expensive, it’s likely you’re going to have less money than when you shared income and expenses with your spouse. The emotions involved in ending a marriage may affect your usually clear, rational thinking and judgment, resulting in impulsive purchases. While it may require some restraint when aspects of your life seem out of your control and you feel entitled to a new item, acquiring new debt or spending money unwisely could cause avoidable financial stress as you move forward after your divorce.
#6 Do NOT allow negative emotions to dictate your conduct. Although you may be very angry with your spouse for legitimate reasons, don’t allow the expression of those emotions to interfere with wise decision making. During negotiations, if you can remain calm and reasonable, you’ll probably come away with a more satisfactory result. If you must express anger toward your spouse, it’s best to wait until after the divorce is final.
#7 Do NOT forget to amend your will. Unless you want your spouse to continue to be the recipient of any monies or assets they’re not legally entitled to post-divorce, you should update your will. However, keep in mind that if you should die before the divorce is final and you have not provided for your spouse in your amended will, they can sue your estate for recovery.
#8 Do NOT ignore the cost of battling over little or insignificant settlement issues. While you may feel inclined to argue over small things on principle, you’ll be paying the extra cost in attorney fees to “win” just because you’re angry. In a contested divorce, if you and your spouse want to battle rather than cooperate toward final divorce resolution, decisions may be left to a judge, which may not lead to a desirable outcome. To reasonably manage legal costs and reduce stress, concentrate on what’s important, and decide if the battle on principle alone is worth it.
#9 Do NOT do or say something you may regret later. In any divorce, it’s common for emotions to run high at times, but do your best to control your words and actions. For instance, it is an inadvisable fight with your spouse on any form of written technology or social media or to post anything about the divorce on social media. Now is not the time to let the world know what you’re doing or how you’re feeling. Especially if your divorce is contentious, what you say and how you’re conducting yourself could be used against you in divorce and custody proceedings.
#10 Do NOT settle too early. Although you may want to end your marriage as quickly as possible, settling too early could permanently jeopardize your financial security. Once your divorce is final, the asset and property division is inalterable, so be patient and allow the process to unfold productively. While it’s possible to revise child custody, visitation, and child support after your divorce, it may be difficult and costly to change. It’s vital that you take the time to be sure both your interests and your children’s interests are legally and financially protected. An experienced family law attorney can help guide you through the divorce process and help you protect your interests.
While any prudent spouse will likely end up in a better position if they follow these “do not” guidelines, the circumstances of every divorce are unique. For divorce advice and guidance specific to your marriage dissolution and rights, contact The Manassas Law Group at 703.361.8246, or send us a confidential message on our family law team’s contact form.