When you’re getting a divorce, everybody’s an expert and wants to tell you what you should do. Here are the top ten things you should AVOID doing when you’re contemplating or going through a divorce.
10. Don’t rush into anything. Your mama said you can’t hurry love. What she may not have told you is that you shouldn’t hurry divorce either. Wedding vows remind us that marriage isn’t something to be entered into lightly or unadvisedly. News flash: Neither is divorce. Before you rush down to the courthouse to file divorce papers, seek legal counsel. Consider the consequences. Look at it from every angle-emotionally, financially, legally. In most cases, divorce should be the last resort, exercised only after you’ve tried all other options.
9. Don’t sit on the fence. Once you’ve made your decision and are certain divorce is the answer, don’t waffle. Now is not the time to pull the bandage off slowly. Rip it off! It may sound cruel, but once you’re sure of the inevitable, taking decisive action is actually the kindest thing you can do in the long run to quell false hopes and allow the healing to begin. Don’t waste years of your spouse’s life (and your own) riding the proverbial fence.
8. Don’t let guilt get the best of you. You broke his heart and you feel badly about it. Well, it’s great that you have a conscience. But don’t let guilt muddy up the waters when it comes to something that is essentially a business transaction. Say you’re sorry. Visit your shrink. Write, “I’m a cold, heartless scoundrel” 100 times on the blackboard. By all means, work through the guilt. But in the meantime, let your attorney negotiate a divorce settlement that is fair not only to your spouse, but to you, too.
7. Don’t Be Too Accommodating. Okay, so he broke your heart and you’d do anything to get him back? This is probably the most vulnerable position an estranged spouse could be in. The talk shows could fill their schedules for years on end with stories of broken-hearted spouses who were manipulated into unfair divorce settlements while trying to fan the flames of a dead marriage. If you were the dumpee, there’s really no better time than now to get mad as hell about it. He took the best years of your life, honey. Don’t let him take your mother’s china, the antique handgun that is a treasured family heirloom and your 401k plan, too.
6. Don’t Be Too Trusting. Courthouse hallways are littered with the bruised hearts of ex-spouses who uttered those fateful words, “Oh, no, you don’t understand! Brett isn’t like that. He would NEVER do that to me!” Make no mistake about it, when you’re going through a divorce, you’re likely to see a side of your spouse that you never knew existed. Keep a tight hold on your heart . . . and your bank account. And whatever you and your spouse may agree to during those brief moments of sentimental good will, get it in writing.
5. Don’t Be Too Adversarial. Let’s face it, that’s probably why the marriage didn’t work out to begin with. An inability to work with your spouse as a team isn’t going to serve you in your divorce any more than it did during your marriage. Particularly if you have children together, now is the time to work together to make sure your divorce is the success your marriage wasn’t.
4. Don’t start acting single before you are. Have a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T, even if your louse of a spouse doesn’t. And remember, it’s not just a respect thing or a matter of emotional closure, although those things are important, too. The truth is, if you start playing the field before the ink is dry on your divorce papers, you could be opening yourself up to a number of legal problems. Whether or not it is a legal ground for divorce in your state, adultery is still frowned upon by many a judge when it comes time to divvy up the property or decide custody issues. Keep a low profile until you are really footloose and fancy free.
3. Don’t be cruel. Aside from the obvious reasons not to be a jerk (like karma), there could be legal implications as well. Especially if there are children involved, the Court is going to take an interest in how you treat your child’s other parent and how that impacts the kids. And, the old saying about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar holds true. Being a jerk isn’t going to make this divorce any easier on either one of you, and it certainly won’t help you when it comes time to negotiate a property settlement.
2. Don’t open a joint checking account. Or buy a car together. Or book a vacation for next summer. Now is the time to start separating yourself from your soon-to-be-ex-spouse both emotionally and financially. Be a man (or a woman) and stand on your own two feet! Divvying up property, debts, assets and children is going to be difficult enough. Don’t make any business or financial decisions that will bind you even more closely to someone you no longer want to wake up next to each morning.
And the number one thing NOT to do when planning to get divorced?
1. Don’t hit the lottery. This isn’t the movies-it’s real life. It doesn’t matter that you play the same numbers every week and that they’re the numbers your dead father gave to you in a dream. If you hit the lottery while you’re still hitched, under the laws of most states, your spouse is entitled to half. And just because you weren’t lucky at love, that doesn’t mean you won’t be lucky at the craps table. In fact, wouldn’t it be just your luck to hit it rich while you’re still tangled up in the bonds of matrimony? So, save any trips to Las Vegas for after the divorce is final . . . when you can keep all your winnings to yourself.