Divorce Attorney, Andrea Muchin has seen a lot in the world of divorce, which isn’t surprising, given the fact she’s been in the field for 25 years!
I sat down with Muchin and asked her for divorce advice for my readers, specifically wanting to know, “What mistakes do you see clients make?”
Here is Muchin’s helpful guest post.
Mistakes People Make While Going Through Divorce by Andrea Muchin
Having practiced divorce law for approximately 25 years I feel I have a perspective on the issues that many people face while going through a divorce. Although each person’s case is unique, there are certain mistakes I see people make over and over again. While these seem obvious to me, most people going through a divorce for the first time do not have any perspective on why certain things may be problematic.
The following is my list of some common mistakes I see people make while going through the process and why:
1. Using your divorce attorney as a therapist.
First, this is very expensive. Most divorce lawyers charge hourly for their time and it adds up very quickly. Moreover, while I may have been personally drawn to becoming a divorce lawyer because of the therapist type relationship some attorneys have with their clients, I have no formal training and I am likely not the most qualified person to get my clients through this very emotional time. Therefore, I encourage almost every client I have to find a good therapist. Not only does it help them get through this difficult period, but usually it is cost effective.
2. Overusing written communications.
Today, emails and texts are they way many people communicate with each other. When a spouse (or soon to be former spouse) asks for something, it is much easier to instantly respond, which is oftentimes preferable to having a live conversation. Unfortunately, however, these communications can read and sound different than they were intended, and are sometimes misinterpreted or taken out of context.
First, people going through a divorce must realize that any written communication between parties can be attached to a pleading or document. Although when it was written it may not have seemed like a big deal, when attached to a pleading or read out loud to you while on the witness stand, all of a sudden the seemingly innocuous text or email is now a big deal.
In any case where there is a disputed issue concerning children, I strongly suggest that people refrain from texting and emailing except when absolutely necessary. I frequently ask my clients to send me their emails first, both because I can offer an outside perspective as to how the written communication may be perceived and because with the inherent delay, they may no longer feel the urge to send it.
Finally, never read an email as an isolated event. Keep in mind that there is usually a prior and subsequent email and unless you have read the whole trail, the communication may be a misrepresentation. Even when the issue is seemingly simple, people in the midst of a dispute should be extremely cautious when emailing and texting.
3. Making decisions when angry
Many people are angry when they begin the divorce process. While there may not be a right time, this is absolutely the wrong time to make a long term decision. For instance, even though your spouse may infuriate you, withholding parenting time is not necessarily a good decision for you or your children. Moreover, once the anger subsides, having a night or weekend off may be a plus. Another example might occur when you feel the urge to air your spouse’s dirty laundry to his or her co-workers. At the time, it may seem like a good way to let off steam or get back at them. However, this could have a negative impact on their professional status and, in the long run, could adversely affect their ability to earn an income. When people are angry, I encourage them to slow down and not make any life changing decisions. Divorce is a process and once you are not embroiled in anger, better decisions are made that will last for the long term.
4. Not doing something merely because it may be bad for the divorce
A classic example of this situation occurs when the standard advice told to a parent going through a divorce is not to move out of the marital home under any circumstances. However, if the home is filled with tension and hostility, this advice is not necessarily good for the parent or their children. When people ask me whether or not they should move out, assuming they can afford to do so, I often inquire whether or not it will be personally good for them or their family. If the answer to either is yes, I sometimes encourage it.
Another classic example is when a non-income earning spouse is told not to look for or accept a job during the divorce because it may hurt their support chances. Sometimes, however, the perfect job opportunity arises. When this occurs, I ask them if this opportunity will make them feel better or get them out of their rut. If so, I sometimes advise people to go for it. In most instances, the good outweighs the risk and the price may well be worth it.
5. Getting remarried without a prenup
When I first started practicing in this area, I thought many people did not need a prenup and a good estate plan could protect them. While that may still be the case, in second marriages I usually think it is helpful to have a prenup. After surviving a divorce, the last thing you need to worry about when you remarry is having to repeat the process. Unfortunately, some people look at the prenup as a way to take advantage of their spouse, which I do not endorse. Assuming that is not the case, however, a thoughtful prenup, designed to protect and not penalize and looked at with an eye towards both parties, is usually a benefit. This way, both parties can start their new marriage with an open mind and educated slate.
Andrea Muchin is a Partner at the law firm, Schiller DuCanto & Fleck, where she has worked for over two decades. A graduate of Boston University Law School, Muchin resolves cases both through settlement and litigation. Muchin also specializes in pre and post nuptial agreements. Learn more: www.sdflaw.com/attorneys/amuchin/