7 Divorce Tips to Avoid My $80,000 Mistake: How Not to Fund Your Divorce Lawyer’s Porsche while Protecting Your Financial Future

It’s likely you, or someone you know, will get divorced and have to deal with divorce while at work and while trying to balance other priorities. Nobody plans on divorce when eating wedding cake, but the American Psychological Association reports 40-50% of married couples in the United States will divorce. Also, divorce figures worsen for subsequent marriages. 

The tips, below, are heartfelt shares from unfortunate divorce settlements, including mine, that I hope will help others have less stress spilling over at work and home during divorce. 

Sadly, financial divorce mistakes cost my family $80,000 in legal fees. The lawyers are smiling, but I would have preferred funding my kid’s college education. 

When getting divorced, save money, and your sanity by resolving the financial issues below before signing your divorce decree.

Initials replace names in examples to protect privacy, and also to keep vengeful exes from my doorstep.

1) Don’t accept a divorce agreement that’s unfair for you.

Many people, especially women in my experience, accept unequal financial agreements. This happens because people desire quick freedom, or mistakenly think their ex will be fair after a divorce. 

K.S.’s lawyer threatened to quit if she accepted the pittance offered by a multi-millionaire spouse, but she wanted out and signed. She regretted it later when squeezing into a tiny apartment with three kids. Also, J.C.’s ex promised to pay child support for two kids, but she left town and never paid a dime. 

So, think through future financial impacts to make smart decisions you won’t regret later. To be more objective about financial decisions, ask yourself what you’d advise your best friend to do.

2) Split all assets before signing divorce papers.

Some post-divorce relationships are amicable, but ask around, and you’ll learn many start out friendly before dive-bombing. Your future ex’s priorities may change after realizing you’re never coming back, ever, or when a new love interest enters the mix. 

Do you want an angry ex refusing to sell your vacation home or split your investment account, causing you to go back to court? Trust me, no. You don’t have a crystal ball, so protect your financial future by spitting all assets before signing your divorce decree. The only person determining your post-divorce financial decisions should be you. 

2) List all account numbers in your divorce decree.

A “misunderstanding” of which accounts need to be split can tie up your money for months until courts can rule. This caused me four months of financial stress, and also I had to pay penalties and cash out my 401K to pay bills. Avoid financial stress by adding financial account numbers to your decree.

3) Assign completion dates for action items and consequences for non-compliance.

D.D. was forced to pay $500 per month in golf club membership fees despite never golfing. This took three years to meander through the courts, and it cost $18,000!

4) For jointly-owned property sales specify the following in your divorce decree:

·     realtor’s name

·     minimum selling price

·     beginning listing date

·     consequence for non-compliance of required tasks.

If these items aren’t specified, your ex may refuse a fair sales offer for your home(s). This might crawl through the courts, while legal fees accumulate. 

For example, D.K’s ex refused an offer of $25,000 above the asking price, because the selling price wasn’t specified, and the ex didn’t want to sell. Two years later, the house still isn’t listed, with no end in sight.

5) List ownership of miscellaneous items, such as college accounts, or cars you have gifted to kids, etc., in your decree. 

You don’t want to pay courts to sort out miscellaneous items later. N.J. doesn’t have ownership of kid’s college accounts, and this caused stressful issues with college expense allocation.

6) If you have minor children, document the details of your custody agreement and visitation schedule.

Take time to get this right. Don’t assume your ex will agree to future changes, or later be flexible about an agreed-upon schedule. 

7) List all paperwork needed for taxes or other purposes, dates for providing this, and consequences for inaction.

Not doing this cost Y.H. headaches and stress at tax time. 

So, I wish I’d had this information prior to my divorce, which is why I wrote these tips. I humbly hope they will save others the stress and expense of mistakes, and also help to resolve divorce issues sooner, so focus can return to work and play. Please consider passing this information on to those that might need it. 

What’s missing from my list? Please comment, like, and share.

Kendeyl Johansen is a tech geek creating inspirational multimedia content to increase happiness and health for individuals and organizations.