While some assume that trying to get through a divorce as quickly as possible could save money and mental energy, this is rarely the case. Trying to rush through a divorce could cost you even more in the long run. Fortunately, your dedicated team at O’Connor Family Law can help you through this process. With over 35 combined years of exclusive family law experience, our attorneys can help you avoid these expensive mistakes during your divorce.
Refusing to Attend Alternative Dispute Resolution
One of the biggest and most expensive mistakes that a divorcing couple can make is refusing to attend mediation. Courts express encouragement for the use of mediation sessions with a qualified legal professional. During this private mediation process, couples can work toward a mutually agreeable divorce settlement for usually much less than traditional litigation costs. While mediation does not require parties to reach an agreement, you can also utilize the process to agree on some issues and set aside areas of disagreement for judicial intervention to limit litigation costs. Parties may also attend legally binding arbitration hearings to resolve disputes outside the courtroom and reduce legal fees.
Even when utilizing mediation, having an experienced family lawyer on your side is extremely important as you go through the process. A mediator is not supposed to provide either you or your spouse with any type of legal advice or guidance; the goal is to obtain an agreed upon resolution. We often see people who have agreed to certain things within mediation that they have not realized will have long-term negative consequences. Because of this, you can retain a lawyer to educate you about your rights, to give you suggestions on what to look for within mediation, and feedback on the proposals that are being presented within mediation.
Hiring a lawyer does not mean you must litigate or have a highly-contested divorce. It simply means that you are protecting yourself and putting yourself in a position where you can make educated decisions, being fully aware of the pros and cons of each issue that must be decided in order for you to finalize your divorce. Knowledge is power, and having an experienced divorce attorney on your side as you go through the mediation process is an investment that puts you in a much better position as you move forward with your life.
Not Asserting Fault Can be an Expensive Mistake
Massachusetts allows couples to dissolve their marriages without blame when they file a “no-fault” divorce. While an irretrievable breakdown under Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 208, §1A may permit spouses to divorce more quickly, fault sometimes plays a role in property distribution, alimony awards, and other final decisions. Therefore, if you file a no-fault divorce when there is a sound basis to do so, you may eliminate your ability to seek a divorce based on what was the true cause of your marriage breaking down and any financial advantage that may otherwise warrant you. You may be eligible to file a fault-based divorce under Chap. 208, §1 for reasons such as:
- Domestic abuse and cruelty
- Drug or alcohol addiction
- Willfully refusing to provide a spouse with essential financial support
If you believe you have valid grounds to file for a fault-based divorce, speak with an attorney before co-signing a no-fault petition.
Agreeing to Reduced Property Distribution and Alimony
Divorcing spouses may contractually agree to waive or reduce their property distribution and spousal support entitlements. While this may seem fair in certain cases, some parties may feel pressured into doing so because they were not the primary financial contributor in the marriage. However, it is incorrect to assume that non-financial contributions such as raising children and managing the household are less valuable than monetary ones.
Non-monetary contributions to the marital home may entitle you to significant assets and alimony awards, depending on your situation. Therefore, while reducing distributions may be advantageous in some situations (i.e., to avoid tax liability), you should consult with independent legal counsel about your property and spousal support rights before doing so.
Failing to Consider Child Support Add-Ons
Parents generally have an equal responsibility to care for and financially support their children. The Commonwealth's child support guidelines use a complex formula to calculate minimum support obligations. However, this amount may not reflect additional expenses such as educational costs, uninsured doctor's bills, extracurricular activities, vacations, birthdays, cars, or college savings accounts. Therefore, when divorcing parties settle on a rushed child support agreement, they may miss important provisions regarding their obligation to return to court or attend mediation when a dispute occurs.
Working with experienced family counsel can help you avoid future financial liability and other costly mistakes by addressing common child support “add-ons” in a divorce settlement. Additionally, co-parents may agree on how they will resolve disputes over additional child-rearing costs to avoid future litigation.
Contact a Skilled Attorney to Avoid Expensive Mistakes in a Divorce
Dissolving a marriage affects both your financial and personal life. Since emotions tend to run high during divorce proceedings, it is advisable to retain compassionate legal counsel. Choosing the wrong attorney may result in unfavorable judicial determinations, extended litigation, and the need to change counsel during proceedings. Fortunately, our divorce lawyers have experience practicing family law and possess outstanding professional reputations with other legal practitioners and local courts. We respect your emotional and financial needs and can help you avoid expensive mistakes during your divorce.