Mistake One – Taking Legal Advice from Family or Friends
When you go through the divorce process, you may already have family or friends that are already divorced. If so, it’s not unusual for them to want to offer you legal advice based on their experiences. However, this is rarely a good idea because they don’t necessarily know the laws and they’re not 100% sure what is best for you. The advice you’ll get from your divorce attorney will vary from case to case because each situation is different.
The California divorce process, or divorce as a whole, can be extremely complicated. It encompasses the division of financial assets and your future that your family or friends won’t have a stake in. However, a competent and qualified attorney can advise you of your responsibilities and rights as you go through the divorce process with your best interests in mind.
Mistake Two – Ignoring or Not Following Court Orders
When you get an order during your divorce case, the power of the court backs it. A common example of this is failing to pay alimony or child support. If you refuse to comply with the court order’s instructions, there is usually more than one way the court can use to compel you to follow the instructions written on the court order. You could end up thrown in jail, held in contempt of court, ordered to pay your former spouse’s attorney fees, or ordered to pay fines. You’ll have to comply with whatever punishment the court believes you deserve under your specific circumstances.
For family law matters like divorce, enforcing court orders to the letter is essential. If a spouse fails to follow the court order, it’s critical that you contact your attorney to ensure that the orders get fully enforced as quickly as possible with as few delays or as little drama as possible.
Mistake Three – Attempting to Hide Marital Assets
The California divorce process requires that both parties offer a full disclosure of all of the obligations and assets the community could have an interest in. Every party in the divorce proceedings has to meet this requirement by completing a preliminary declaration of disclosure and a final declaration of disclosure. You must also certify under penalty of perjury that all of the supporting documents are complete and true.
This duty continues on until you start dividing your assets. If it comes to light later on that one spouse failed to disclose an asset during the divorce proceedings and you can prove it to the court’s standards, you will get a minimum of 50% of that asset’s community value. The person attempting to hide the asset also runs the risk of losing 100% of said asset’s community value due to willful or fraudulent nondisclosure.
If you believe that your spouse is attempting to hide marital assets, the best thing you can do is get in touch with your attorney with your suspicions. How the court addresses the undisclosed asset will differ, and this depends on whether you find out about it after or before you finish the divorce process. There are statutes of limitations that require you to address the issue straight away, and your attorney will walk you through the correct procedure to follow.
Mistake Four – Involving the Children or Speaking Ill of Your Spouse in Front of Them
Many times, kids are the real victims of divorce proceedings, no matter where they are. This is especially true when the parents go through a long and contentious divorce battle and resort to using the kids as pawns or objects to get their way or hurt their spouse. Although you may be hurt, angry, or frustrated at your spouse during the divorce process, it’s essential that you learn how to separate your issues from your kids as much as you can.
You want to make a point to do everything you can to avoid speaking ill of your ex-spouse in front of your children. Not doing so could potentially hurt your chances in any current or future custody cases, and it can harm the children. The courts tend to look at the role each parent will continue to play trying to encourage a healthy relationship with the other parent. It can be confusing and devastating for your kids to hear you talking badly about your ex-spouse. Your child will love both of you, regardless of any bad behavior. The best way to support your child or children through the divorce is to encourage a healthy relationship with the other parent. If you find that the other parent is speaking badly about you, don’t stoop to their level. Doing so wouldn’t be in your children’s best interests.
Mistake Five – Failing to Properly Identify Individual Property
In the California divorce process, you’ll find out quickly that it’s a community property state. This means that most of the assets both parties acquired during the marriage are things the court will help you distribute as evenly as possible. However, most of the assets you had prior to getting married are not. The court usually considers these items to be separate assets, and they’re yours to keep without splitting them. However, you have to identify what these assets are early in the divorce process. Not doing so is a very common mistake a lot of people make.
It’s also important to know there are cases where supposed community assets can qualify as separate or individual property. Additionally, it’s possible for assets you own before you get married to become community assets, and assets like private-held businesses or retirement accounts can have community property and individual property components attached to them.
Mistake Six – Not Having Thorough Documentation
You’ll need various documentation forms throughout your California divorce process. For example, you’ll have to establish how high the value is on your community property assets to divide them evenly, and you’ll have to have documentation for dealing with child support and alimony. You also have a legal obligation to your spouse to make specific financial disclosures to each other.
Being careless with your documentation can lead to inaccurate or undesirable results. If it gets to the point where your spouse accuses you of attempting to hide important financial information or assets, it can result in negative repercussions for your divorce outcome. It’ll all come down to the judge’s ruling, and they don’t look favorably on people who they think are trying to conceal things.
Mistake Seven – Failing to Value Your Assets Accurately
If you own your own business, how much is it worth in your divorce? What about your retirement account’s value? If you have other assets like collections, vacation homes, boats, jewelry, and antique vehicles, what are their worth? It’s critical that you have accurate valuation of all of your assets during a divorce proceeding, especially any community property assets. You never want to guess when it comes to the asset value because this will impact what an equitable distribution is with your ex-spouse. If you don’t know the exact value, don’t be afraid to call in experts to give you solid numbers, and make sure you document it.
Mistake Eight – Not Addressing Issues and Assuming They’ll Resolve by Themselves
Both spouses will play a large role in how the divorce proceedings end. Going through a divorce shouldn’t be a passive process on either party’s sides, and issues won’t resolve by themselves without input from both spouses. It’s important that you understand that you will have to make several informed decisions throughout the divorce process in California.
For example, say you have two children and you can’t agree on a custody arrangement and child support. If both parties can’t reach an agreement or ignore it and hope to wear the other party down, the judge will be the one to decide the final terms. Generally speaking, one party usually won’t be happy with the outcome. It’s in both parties’ interests and the best interest of the children to address these issues as they arise and come to an agreement everyone can live with.
Additionally, you have to keep your long-term best interests in mind with every decision you make to ensure you unknowingly don’t lose out on too much during the proceedings. If issues arise, don’t hesitate to share them with your lawyer and take any advice they give you when you make your decisions.
Mistake Nine – Letting Your Emotions Rule You
For anyone, divorce can be a stressful and very emotional time. Strong emotions run very high, but you can’t let them rule you. Emotional reactions are almost always a mistake, whether it’s in the courtroom or throughout the negotiation processes in your divorce. This is when you have to be rational, precise, and in total control.
If you’re having problems repressing your emotions and being clear-headed, it can be a good idea to talk with a counselor. Maybe you belong to a faith community. If so, seek support and counseling there. There are dozens of counseling resources in both the private and public sectors throughout California, and it pays to take advantage of them so you can make good decisions.
Mistake Ten – Trying to Rush the Process
Usually, everyone involved in the divorce proceedings is anxious to get it over with and continue on with their lives because it’s usually not a pleasant experience. However, attempting to rush the process is a bad idea, and it can lead to regret further down the road. One of the biggest areas of divorce is negotiation, and this takes time. This is why it’s a good idea to go into your divorce with an idea on what to expect.
Carefully look over the terms with your attorney and ensure you understand and agree to everything, and that the terms cover everything they need to like alimony, custody, and child support. Once the courts finalize the terms, it’s very difficult or even impossible to change them. Also, be sure you comply with all of the rulings to prevent losing ground you already gained earlier on in your divorce proceedings.
Mistake Eleven – Refusing Negotiation or Mediation
No matter if you and your spouse agreed to part ways amicably or you had a marriage full of turbulence and conflict, you want to avoid going down the road of contested litigation if you can avoid it. It’s messy, expensive, and time-consuming. Instead, consider mediation. Negotiation and mediation can help both parties resolve any disputed issues and reach agreements that you can both live with without taking your case before a judge who will make the decisions for both of you.
Mistake Twelve – Choosing to Represent Yourself
Even if you’re just going to use negotiation and mediation to help settle any disputes and divide up the property, it’s important that you don’t try to represent yourself. This is especially true if you decide to go before a judge. The California divorce process is notoriously complex with several different layers, and you want someone on your side that knows the laws and processes. Not having a divorce attorney in your corner can mean you miss out on assets or you end up with terms that are very unfavorable to you. A good attorney will help negotiate the law while ensuring everything is legal.
Contact Heath Baker Law Today
If you’re worried about the California divorce process and you want an experienced and dedicated attorney on your side, contact us at Heath Baker Law. We excel in different areas, including child custody arrangements, divorce options, spousal support, legal document preparation, visitation rights, and much more. We’re happy to set up a consultation to help answer your questions or address any family law concerns you may have today!