3 Ways to Self Sabotage Your Divorce Part 1
In this episode, we'll dive into 3 ways to self sabotage your divorce so you can avoid costly mistakes.
If you're contemplating how to plan for or respond to a divorce, be sure to listen to this episode first! For legal assistance or mediation services, contact us at (630) 891-2478 or at www.birtlaw.com.
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[00:00] Erin Birt: Welcome to the Restorative Divorce podcast, where we focus on all things divorce and parenting related. To help you find clarity, stay informed, and stay out of family court. With 20 plus years of family law experience, our attorney and mediator, Erin Birt, has seen too many times how family court will negatively impact your health, your relationship with your kids, and your wallet. This podcast aims to turn that around and empower our listeners to take back control of their family law process and their lives by working with divorced professionals that seek to help and not hurt. Our goal is to provide you with expert tips that you can implement today to restore your finances, emotional well being and coparenting skills. Of course, our team birtlaw.com is always here to customize a restorative divorce plan for you, but for now, listen to this episode to get help today.
[00:57] Erin Birt: Today we want to talk about three ways that you can self sabotage your divorce so that you can avoid those situations and have a successful divorce process. Tyler, what do you think are some ways that people out there really hurt themselves when they are thinking of divorce or going through a divorce?
[01:22] Tyler Birt: I think one thing that people fail to do when they are contemplating divorce is actually plan for divorce. I think people get into trouble and a lot of it's emotional. You're going through things and you need to change, so we're going to get divorced. But the lack of planning I see is a big problem that people run into.
LACK OF A PLAN
[01:52] Erin Birt: Yeah. And it's hard, I think, to wrap your head around. How do you plan for a really negative or difficult time in your life? Because you might be surprised you're going through a divorce. You might be on the receiving end of somebody saying, “I want a divorce.” You might not be able to be that person that plans, thinks about it, processes what you want to do because it might be a total surprise. But having a lack of plan before or during your divorce is really detrimental to the outcome. And so if you have the benefit of knowing this is the direction your family is going in, you can start preparing before you divorce. But if you're on that unfortunate other side where you might be surprised or your efforts at reconciliation have failed and you're heading for a divorce, reluctantly you can still prepare and plan during the process.
[02:54] Tyler Birt: Right. I agree. If you didn't plan for the divorce, but you're in the middle of one, there's still a lot of planning that needs to be done. You're going to need help through an attorney and your social network. But you're right. Whether you're on the receiving end or initiating the proceedings, planning is an important step in the process.
[03:21] Erin Birt: Right. And here at our firm, we support a team approach, and the team to help you plan before or during your divorce usually consists of your divorce attorney, a financial planner, and perhaps if you have children, a child specialist or a custody specialist. And if you have all of those team members, you can come up with a pretty good plan to help you emotionally, help you financially, and also help you with the legal aspect of your divorce.
If you are on the receiving end of a divorce, you can still build team members, you can still take a step back, process what you need and plan for that divorce even if you didn't initiate it. I think it's still the same approach. You always have an emotional side of things. That's usually our parenting side of things. And if we can lean into mental health professionals or child specialists, that's going to help you. If you have children, emotionally prepare and get through or at least respond appropriately to the divorce. If you use a financial planner, whether you have one that you've used in the past or if you feel that that person might not be on your side, we often tell people we have trusted referrals that we can help you identify a financial planner to work with. Tyler, you're an accountant and you deal day to day with financial matters, and you definitely are that first person to help our clients focus on the financial side of things.
But if we need to take it a step further for a tax attorney or a CPA, we also have trusted referrals that will help our clients before, during and after the divorce. That relationship might extend beyond the divorce process to help you transition into that new phase. And so having people there to help you with the emotions, having people there to help you with the financial side of it, and having your legal team help you with all of the details, the critical thinking that needs to be applied to every financial divorce and parenting divorce.
That critical thinking is really hard when you don't have a plan or when your emotions are clouding your ability to critically think. That's really when an attorney and a paralegal that are experienced in divorce really show you what they're worth, they can critically think through your factual circumstances, help you plan, help you develop a good divorce plan, and also negotiate in your best interests.
So I think that's a really comprehensive way to plan before and during a divorce so that you're not sabotaging your divorce process. I think that lack of a plan can lead into another reason that we see families or couples self sabotaging their divorce process and that can turn into abrupt or poor decisions.
ABRUPT OR POOR DECISIONS – BAD COMMUNICATION
If you don't have a plan, if you're not prepared, you might make some abrupt decisions that aren't in your best interest, aren't in your children's best interest, and definitely not in the divorce process best interest.
[06:59] Tyler Birt: Yeah. What are some of those?
[07:02] Erin Birt: Well, it can come down to communication. It's tough to communicate with somebody that you are separating from it's tough to separate emotions from that. You have a loss of expectation. You have a feeling of perhaps anger, resentment, bitterness. And if you react abruptly or quickly or without thought - you might be sending an email, a text, a communication to the other party that in the moment feels like the appropriate response. But you have to remember that they're not going to interpret it as an appropriate response. They're probably going to send that to their custody specialist or their attorney. And it can really affect your relationship with the other person. It can affect the divorce process as a whole. You might be disrupting your divorce negotiations all because you sent a poorly worded text or a poorly thought out email to the other side.
[08:14] Tyler Birt: And we see it in cases a lot, don't we?
[08:18] Erin Birt: Absolutely. I had a case recently where the divorce was taking longer than anybody had hoped for, and there was many reasons for that. And understandably, there was a level of frustration that was reached by our client, and that client decided to send some aggressive emails criticizing the other parents parental skills. And we were in the middle of a very important financial negotiation, and our client thought, “this is different, this is a parenting issue.” But what the client didn't realize was it really interrupted and affected our ability to productively negotiate his financial case. The other party decided to focus on parenting again, decided to say, “whoa, I'm not sure I even want to settle parenting if this is how I'm going to be getting messages from my co parent.” And it stalled the financial negotiations.
[09:31] Tyler Birt: Yeah. And if I remember correctly, it was a significant negotiation that was absolutely there was a lot on the line.
[09:39] Erin Birt: There was a lot on the line. And every month that passed in that divorce meant that family was trying to maintain debt that could have been resolved in the divorce. They were getting values for assets that were aging out because of the duration of the divorce. And so emotions in a divorce process can make you feel confident in sending communications that, again, in the moment, you might think is an appropriate response. But you have to remember that it's going to interrupt something. It is going to interrupt your divorce process. And that really leads to that lack of planning, and it leads to not realizing that poor decisions and abrupt decisions are going to affect the overall case.
[10:37] Tyler Birt: And I would just say that to piggyback on the poor decisions and the example that you gave. And we tell clients a lot in clients with children and custody issues and parenting issues, is no matter how you're feeling about the spouse or husband or wife, father or the mother of the kids, to always be positive when speaking about them. You may not feel positive. They may be doing things that you don't think are positive, but it's important in the divorce process to be positive. For the children and for the attorneys to not give the other side ammunition in a proceeding to disrupt the process. Just like in your example. It really threw a wrench in the whole proceedings and prolonged everything and frustrations boiled up and all that. All because poor decisions about speaking about the other, the co parent. So we always try to tell our clients to be positive and let the process happen.
[12:04] Erin Birt: Yeah. It's really difficult during an intimate legal process such as family law to put your emotions aside. But that is where the professionals come in to help you, to remind you to not follow your emotions. It's going to lead you down the wrong path. We have to focus on what we know and we're going to help you take the emotions out of it by focusing on facts, focusing on the process, focusing on the finances. We can't be led with emotions. We have to just focus on how can we get this done? And that comes with planning and that comes with gathering all of your information, letting the professionals handle things that might get overwhelming to you so that you don't have these abrupt or poor decision taking place and disrupting your process. So we do tell people, be positive. You're not going to feel positive, you're not going to feel at this moment like you like your co parents or the other spouse. But we can't go with feelings. We can't go with emotions. We need to model good behavior. It's going to help you, it's going to help your kids. And if you do it enough, you might still be able to have those positive interactions after your divorce.
ABRUPT OR POOR DECISIONS – QUIT JOB AND MOVE
The other poor decision that we tend to see in cases people will besides just poor communication, they might do drastic things because they're thinking, oh well, I'm going to have a change in my life, I'm going to change everything. And they might quit their job, they might move out of state. And that's really a big no no if you are starting the divorce process or in the middle of a divorce process.
[13:59] Tyler Birt: Yeah. And why is it a big deal?
[14:02] Erin Birt: There's a couple of different reasons. One, you've got the financial side of it in your divorce. We really have to focus on income earning potential. We have to focus on assets and debts, and we have to focus on the children, if there are children, and what's in the best interest of the children, all while going through an incredibly stressful process. So if we just take the financial aspects of it, if somebody quits their job out of, “I'm going to start anew” or just in spite of the other person, “I'm going to change my life and I'm going to give up this job and I'm going to move.” We've got a big problem now with income. You probably did this in bad faith, which means you weren't considering the legal proceedings, you weren't considering the effect on issues like maintenance or child support. And if you just decide unilaterally to quit your job without good cause, the judge isn't going to look kindly upon that.
So now you've got issues if you just quit your job that you're probably going to be ordered at some point to find a very similar job. That's going to be hard to do if you have a history of just up and quitting your job, and you're going to have problems with something called perhaps dissipation. That's when you are spending marital income or marital assets on something unrelated to the family or the marriage while there's a breakdown in your marriage. So if you quit your job and then you perhaps move somewhere else and you're either renting or maybe you bought a condo or something somewhere else, we're now complicating your asset aspect of your divorce because now everything you're spending on this new condo could be categorized as dissipation. So everything you're spending, you might now need to add money back to the marital pot. People don't like doing that. And you might, if you bought something, you now bought a marital asset that's going to be subject to being valued, and the other party being bought out.
And so we're complicating many aspects of your divorce just because you decided, well, things aren't going well, “I'm quitting my job and I'm moving.” Can't do that in the middle of the divorce. And I neglected to say you're supposed to maintain the status quo if your divorce has already started. So quitting your job, changing where you live, incurring debt or buying an asset, none of that is maintaining the status quo.
[17:01] Erin Birt: Join us for part two of this podcast, where we review more tips about how to avoid self sabotaging your divorce process.
Thanks for listening to the Restorative Divorce podcast with your hosts, attorney and mediator Erin Birt and our paralegal, Tyler Birt. A special thanks to our contributors and to the authors of the many articles that inspire us and keep our clients informed. We hope you enjoyed our deep dive into the separation, divorce or parenting tips covered today that you can use now to help restore yourself. If you strive to improve your life or the lives of your children after a separation or divorce, join us next week when we will cover more Restorative Divorce topics. You can head over to Birtlaw.com to get the podcast transcripts, follow to us on social media, and even find more valuable family law information, all for your benefit. Get help today and work with us one on one. Contact us to set up a consultation or planning session to start rebuilding your life today. Enjoy this day and we'll see you next time.