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divorce mistakes
that could cost you

10 Costly Mistakes to Avoid in Your Divorce Proceeding


Asking Your Divorce Lawyer the Right Questions: The financial fallout from mistakes made during a divorce can be devastating and last for a lifetime. Asking your divorce lawyer the right questions, and understanding some of the potential pitfalls of a divorce settlement, will make you more prepared for the divorce process and save you time and money. Here are some mistakes that can be avoided by asking your lawyer the right questions:

1. Failing to get your financial house in order: If you suspect your spouse is planning a divorce, or you decide to pursue a divorce against your spouse, make copies of all important financial papers, including at least two year’s worth of bank and securities account statements, credit card statements, retirement account statements, tax returns, life and health insurance documents, the deed and transfer documents regarding any real estate, and any pre-marital agreement. If you own a business, speak with your accountant and make sure you are prepared to produce tax returns and financial statements for the entity. Ask your lawyer at the beginning of your case to give you a list of what documents you will need and a time-table for when they should be produced.

2. Failing to consider mediation: If there are no major disputes regarding custody and visitation with your children, and both spouses are aware of the other’s income and assets, a successful mediation can avoid what could be a costly and emotionally trying divorce. If you and your spouse wish to explore mediation, you should jointly make an appointment with a lawyer that provides mediation services and ask that lawyer to evaluate whether your particular situation is suited to the mediation process.

3. Failing to evaluate a potential divorce settlement on an after-tax basis with financial software: Your attorney should use financial software to prepare your financial affidavit and evaluate the after-tax consequences of any support or property settlement. Economic modeling with sophisticated software is the best way to determine whether a proposed settlement will leave you with the disposable (after-tax) income and assets you expect. Ask your lawyer to describe the technology he or she utilizes and how this technology can help resolve your case.

4. Failing to produce an accurate budget: Clients often underestimate their real budget by failing to review their bank and credit card statements before creating what’s known as a “financial affidavit”, a document which will be filled out and submitted to the Court. Take the time to review these documents, and call service providers to ensure that your budget takes into consideration your actual expenses, both now and after your divorce. Ask your lawyer if he or she personally reviews your financial affidavit to ensure that it accurately reflects your income, assets and expenses, and does not rely on paralegals or other support staff for this purpose.

5. Failing to investigate health insurance options: When your divorce is final, you can no longer continue to carry your spouse on your health insurance. If you are the spouse who will lose his or her health insurance, it is important to investigate COBRA or other options and incorporate this cost into your budget. If you are the spouse who will be responsible for insuring your children, know these additional costs before entering into any divorce settlement. Ask your lawyer to explain the respective responsibility of both spouses to cover your children’s insurance premiums and out of pocket medical expenses.

6. Failing to insure your divorce settlement: Premature death or disability of your ex-spouse can result in loss of alimony, child support, college tuition, or a property settlement that is payable over time. Life and disability insurance can guarantee your payments and your family’s security. Ask your lawyer to help you calculate what amount of insurance is right for your case.

7. Failing to use an outside professional to help with child-related issues: There are many qualified therapists who specialize in helping spouses communicate with each other regarding parenting and visitation issues during their divorce proceeding, and beyond. Many times these issues can be mediated and resolved without having to involve the parties’ respective lawyers, which can save you money as well as emotional aggravation. Ask your lawyer to recommend co-parenting programs or therapists if you believe these issues will be a problem in your case.

8. Failing to recognize and plan for child care needs: Child care is a huge expense for families when both spouses work outside the home, and even more so when the parents are no longer residing together. As part of any divorce settlement, both spouses must realistically consider and budget for the cost of reliable child care, and discuss the financial burdens of this expense to resolve both child support and child custody issues.

9. Failing to report domestic violence: Divorce is emotionally wrenching, and often times is the product of, or results in abusive behavior between spouses or directed at children. It is important to document and timely report domestic violence by either filing a criminal report with the police, or going to court and securing a civil restraining order. Immediately discuss with your lawyer any abusive behavior in your household, or concerns of being wrongly accused. It is a matter of safety as well as finances. A criminal arrest or a restraining order can force you out of your house and away from your children, perhaps for the entirety of the divorce proceeding. Ask your lawyer if he or she is experienced in these matters if this is a potential issue in your case.

10. Failing to hire the right divorce lawyer: All lawyers have law degrees, but you don’t want a generalist. Family law is a specialized field, and you will likely be better served by a lawyer who focuses on family and divorce law. Other things to think about: How will I communicate with this person? Will this person be accessible to me? Does this person have expertise in the particular issues involved in my case? Is this person technologically and business savvy? Does this person understand the issues with my kids? Does this person have fair billing practices? Hiring the right divorce lawyer is the first decision you will make in going through the divorce process, and will likely be the most important. Be prepared and never be afraid to ask questions.

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Dori Ellen S. Feltman is a divorce lawyer in Westport Connecticut with a concentration on Family Law in Fairfield County CT. She represents clients from Westport, Fairfield, Wilton, Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Greenwich, Trumbull, Monroe, Ridgefield and surrounding towns.