Filing for divorce is not easy for anyone. Whether we are going though emotional distress or we are trying to put a quick end to a toxic relationship, we may not realize that we are not making the best decisions. In this article, we have put together a brief summary of some of the most common mistakes that we have seen parties make when filing for divorce in our years of experience here at the firm of Banks & Brower.
Failure to Seek Legal Counsel
The first mistake, and the cause of so many others, is the failure to seek legal counsel from the beginning. Although at first it may seem like a great idea to forge ahead on your own without the assistance of legal counsel to cut down on your legal expenses, the odds are you may end up making things more difficult on yourself or winding up with a settlement agreement that is unfavorable to you. This often leads to people losing more money in the long run than they would have if they had been represented by an attorney from the start.
Self-representation itself also comes with its own service tab. Court proceedings might be overwhelming for someone lacking the legal expertise of any attorney, and more often than not, people find themselves missing deadlines and notices they were not even aware they were required to meet and/or file. This may not only lead to higher overall expenses, but also may result in lengthy proceedings and undesired outcomes that may come much later than anticipated or desired.
Some people may be triggered to use online forms to file for divorce. Indeed, those forms are easy to fill out and very accessible to all and might be a recommendable solution for certain parties who want to cut down their expenses. However, depending on the complexity of your case, you might want to invest in legal counsel before signing them, especially because the Court staff is prohibited from providing legal advice in the event that a question arises. These forms are a good option for people with few assets and no children, but hey may leave room for problems and misunderstandings regarding parenting time, child support and who pays for the expenses of the children, not to mention potential issues with the overall split of the marital estate. Experience is the tool of the wise, and experience says that you can incur higher expenses litigating your self in custody proceedings alone after all.
Filed for Divorce in Wrong Place
Another typical mistake rears its head in where the divorce is filed, specifically in which county the divorce is to be filed. Indiana has its own rules to determine what cases will fall under the jurisdiction of which county court. As stated above, Court staff cannot give advice on this or other matters, so it is very important to understand the law carefully, as legal language can be very complex and could be misleading to some. Although this situation is able to be remedied, fixing it will slow down the proceedings from the start and may lead to much higher than anticipated costs.
Child support is another area where there are many general misunderstandings. It is not uncommon to see people taking on higher debts in an effort to reduce the amount of their court-ordered child support obligation. In Indiana, in order to modify or terminate an order of child support obligation, a party must have experienced a substantial and continuing change in circumstances. However, an increase in the amount of debt a parent takes on is not considered as such. In these cases, opposite to expectations, those parents find themselves in a situation where they have to face the payment of the newly acquired debt, along with the child support obligation ordered by the court.
Indiana does not allow parents to make agreements to determine the amounts to be paid for child support, but only to deviate from that amount in certain situations. Child support obligations are considered the rights of the child(ren), and therefore he parents are in no position to bargain about them, as the parents are merely trustees for the child(ren)’s money or support. Parents can agree to ask the court for a modification in the amount of the support obligation, but any clause of any agreement regarding child support will not be valid per se, unless first being approved by the court. Indeed, any deviation from the original order has to be explained and has to be based on the best interest of the children.
Prior Court Outcomes & Expectations
There is also a general confusion amongst the masses about prior court outcomes and the expectations that arise with them. We all know people who have either filed for or been a part of a divorce, yet their outcomes are not all the same. A major mistake is comparing your situation to that of a co-worker, friend, family member, or acquaintance as the outcome they received is not indicative of your situation as divorces are unique. Comparing your divorce to that of another can create expectations that will possibly not be met and may lead to a lot of frustration, anger, and confusion, and could very well create a massive hurdle to an otherwise favorable resolution. Although two people may have similar incomes, they may live on different sides of town or in different counties, have a different number of children, may pay a different amount for health insurance, and so on. These variables all matter in a divorce and may lead to dissimilar outcomes. Each case is different and unique and full of other variables not named herein that may lead a court to order a resolution that is adequate and appropriate for your case and your case alone, which illustrates the overall need to have an experienced and competent legal professional in your corner during one of, if not the, most difficult times in your life.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our family law attorneys, please reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via phone at (317) 870-0019.