Five ways to avoid the pitfalls of DIY divorce


For many divorcing couples, asset division seems straightforward. It means sharing property and personal belongings and perhaps working out child support payments.

However, many people are unaware that there are many other assets — including savings, stocks, pensions, and even inherited wealth — that can all come into play.

As DIY divorce becomes more popular, the loss of those marital assets is a growing concern. So what should you know if you are traveling alone?

1. Do not completely disregard professional advice

“The associated financial implications [of separation] is tricky and difficult to navigate,” says celebrity divorce attorney Emma Gill of Vardags.

It can be especially difficult for women who have been in long, financially unequal marriages.

“I’ve had clients who have literally been given pocket money for 40 years who have always signed every piece of paper their husband puts in front of them,” says Gil. “This is the landscape against which some divorcing women make financial decisions about their future.

“So if your husband says, ‘Don’t go to a lawyer, they’re going to rip you off,’ they believe him, but what they really get is an independent, objective view of their rights.”

That objective view comes at a cost, of course, but you can control what you spend, says leading divorce attorney Davina Katz of Katz Partners.

“Have at least an initial meeting with a lawyer to discuss the process. If you then decide to handle your divorce yourself, at least do so with a checklist to refer to.”

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2. Pensions are important and can be negotiated

While you don’t have to split your spouse’s pension, you can use it as a negotiating tool and get a bigger share of the marital home and more capital if you do.

“In general, women are also more attached to the marital home and will sacrifice anything to try to keep it,” says divorce attorney Vanessa Lloyd Platt. “It represents safety at a time when they feel very vulnerable.”

3. Don’t neglect other assets

Stocks, equities, and bitcoin are other incomes that divorce handymen can unknowingly forego. “Too often people say, ‘Well, there’s no way I’m going to find them or track them, so I’m not even going to bother,'” says Lloyd Platt. “But your spouse could have invested thousands in those assets.

“Also, do not assume that inherited assets will automatically be excluded from financial settlement. When it comes to divorce, the saying, “Don’t ask, you don’t get” might be truer.”

4. Yes, it’s terrible – but don’t rush it

The desperate impulse to race through an often painful process is another pitfall of the DIY divorce. “I always tell my customers: If you act hastily, you will regret it for many years,” says Lloyd Platt.

Currently, about one in ten of her clients is someone who started the divorce process alone and then got scared. “A judge said, ‘Have you thought about it? Maybe you should see a lawyer,’ and that made her panic.”

5. Mediation can work, but only with the right personalities

Mediation – where both parties agree how to divide their estate in the presence of an impartial expert – is often cited as the gentler and more sophisticated method of divorce. But you can manipulate it.

Gill has clients whose husbands advised them to mediate from the start. “But if one of the spouses is a predator, mediation is an arena for the other spouse to be very easy prey.”

If you handle your divorce yourself, Gill cautions against skimping on financial risks.

“Yes, it’s boring, hard work, but you only get one chance to do it, so do it right. You can’t make an informed decision about how to allocate your wealth until you know how much you’re dividing.”

© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Five ways to avoid the pitfalls of DIY divorce

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