6 Common Mistakes Parents Make When Getting a Divorce

There are actually several common pitfalls in the Virginia divorce process which can derail your case. Below, we list 6 of the most common mistakes parents make when getting a divorce in Virginia.

Naturally, divorces are tough. It is easy to get caught up in bad mouthing and mudslinging. The whole process is complicated even further when children are involved.

Not only do you have the stress of dealing with your own feelings and problems, but you also have to worry about the care and well being of your youngsters.

Divorce law is complex. It is hard to navigate. Parents are prone to making mistakes throughout the process.

Let us help you avoid a few of the most common mistakes parents make when getting a divorce. After all, we are best served by learning from the mistakes of others.

Mistake #1: Making the Divorce Unneccesarily Hostile

Many parents make the mistake of making the divorce hostile, and, too often, needlessly so. Few couples maintain the civility to have an amicable divorce. Emotions are running high. You are likely feeling hurt and angry, among a host of emotions.

Naturally, your first instinct is to defend yourself. You want to take out you frustrations and your pain on the person who hurt you.

Our judicial system is an adversarial process. Putting two people in that environment makes them feel like opponents in competition to come out on top. Already heightened emotions ramp up even further.

The strict structure of the court system often puts nerves on edge. Because the courtroom makes it seem like a win/lose battle you often fight for every advantage.

This ultimately makes the whole experience last even longer and thus even more expensive.

So what should I do?

While there are times litigation is truly necessary, fighting for fighting’s sake is harmful to you, to your ex, and to your children. Not to mention the fact that it will also hurt your pocketbook.

Yes you are hurt, angry, frustrated. All of these emotions are valuable, but keeping them in the right place will ensure that you come out on top in your divorce. You can help facilitate the process be opting for a more appropriate environment.

Sure, negotiating seems weak and mediation sounds soft. You want to bring the hammer down. But court involvement is often unnecessary. You will be better served both emotionally and financially if you first attempt some nonjudicial measures to reach an agreement.

Mistake #2: Letting Your Emotions Get the Best of You

Divorces are often an emotional roller coaster. You’ll have your highs, then your lows, your peaks, and your drops.

Keeping your emotions in check will ensure you remain level headed and keep you ahead of your opponent. With a clear head, you can avoid costly mistakes that hurt you or your children.

When we are too emotional, we make mistakes. We make rash decisions. We take unnecessary risks. We shut down and let people take advantage of our weakness.

Part of hiring a good attorney is choosing someone who can keep you in check and look out for you when you lose sight of what’s important.

How can I help manage my emotions?

Hire a good team. Part of having the best possible experience under the circumstances is to hire a good team. Begin with a lawyer who complements your personality. You may need a lawyer who is willing to bring the heat, or maybe you will work better with an attorney who is more docile and can keep you level headed. At the very least you want to find a lawyer who does not bring out the worst in you and who makes you feel secure throughout the process.

Pick the right spot. Choosing the right venue can help. As I mentioned, adversarial proceedings often escalate emotions. Opting for a more informal setting to resolve your disagreements will aid in keeping your emotions in check. Consider hiring a professional mediator. Check to see if your attorney will allow you to meet in his office. The possibilities are virtually endless and almost all of them are better than a courtroom.

Join a support group. Consider reaching out to local support groups. There are a whole host of them out there, so you have a range of options: from online forums to local weekly meetings. Just find a place that feels right for you.

Lean on professionals. If you are finding your Virginia divorce too much to bear alone, don’t be ashamed to lean on professionals like accountants, counselors, and doctors for help—it is what they are there for. You may find it easier to lean on family, but keep in mind that this can be a burden for them too. While they want what is best for you, trained professionals can help you in ways few family members can.

Mistake #3: Choosing the Wrong Lawyer

Countless people make the mistake of hiring the wrong lawyer. As in every industry, not all law firms and lawyers provide the same level of service.

At the same time, there are also amazing attorneys who simply might not be the right attorney for you.

Maybe your personalities do not click. Maybe you need someone willing to keep you clear headed when your temper runs amok.

Finding the right Virginia divorce attorney for you is key to a smoother divorce.

Mistake #4: Being Unaware of Potential Costs

One of the most costly mistakes a parent can make when getting a divorce is spending too much money. You are about to be a single parent. Life is about to get more expensive. Don’t let your divorce cost more than it needs to.

The last thing you want once all the papers are signed and orders are entered is a sizable bill from a lawyer showing up monthly.

The best way to manage costs is to set a realistic budget. Then, find Virginia divorce attorneys who can work within your price range. Also, make sure that you are clear on how much the divorce will cost. Get in writing what the fee will be, how it will be billed, and what it will cover. This way you can ensure that you are hiring the best divorce attorney for your needs.

What should you expect to spend?

Each divorce is different, so it is very difficult to estimate. Some attorneys charge by the hour ($200-$450/hour or more here in Virginia); others will offer you a flat fee.

You can only begin to get an idea after you sit down with an attorney and ask the right questions.

Mistake #5: Not Knowing Your Rights

An informed decision is usually better than one that is uninformed. Too often we don’t get a good deal because we do not know what we are entitled to. Sometimes we fight over something to which we have no legal right. 

Knowing what the law will allow in a divorce is the first step to streamlining the process while getting the best possible outcome. This ultimately translates in to saving you time, headache, and money.

Mistake #6: Over-Involving Your Children

One of the worst mistakes any parent can make, be it before or after their divorce is settled, is putting their children in the middle of their fight. Children face enough stress during a divorce as it is. It is not fair for you to project your pain and your anger onto them.

As a parent, you have to be sensitive to the fact that this is a very trying time for your children. An innocent remark by you on the phone can greatly affect the world of tiny eavesdroppers. Be mindful of what you say and where you say it.

More importantly, remember your children are people and not pawns in a game. Too often it is tempting to use your children as leverage. Again, children are people; treat them as such.

This goes for during and after your divorce. Since most custody issues continue until the child turns 18, you will likely have a long continuing relationship with your child’s other parent. You may be tempted at times to say something snide or to complicate or infringe upon the rights of the other parent. This is not only harmful to your children, but it can land you in a world of trouble—especially if you violate a court order in the process.

Undoubtedly child custody and visitation will be one hotly contested issue during your divorce proceedings. Know your rights and check out our article on Virginia child custody laws.


There you have it. Six of the most common mistakes parents make when getting a divorce. Keep these in mind and it will help you make the process run much more smoothly.

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