7 Top Divorce Fails by Women From a Lawyer Who's Seen It All

upset woman"Divorce is the psychological equivalent of a triple coronary bypass," said author Mary Kay Blakely. She's right. Not only is divorce painful, it can also be incredibly complicated.

And what that means is that it's a breeding ground for mistakes. So many terrible, long-lasting, devastating, regrettable mistakes are made because we're on an emotional roller coaster, or because the legal process is messy, or both.

"It's what I call the 'divorce paradox,'" says divorce lawyer Rebecca Zung, author of Breaking Free: A Step-By-Step Divorce Guide to Emotional, Physical and Spiritual Freedom. "In the worst emotional trauma, you have to make the most critical decisions of your life."

Wondering about all the ways women can go wrong when their marriages end? We've got the scoop on the biggest divorce secrets and fails by someone who's seen it all.

1. She has no idea what their finances are like. Sometimes a husband will create a mountain of debt without telling his wife. Or, he'll amass more assets than she's aware of. Either way, the divorce will take longer if the wife isn't in the loop. "If you think your'e going to file for divorce," Zung advises, "first take a couple of months to be a sleuth. Open up those letters from the bank and find out what's really going on."

2. She doesn't have the money to get started. If you've been financially dependent on your husband, you can request what's called "temporary maintenance" to cover your expenses until your divorce is finalized. But you'll still need some cash for the initial legal fees and for your own day-to-day expenses before the court awards that maintenance. You need money to put a lawyer on retainer. Zung says that amount can vary widely, anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 depending on your circumstances.

3. She lets her husband corner her alone, without her lawyer. "A husband who wants to control the whole process might tell his wife, 'Let's just meet at Starbucks and work this out between the two of us.' Or, 'Who do you trust more?'" Zung cautions. "Then he'll try to get her to settle for far less than she's entitled to. And when I later tell her that no, you're entitled to more than that, he gets angry and that makes it harder to negotiate down the road, even in mediation."

It's fine to settle issues like pickup times for the kids between the two of you. But if your husband wants to discuss details in your divorce case, Zung urges women to firmly say, "Please speak with my lawyer about that."

More from The Stir: 6 Biggest Mistakes Moms Make in a Divorce

4. She's driven by her emotions. "This is the biggest one," Zung says. "Some women give in because they're emotionally exhausted, or they don't want people judging them. But they'll usually regret giving in too soon." On the other hand, some women cause a divorce to drag on because of their thirst for revenge. Zung says those clients tell her, "'I don't care how long it takes or how much it costs, I just want to make him suffer.' But then the wives suffer, too.'"

It's not just the women, though. Zung saw one husband get so angry he punched a hole into a wall during a meeting. She's also seen people storm out of proceedings. "Sometimes emotions are running so high, we can't even start off in the same room." This is counterproductive. "The best way to get a good resolution is for everyone to remain calm."

5. She confuses divorce justice with divorce law. "These are not the same thing," Zung says. Some women will tell her that they want half of their husband's salary plus the house, for example. "It's what they want," she says. "But the law may not support that. She's confusing what she thinks is just with reality." For example, you might think there would be a financial penalty for adultery. But no -- in most states cheating has little impact on the distribution of assets.

6. She takes how her husband responds to divorce personally. "Once a man accepts the fact that the divorce happens," Zung explains, "it often becomes a like business deal to him." This means he'll come in with a certain cold, calculating emotional distance. Women can get caught up in feeling hurt over this, wondering things like, how does he not see everything I've done for him? "This gives the husband the edge in negotiation," Zung says. "If you're feeling hurt, you're dealing from a weaker position."

7. She settles for far less than she should. Zung says she sometimes has a client sign a letter saying that she's "explained to her how much she's entitled to, and that she acknowledges that she is giving this up anyway. Most of the women who sign it come to regret settling."

Why take less than you're entitled to? Some women feel guilty taking what they have every right to under the law. Others just want to get it all over with as quickly as possible.

Zung has seen some women give up millions. One client's husband's estate was estimated to be worth $25 million. But she walked away with just $5 million, child support, and a condo worth about $500,000. "He was harassing her. I got so many crying phone calls from her, and she just couldn't take it anymore," Zung says. So she decided $5 million was plenty so she could end the drama.

You may have noticed a common theme running through these mistakes: Your emotional state can affect your finances and your divorce. It's clear that women need a certain amount of resilience, self-awareness, and a firm grip on reality to navigate splitting from their husbands. Get the help you need, whether that's through therapy or a support group.

Have you made mistakes in your divorce that you regret?


Image © iStock.com/CourtneyK



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nonmember avatar Karma

Let's wait to see how wives who are richer than their husband get sent to the cleaners. We have seen a crap load of husbands forking over the cash. I'm curious to hear the conversation when women are pay men spousal support. We already know 99% of women would look at that negative, while shout you go girl when women cash in. Actually, I don't know why men get marriage...they're risking half their stock on a bias society...in the divorce areana that is!

nonmember avatar Nicole schanda

Not all women are so money hungry. I haven't asked for anything but him to split all kids expenses. It doesn't matter gender. If you care money hungry you will make divorce difficult.

nonmember avatar Ashlie

I was too nice during my divorce. Financially I am and have been suffering because I was too nice and settled for way less than I should have. I didn't realize how hard it would be on my own. I had never been in a situation where I was on my own before.

I also didn't want my ex husband to have any excuse to not be a good dad. I provided every opportunity so that now I can say, see he had all these chances and still doesn't do what he should.

Cathy... Cathystwins

When a marriage ends, everything should be divided equally as my x and i did.. Fair is fair. I have two kids with my x, he pays a large amount of child support because he makes a ton more money then i do. No reason to be money hungry, , just get what ur entitled too. Life works out much better that way.

Layna Palmer

The only thing I regret during my divorce in not stabbing him when he threw me up against a wall and tried to strangle me.  Instead I kicked him in his "boys" and threatened to call the police if he didn't leave.  He left, I didn't call.  

tbruc... tbrucemom

I didn't get a dime in the divorce from my 28 year old marriage. Got child suppport for our daughter. He sold all our assets and I didn't want the house so he decided he'd stay there and let it foreclose instead of trying to sell it. I was way too emotional and just wanted it to be done and have primary custody of my daughter. I did get him to agree to pay child support while she was in college (it goes to her) and not he's trying to get out of paying it so I have to take him to court. He definitely has the money, he's just being a cheap asshole.

nonmember avatar Holly Dee

I wonder how much of that child support is actually spent on the child. I know many divorced women who get child support but "cant afford" to get the child a pair of shoes while Mom has a fresh mani/pedi.

nonmember avatar nonplused

no one is entitled to anything. take the average income both earned and divide the assets pro-rated as such. no income? no assets. substantial income? substantial assets. child support is a no brainer it has to be paid.

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