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What are the 10 most common divorce mistakes?

Without stating the obvious, divorce can be an overwhelming process. Most people get divorced once in their life, and so are usually going through the experience for the first time. As with anything new, it can feel confusing, like you’re navigating unknown pitfalls and unsure how to avoid mistakes.

Liza Gatrell, Senior Solicitor at Stowe Family Law in Winchester, joins us on the blog to reveal the top 10 most common divorce mistakes, so that you can avoid them. What are the 10 most common divorce mistakes?

Not getting a financial order

Many people choose to deal with the divorce proceedings themselves, particularly with the online system. However, there is often the misconception that your decree absolute also severs your financial ties. It does not! If you have a reached an agreement relating to the financial aspects of your relationship, or even where there are no finances to divide, you need a financial order to provide you with a clean break and prevent future financial claims being made. Financial orders can be technical, and you need to get it right, so please make sure they are drafted by a solicitor who specialises in this area of law.

Lack of financial planning

It is no good saying that you want 40%, 50% or 60% of the assets if you have no idea what this will mean on a practical level. Work with your solicitor and a financial planner so that you know what the percentage equates to in real terms, and plan carefully.

Re-marrying before the finances have been resolved

There is nothing that makes a divorce lawyer sweat more than being told that your client has booked a wedding date before you have the decree absolute. You need to be aware that new relationships can complicate ongoing divorce proceedings.

If you re-marry without a financial order, then you may lose your right to apply for one. This means that you cannot rely on the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and the fairness that this act looks to achieve. Instead, any applications would need to be made under the ‘Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996’, which is much stricter and gives the courts far less discretion. Randomly, pension claims can still be made after re-marriage.

Agreeing to offset capital assets against child maintenance payments

It is not uncommon to be asked whether the primary carer could be provided with a lump sum or a higher share of the marital assets, rather than ongoing monthly child maintenance payments. The answer is no. The problem is that you cannot oust the jurisdiction of the child maintenance agency or have a clean break in relation to child maintenance.

Discussing the divorce, or your ex-partner with the children

Whilst your relationship may have ended, you will both remain the children’s’ parents. Children don’t have the emotional maturity to deal with these complex adult problems and they shouldn’t have to. It is not uncommon for a parent to say that they think it is important that the children know “the truth” about the other parent. This can be deeply damaging and may even backfire. The children need to know that its ok for them to have a relationship with both of their parents.

Thinking you, or the court, can change your ex-partner

We can help in many ways, and the court can make orders in respect of a lot of things, but what we can’t do is change the other person. If your ex-partner is unresponsive, difficult and/ or unreasonable then no amount of court orders are going to change them. What we need to do is work with you, and perhaps a divorce coach, to manage how you respond to them.

Taking legal advice on your separation from family or friends

Whilst your friends and family have good intentions and may have been through a divorce themselves, they were not married to your ex-partner, and they are not going through your divorce. The people who care for you are on your side and should be there to provide you with emotional support but the only person you should be taking legal advice from is a qualified solicitor.

Believing that your friends are the only people that can see your social media posts

Do not post anything on social media, or indeed write anything in a text message/ email, that you wouldn’t want a Judge to see in the future.

Going straight in with an application to court

Court should be an absolute last resort. Nobody wants a Judge, who doesn’t really know you, your ex-partner or your children, making important life decisions on their behalf. Going to court is emotionally draining, risky and expensive. Before making any court applications make sure you investigate solicitor negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. These methods are likely to not only save you costs, but also provide you with far more control.

Doing everything yourself

The sceptics among you may say that I am bound to say this but getting divorced can be a complex and technical process. At the very least you should ensure that you get legal advice at the very start, so that you are clear on your options and expectations and before reaching any agreement and/or signing any documentation.

Get in touch 

If you would like any advice on divorce and how to avoid the common divorce mistakes or other family law issues, please contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist divorce lawyers here. 

Liza is based in our Winchester & Southampton offices and is experienced in divorce, financial matters, and legal issues issues involving children.

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As the UK's largest family law firm we understand that every case is personal.


  1. Frank says:

    Divorce is a big decision that will change the course of your life. Before you even file for divorce in you should have a well thought out strategy. Thanks for sharing your expert tips here.

  2. Nasir says:

    I am going through a divorce now and I must say is tough and rely on my solicitor on advise, reading the above article has given me insight, but still you need a good lawyer to win your case.

  3. Marina says:

    Of course, divorce is a really serious step and a complicated process which includes a lot of nuances. Because of this, people really often look for quite simple ways to implement it, circumventing a number of difficulties connected with divorce proceedings. I have heard about DIY divorce but before this moment I hadn’t been fully aware of all factors connected with it and now thanks to your article I have a clear understanding about it. Without any doubts, it is really important to approach this type of divorce with all caution and don’t make hasty decisions because in this case disadvantages are really considerable. I think you need to prefer some alternatives to DIY divorce because these ways can be more rational and dependable.

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