Seven mistakes women make when getting divorced and how to avoid them

Divorce is a very difficult, emotionally draining time, and it’s easy to feel fearful and overwhelmed – and this can lead to mistakes and decisions that you’ll live to regret.

According to Mary Waring, independent financial adviser and author of ‘The Wealthy Woman’ there are seven common mistakes that she sees women make all too often:

Mistake 1: Not using a solicitor

A DIY divorce will be cheaper in the short term, but may infact be more expensive in the long run. If you do not know what share of the assets you are entitled to, or what would constitute a fair settlement you may end up agreeing to a lower figure than a solicitor would advise.

Mistake 2: Assuming you will end up in court

Do not assume that using a solicitor will result in a long drawn out legal battle in Court. There are a number of alternative routes available to you:

In mediation an independent mediator will meet with both you and your partner to help resolve the difficulties in any area you haven’t yet been able to agree on.

Collaborative law
Each party appoints their own collaboratively trained solicitor. All issues are dealt with by face to face meetings with your spouse and the two solicitors.

Family Law arbitration
You and your partner appoint a qualified arbitrator to make a decision as to a fair outcome. This decision is final and binding.

Mistake 3: Burying your head in the sand

If your husband has requested a divorce it’s not unusua for you to be in denial and feel that if you wait your husband will change his mind.

However, you also mustn’t stick your head in the sand. If you do, the whole process will take longer and be more expensive. Talk to a solicitor and a financial adviser to consider your options – you can then begin to think about your future and start to make decisions.

Mistake 4: Assuming you can maintain the same lifestyle

It’s likely you will want to maintain the same lifestyle that you enjoyed during your marriage. If there are sufficient funds, that’s likely to be the outcome. However, consider what will happen if there isn’t enough money.

Don’t assume that the law will in any way punish your husband financially. The law is simply there to find a settlement – not a punishment.

Listen to what your family solicitor advises you will be an appropriate outcome. They have years of experience and can predict the likely outcome with some confidence.

Mistake 5: being determined to keep the family home?

Frequently the wife wants to stay in the family home and the husband wants to keep his pension intact.

However, before you decide this is the outcome you want, consider what income you will live on when you retire, especially if maintenance will cease at retirement age. 

It’s very understandable why emotionally you may want to stay in the family home, but it’s not necessarily the best financial option for you in the long run.

Mistake 6: Thinking you’re not entitled to a fair share of the assets

Frequently women believe that if you have not contributed financially to the marriage that you will be entitled to a lower share of the joint assets if you divorce.

You’ll be glad to hear this is incorrect. The court will base the settlement on the financial needs of both parties, especially the one looking after the children.

Do remember as well, of course, that if you are the female breadwinner do not assume that all the assets of the marriage are yours.

Mistake 7: Thinking you a “common law wife”

Although we often hear the term “common law wife”, there is infact no such thing in law.

Following separation your partner will need to provide financially for the children. However, there is no legal requirement for him to provide for you or provide a share of the wealth created during your relationship.

To protect yourself you should have a “Cohabitation agreement”, which is designed to protect both you and your partner if things go wrong in your relationship at a later date. 

In conclusion, when going through a divorce, or even at the ‘considering a divorce’ stage, it is important that you are clear about the realities and practicalities of the situation and you get professional advice. By taking the right steps now you won’t live to regret it in the future.

About Mary Waring:

Mary Waring is an independent financial adviser and the founder of Wealth For Women, specialising in financial advice to women going through divorce. She is both a Chartered Financial Planner and a Chartered Accountant, being one of only a handful of advisers in the whole for the UK with this high level of qualification. Mary is passionate about changing the way women think about finance. Too many women stick their head in the sand and ignore it, or rely on a man to sort it for them. Mary is also author of ‘The Wealthy Woman – a man is not a financial plan’.