The Top 5 Mistakes That Men Make During a Divorce

By:
Michael Tierney
Updated
July 27, 2022

Divorce is unpleasant and can often cloud judgment due to the emotional toll of your marriage ending. We know that nothing can make a divorce more palatable to you, especially if there is contention in the marriage that could jeopardize an amicable separation. However, the best possible course of action is to keep a level head and ensure you take all the right steps to go through your divorce proceedings.

Solution Unfortunately, when our judgment is clouded, we are prone to making mistakes that might adversely affect the outcome of situations like divorce. While all parties in divorce proceedings can compromise their judgment by stress and emotion, some mistakes are more common to men than women.

You risk compromising your case whenever you take an action that brings your judgment or character into question or when you fail to act. Some mistakes are worse than others, but all of them can devastate your case if you let your judgment falter. While these mistakes and judgment errors are understandable, you will find that a judge is not as accommodating to your mistakes as you might hope. As difficult as it might be, you need to power through and avoid making the more common and detrimental mistakes during a divorce.

This article will outline some of the biggest and most common mistakes men make during divorce proceedings.

#1: Failing to Hire a Divorce Attorney

The idea that your marriage is ending is not pleasant, and we are sorry that you must go through it. Unfortunately, a common response in these situations is for men to deny that the divorce is happening. It is completely understandable that you want to hold onto your marriage and try to prevent the divorce but failing to act can cost you in the long term. The odds are high that your spouse did not serve divorce papers independently and has already retained a divorce lawyer to represent them.

Solution One of the worst mistakes you can make is failing to follow suit.

Denial is one of the biggest reasons a man will refuse to seek out an attorney, believing their spouse will "come to their senses" or that they can patch things up. However, we assure you that your spouse has likely given this much thought and is not requesting a divorce in the heat of the moment. Other men feel they lack the financial resources to retain an attorney and refuse to use their savings. No matter the reason, failing to consult with a divorce attorney and retain one can severely damage your chances of walking away from the divorce without issue.

Speaking With a Divorce Attorney

While you retain the right to represent yourself in a divorce proceeding, you will be at a huge disadvantage. Your spouse's attorney will have an intimate understanding of the law and will be able to use testimony and tactics that will easily overwhelm your arguments if you represent yourself. In contrast, having an attorney of your own will protect your case and augment your chances of a favorable settlement. There is also the bias against men in divorce court to consider.

Many people ignore that divorce courts have a long history of favoring the wife over the husband. While this sentiment does not necessarily apply if you are in a same-sex marriage, if your spouse is a woman, she might receive preferential treatment in court. Consulting with an attorney allows you to establish goals and provide resources and testimony that can overcome the bias. Granted, bias against men is slowly fading, but having an attorney as soon as possible allows you to prepare your defense much quicker.

#2: Settling for the First Attorney You Meet

While failing to hire a divorce attorney is worse, you can be in just as much trouble if you hire a bad attorney. Many men do not want to dedicate themselves to a lengthy search for a divorce lawyer and choose to hire the first one with whom they consult. While this is convenient in the short term, it can easily backfire down the line.

Solution An attorney is only as valuable as their knowledge and experience, so hiring an attorney who is bad at their job could harm your case and leave you in a rough spot.

No law states you must hire the first lawyer you speak with, and shopping around can be extremely beneficial. It is also important to search extensively for an attorney since a lawyer your spouse consulted cannot legally represent you due to a conflict of interest. Any attorney your spouse has met with has been given privileged information, and representing you would breach that privilege. Any lawyers in the immediate area might have consulted with your spouse; if they are still looking, you might find yourself unable to hire a decent lawyer.

Hiring a Divorce Attorney

However, if you can beat them to the punch and consult with several attorneys, including some of the more effective ones, they get locked out instead of you. However, if you settle for the first lawyer you consult with, and they show a lack of knowledge or professionalism, you might find them inept during negotiations with your spouse's attorney.

That said, you can switch lawyers in the middle of a case in most situations, but if your spouse has consulted with all of the decent attorneys, you will be unable to find a qualified replacement. There is also the fact that switching your lawyer in the middle of the case can be viewed as you having poor judgment, though this will not necessarily impact your case.

#3: Ignoring the Divorce Summons

There is a misconception that ignoring the divorce papers forces your spouse to remain married to you. However, ignoring the papers and failing to appear in court will severely damage your life.

Solution Contrary to what popular media shows, not signing divorce papers and ignoring summons does not stop the divorce proceedings. Instead, it gives your spouse the power to dictate the divorce terms as the court will grant her requests without you present.

When you fail to respond to the calls of the court in a divorce proceeding or fail to sign the papers, you open the door for a default divorce. A default divorce is a divorce where the judge signs off on your spouse's petition for divorce and likely enacts all the requests your spouse made in that petition without you having an opportunity to oppose it. As far as the courts are concerned, they gave you all the opportunity to combat your spouse's divorce petition when they summoned you to court or when you are served divorce papers.

Man Ignoring Divorce Summons

Essentially, it means you are divorced by default, and your time to negotiate and the equitable split has come and gone. Filing for a default divorce is not easy, but when you ignore the paperwork and summons, you make it far simpler to accomplish than it should be. This ties back into the denial we mentioned before. A man who does not want to acknowledge the divorce allows it to go on without him and loses out on assets, child custody agreements, and other divorce resolutions.

If you want to ensure getting divorced is the worst part of the situation, your best bet is to attend the divorce summons. Of course, this does not mean you should sign the papers if the terms rob you of visitation or spousal support. However, if you choose to fight the divorce petition, you must appear at all court summons and negotiations to ensure that the court does not default on the terms.

#4: Being Dishonest With Your Attorney

One of the worst mistakes you can make is keeping your attorney in the dark. Unfortunately, too many men believe that their lawyer does not need to know everything or will attempt to hide illicit actions to improve their odds. Understand that your attorney is bound by attorney-client privilege not to disclose anything you tell them unless it endangers someone else's life.

Solution If you are hiding something that might impact the resolution of the case, your attorney can't advise you on it and prevent it from hurting your claim.

You could hire the best attorney in the world and still have them fail at representing you because you did not tell them everything. While there are some things you feel you might need to hide, they will almost certainly come up in court. The only difference will be that your lawyer will be utterly unprepared and unable to help you since they could not prepare a defense or advise you on how to avoid a legal complication.

Man Speaking With His Attorney

Often, men will attempt to hide:

  • Extramarital Affairs
  • Hidden Assets
  • Information About the Marriage

They do so because they either feel guilty or that it will impact their chances of reaching a favorable divorce agreement. The reality is that this information always comes out eventually, and the more you hide, the more likely you will face severe consequences. Your attorney is on your side and will not present any information that you forbid them from disclosing. But you will need to trust their judgment on what must come up in court and their plans to defend you from the repercussions of what you attempted to hide.

#5: Taking Non-Professional Advice

One of the more common mistakes men make during a divorce is heeding the advice of friends and family over that of an attorney. It is not uncommon for the people who care about you to try to assist in difficult times like this. However, these good intentions can be a detriment to your case rather than a boon.

Man Receiving Non Professional Advice

While some of them might have their own experiences with a divorce that might be helpful with some minor situations, it is not enough to help you through the legal proceedings of divorce.

Solution While their desire to help is admirable, your friends and family are not legal professionals and cannot offer effective advice about the situation. Unfortunately, many men prefer to listen to the advice of their friends and accept it as fact despite their friends not being professionals in the legal field. Accepting the advice of your friends above your attorney can lead to errors that can undermine your entire case.

When going through a divorce, your best course of action is to adhere to your lawyer's advice over that of your friends. However, it might be worth considering if your friends offer advice on coping with the emotional strain. This is only true if their coping mechanisms do not antagonize your spouse or could lead to trouble with law enforcement. If any advice from your friends or family seems like it might cause an issue, consult with your attorney before heeding it. They will be able to provide the best advice.

Learn the Law

Divorce can be unpleasant and extremely messy. It evokes emotions and stress that can cause us to lose sight of the right way to achieve our goals. While this applies to women, men tend to make just as many mistakes when divorce stresses them out. This is especially true since women are statistically more likely to initiate divorce and will have more time to process the situation before springing the papers on their spouses. However, when these situations arise, it is important to ensure that you do not act rashly or attempt to avoid the issue. Otherwise, you risk undermining yourself and causing a worst-case scenario in your divorce.

Man Learning Divorce Law

While the best thing to do is listen to your attorney, it does not mean you cannot educate yourself on divorce laws. The legal side of divorce is just as tricky as the emotional and psychological side. However, online resources make accessing information about divorce law simpler than ever. While the more nuanced details of divorce law are lost on all but trained lawyers, understanding the aspects that directly affect you can be an excellent way to brace yourself for the emotional response you might experience following your spouse's petition for divorce. If you can manage to keep a level head, you can avoid these costly mistakes.

Written By:
Michael Tierney
Michael is a legal writer and graduate of WSU. Prior to becoming a legal writer, he had 6 years of experience as a legal assistant and office manager for a family law attorney. He's written about numerous legal subjects from helping spouses who are stuck in toxic situations to the intricacies of custody battles. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and building custom keyboards.
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