9 Costly Divorce Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Finances

Avoid these costly mistakes often made in the divorce process and learn what to do instead.
Last updated April 3, 2023 | By Sarah Sheehan Edited By Becca Borawski Jenkins
Man looking stressed

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It’s no secret that divorces can be expensive. Some can be downright draining, both emotionally and financially. But the dissolution of your marriage doesn’t have to wreck your finances, even if it is contentious.

With a little preliminary preparation, you can be in a better position to act strategically throughout the divorce proceedings to protect your bank account.

Here are nine costly divorce mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

Not seeking legal advice

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Mishandled divorces can cause undue stress and financial turmoil. Even if you and your ex are on good terms, issues like home ownership and custody arrangements can get complicated fast. Without a lawyer to guide you, you run the risk of losing your assets or uncertain child care arrangements.

What to do instead: Find a reputable divorce lawyer or — if the split is amicable — a mediator. Many offer free consultations that may be worth your time.

Taking to social media

Aleksei/Adobe social media apps

Watch what you share on social media: It could be used as evidence during divorce proceedings. Even seemingly innocuous posts could be twisted to make you seem dishonest or irresponsible. For example, if you’re seeking (or trying to avoid) alimony payments, that photo of your new Birkin bag should probably wait.

What to do instead: Don’t vent about your divorce online, and don’t post anything that could hurt your image during the divorce.

Neglecting your individual finances

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Ending a marriage affects more than your day-to-day living. Surprising ways divorce can impact your finances include the loss of health coverage, increased child care costs, and even changes to your retirement plan. The financial aftermath of divorce can wreak havoc on your bank account if you’re not careful.

What to do instead: Learn as much as you can about your new financial situation, and prepare for potential lifestyle changes by keeping to a budget as you go through the process.

Not dividing marital debts

Dealing with debt and divorce simultaneously can feel overwhelming, but you and your ex’s debt obligations don’t go away when you split. You’ll still be on the hook for joint balances, and these can hurt your personal credit if you don’t come up with a debt division plan during the divorce.

What to do instead: Work with ex and your respective attorneys or shared mediator to divide joint debts. Then, make sure the plan is in writing.

Focusing on short-term wins instead of long-term costs

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Splitting assets without considering their future value could mean leaving money on the table. It might also mean opening yourself up to tax consequences down the road. This is especially detrimental if you’re working on building your wealth after the divorce.

What to do instead: Before you divide your assets, estimate what they might be worth later on — and what they might cost you.

Hiding assets

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The thought of losing money in a divorce is a startling one, but trying to conceal your assets isn’t a good idea. In fact, hiding assets is illegal and opens you up to possible perjury charges. Anyone who helps you, like family members or bosses, is also at risk for criminal charges if they lie under oath.

What to do instead: Be honest and transparent about your finances. It’s that simple.

Assuming the divorce settlement will go your way

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The outcome of your divorce isn’t guaranteed until everything is finalized. There is a lot factored into the final outcome, which includes the figures for spousal and child support. Failing to consider worst-case scenarios could lead to unwelcome surprises.

What to do instead: Start making wise money moves now to keep you from living paycheck to paycheck later.

Not keeping detailed records

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Maintaining accurate records isn’t just your lawyer’s responsibility. That falls on your shoulders, too. If you don’t hold onto important documentation and take notes as the divorce develops, you might have a harder time recalling key information when you need it most.

What to do instead: Keep a notebook with important dates and information. Write down the events leading up to the divorce, details about interactions with your spouse and your attorney, and any concerns you have as you go through proceedings.

Acting on emotion

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Even though divorces are inherently emotional, making decisions in the heat of the moment can have unintended consequences. Acting out of spite can negatively affect your relationship with your ex, as well as your kids. It could also spell trouble if your divorce goes before a judge.

What to do instead: Try not to make decisions while emotions run high. Talk to a therapist or counselor if managing your mental health becomes too difficult during the divorce.

Bottom line

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Divorcing your spouse is a difficult decision, one that requires careful planning from start to finish.

Not all divorce advice applies to every situation, so it’s best to consult with a professional before taking action. There are some general best practices and things to avoid to help protect your finances and assets — and your peace of mind.

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Author Details

Sarah Sheehan Sarah Sheehan is a former teacher turned writer, coach, and serial entrepreneur. She has four businesses and counting, including the The Follow Through Firm and DefiantEd. When she's not writing or coaching, she's waiting on her dogs hand and paw.