How to avoid ‘big money’ divorce mistakes

You may not think you need to worry about avoiding  ‘big money’ divorce mistakes because yours is not a ‘big money’ divorce right? Wrong! Divorce is always relative and you’re just as likely to make these common mistakes as the super rich are. In a recent article in the Daily Mail some of England’s top female divorce lawyers shared some of the horror stories of  ‘big money’ divorce cases they deal with. Yes, people do really fight about photographs of the dog, but the truth is, it’s never about the dog or the photographs. It’s about control and or punishment.

You might be tempted to think that only the super wealthy behave this way – of course, they have the money throw at these arguments don’t they? In truth, however, it’s all relative, and we can all fall victim to this kind of behaviour if we don’t watch out! Whilst it’s true that the more money you have, the more your divorce will cost you (you are more likely to need financial advice, tax advice and extended legal advice), some of your divorce costs are down to how you both  behave.

How are you behaving?

It doesn’t matter who is at ‘fault’ when it comes to relationship breakdown from a legal point of view. Perhaps you feel that the court should sit in moral judgement of your soon-to-be-ex-spouse because of their reprehensible behaviour? It won’t. I know that this feels unfair and it’s incredibly frustrating. It’s important that you have these feelings under control before you start the divorce process. Failure to do this makes it more likely that your behaviour will be less than exemplary.

Our behaviour often has unconscious drivers. Ever noticed how sometimes you have a really ‘long fuse’ before you get angry or upset and yet other things drive you mad in seconds? Notice too how when that happens you don’t often cover yourself in glory as you explode? Relax, we all have these behaviours – it’s just that they won’t help you negotiate in divorce.

Work on yourself first

Whether yours is a ‘big money’ divorce or not, if you work on yourself first, you’ll save yourself time and money. Hard though it may be to accept, divorce is just a process. Keep the emotion and the baggage out of it. Easier said than done, right? Well that depends. It depends on how  you handle it. If you’re hurting, angry or scared, acknowledge that with yourself and deal with it. Go to therapy, hire a divorce coach, see your psychologist. Whatever. Don’t bring it to the table when you’re negotiating money or children. If you want your solicitor to do a great job for you, you have to do a great job on yourself first.

His behaviour is none of your business

His behaviour is none of your business. It doesn’t justify you behaving badly. It doesn’t justify you bad mouthing him to anyone (as tempting as that may be), posting about him on social media (even if he’s doing it about you) or constantly responding to taunts. I’m not saying it’s easy – it’s not. It’s about recognising that you can’t control what he says or does and you never could. Judge yourself by your own standards not by the way that he behaves. You have to live with yourself forever, so before you speak or act, think.

Don’t use your lawyer as your therapist

I always tell my clients “your lawyer is not your therapist” a sentiment echoed by Sandra Davis in the Daily Mail article. Use your lawyer for the job you hired them for – to give you legal advice. Endless calls and emails because you are looking for reassurance is a waste of their time and your money. It may seem counter-intuitive, but having a team around you made up of different professionals who can help you will save you money in the long run. Divorce is hard, even when it’s your idea. Having a team to rely on that isn’t made up of your best friend and your mum is sensible. It means that you can still enjoy time with your friends and your mum without ruminating about your divorce constantly.

Decide what’s really important ahead of time

Be willing to compromise. Flexibility and the willingness to let go is key to having yourself time and money. Don’t sweat the small stuff. If he loves your late great aunts card table and you never really liked it, is it that big of a deal to let him have it? Principles are expensive. If the card table is worth a lot of money, how can its value be off-set elsewhere?

Remember, one day you’ll look back on this time. Do you really want to be the one who fought for something they didn’t want just because they could? Remember too that your children are watching, listening and absorbing everything you are doing. If you wouldn’t want your children to behave that way, or be treated in the way you are treating your spouse, think twice. What you show them is the model they believe to be true. HIstory often repeats itself in spite of our best intentions.

This too shall pass

Whether yours is a multi-million pound divorce, or you and your husband are of more modest means, at some stage, your divorce will be over. Some people are hell bent on bad behaviour, hiding assets or spending everything just so their spouse can’t have it. Others are out for revenge and to punish. The only people that benefit in these circumstances are the solicitors who have to deal with these cases. Do they all love billing £100K plus? No. No they don’t. Many solicitors are saddened by the fact they are in court far too frequently dealing with needless applications because one party has the resources to keep issuing applications, or because one party won’t comply with directions. Don’t be that person. Think of the bigger picture – your life post divorce.

Understanding what you want and need from your divorce ahead of time helps you work out what is worth the ‘fight’ and what isn’t. It’s not about being a wallflower and walking away with your tail between your legs, it’s about knowing when your life and your future is more important than another round of litigation. Some people get so immersed in the drama they forget just how much it’s costing them both financially and emotionally. So you see, how to avoid ‘big money’ divorce mistakes is relevant whether yours is a ‘big money’ case or not.

Emma Heptonstall former lawyer is a divorce coach and family mediator. Author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves she works with women supporting them to make smart emotional and financial decisions on divorce through 1:1 coaching, group programmes and an online self-study programme, Emma can be reached at

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