The 7 Most Common Mistakes People Make When They Get Divorced

Divorce is already hard, you don't need to be making it any harder.

Last updated on Jun 02, 2024

Common divorce mistakes, unwilling to compromise Konstantin Postumitenko | Canva

I confess. I was completely overwhelmed by my divorce. Where once I had been on solid ground, now I was at sea without any sense of how I was going to stay afloat, never mind what direction I needed to take. I honestly didn’t know what to do. I was paralyzed, in limbo, while I tried to re-orient myself. And when I did, I was overwhelmed by the confusing divorce process and my attorney’s sheer lack of empathy. I understand. It’s a business for him — but for me, it was my life.


And now, after my divorce, I can honestly say that, even as a divorce coach, I'm still overwhelmed by picking up the pieces of my life and rebuilding them in a way that serves and fulfills me. Ultimately, divorce is an overwhelming tidal wave of change that happens to you. To me, that feeling of overwhelm is like being on the verge of drowning. It doesn’t feel like you have any options in that space where you're just trying to hold on, to survive. Acting from this place, though, can lead you to make some serious, yet entirely avoidable, mistakes in the divorce process. Don’t let overwhelm hijack your divorce. You won’t like where it leaves you.


Here are the 7 most common mistakes people make when they get divorced:

1. You forget that you own the process.

In order to get what you want, you need to be an active participant in the divorce process. Your attorney can make suggestions, but ultimately, you make the decisions here. And to take ownership of this process, you need to know what you want. You need to understand and ask for those things that are most important to you. Rebuilding your life starts immediately and having a vision of what you want your life to be, during and after your divorce, will help you better manage your attorney (and save on attorney fees) and better navigate the divorce process.

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2. You take it personally.

Too many people get hung up on their anger, resentment, and pain during the divorce process to focus on getting what they want. It’s all too easy to lash out when you, yourself, are in survival mode. Unfortunately, focusing on negative emotions is a distraction that will ultimately come back and haunt you. You need to focus on the big picture, what is best for YOU, rather than focusing on the hurt associated with your ex. If you don’t, your divorce will likely take a lot longer and cost a lot more than you realized. And it won’t set you up for creating a better life for yourself once the divorce is final. So, let it go and keep your focus on what’s most important for you.


3. You refuse to compromise.

Sometimes, when we’re barely staying afloat, it can feel like there is only one way forward. That overwhelming feeling can shut down our ability to see that there are numerous possibilities available to us with just a little bit of creative thought. Your goal is to get divorced. Period. And while you are in a negotiation to maintain as much of your current lifestyle as possible, you need to weigh that against how much that negotiation is costing you in time and legal fees. Understand what is most important to you, so that you can get what you want out of this divorce as efficiently as possible.

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4. You rely solely on your attorney.

Too many people cling to their divorce attorney as if that were their only life raft. Certainly, your attorney is knowledgeable and can guide you through the legal process. There are numerous other resources, though, that can also serve you during your divorce, including financial analysts, forensic specialists, therapists, and divorce coaches. All of these specialists can bring knowledge and clarity to this confusing process. So, understand what you need and what would help you navigate this process better. You don’t have to do this alone!


5. You throw yourself into a new relationship .

Another temptation from that space of overwhelm is to jump into another relationship and make that your life raft. While that might seem like an easy way out, you’re really now just relying on that person to make your decisions for you. Is that what you really want? The decisions you make in this divorce process are hugely important and will have consequences for how you move on with your life for a very long time. The only person who should be making those decisions is you.

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6. You expect too much.

I hate to say it, but there are no guarantees in the divorce process. You can’t rely on what happened in your sister’s best friend’s divorce or even on the various scenarios your attorney is giving you. You need to be realistic about what you want and what you are asking for. The process of divorce is only focused on the equitable distribution of assets and child custody determinations. There are legal precedents and guidelines that your agreement will have to fit within. And of course, each judge brings their own experience and opinion to what is considered "fair." Expectations can only lead you down the path of disappointment in this process. 

7. You give up.

The divorce process is frustrating. It can be long and extremely confusing. It is all too easy to want to give up and let yourself drown. It’s too easy to agree to whatever your attorney is telling you. Is that what you want, though? Agreeing to whatever? You can’t "opt out" of this process. This is your life! And I doubt you’d be happy five years down the road looking back at what happened during your divorce after you had thrown in the towel.  Owning this process is tough. It requires you to be fully in it. And that is a lot of responsibility. Ultimately, you will regret it if you don’t. Giving up on this means giving up on yourself. And that’s not an option.


Coping with the overwhelm of this process can seem impossible… but it isn’t. You don’t need to make these mistakes. Finding clarity around what you want, empowerment to ask for it and a laser focus on what is most important will ensure you’re finally making this change work for you. You are not at the mercy of the waves and the current. You’re not drowning. You are the captain of your fate, your life. And you can make it any way you want it to be.

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Laura Miolla is the founder and CEO of Smart Divorce Strategy, is a Professional Certified Coach (CPCC and PCC), Mediator and Parentology Coach. She's a contributor to Thought Catalog, Medium, Huffington Post, Babble, Parents Magazine, among many others.