When Suzanne Meredith was seeking a divorce in 2005, she was lucky to talk to two friends—a family lawyer and a counselor, who told her about a relatively new option: collaborative divorce.
With the aid of lawyers and mediators, the physical trainer and her ex-husband, an architect, navigated a difficult visitation negotiation without resorting to court.
Meredith thereby avoided litigation, one of the biggest financial pitfalls of divorce.
She opted for a collaborative route not primarily to save money, she said, although she knows it's likely she did save tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars by not going to court.
She did so, instead, to minimize conflict. Her sons were then 9 and 13 at the time.
"Nobody wins in a divorce," said Meredith, 57, who lives in Del Mar, Calif. "I knew I wanted my kids to grow up emotionally healthy."
Divorce is one of the most disruptive events in someone's emotional and financial life and can be especially difficult for the lower-earning spouse, most often the woman.
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For instance, the U.S. Census Bureau found in 2009 that 22 percent of women divorced in the preceding year were living in poverty, compared with 11 percent of recently divorced men.
And the negative financial impact of divorce can be lasting. A 2011 University of Connecticut study found that, in the long run, women who divorced and remained single had less economic security in retirement than women who remained married or remarried.
But there are ways to minimize the damage to your finances during a divorce. Below are four common pitfalls of the divorce process and ideas for avoiding them, according to financial experts.