The end of a marriage is a stressful and difficult time for all involved. Even if the marriage only lasted for a short time, the process can leave a lasting impact.
While every divorce is different, there are some commonalities among most divorces that most couples should be prepared for as they start the divorce process.
If you’ve decided that it’s time to end your marriage, then here are 7 things you should be aware of:
Divorce isn’t like it is on TV.
Most of what people know about divorce comes from TV and movies.
Unfortunately, these are rarely accurate depictions of divorce proceedings, if not outright fabrications to boost entertainment.
What you usually see is dramatic courtroom scenes with one spouse being the clear winner at the end and the other spouse being portrayed as “bad”, “gold digging” or some other characterization. The reality is, both spouses are people with their own wants, dreams, hopes, desires and fears. They are not characters but actual people.
And many divorces take months of legal briefings, paperwork, court appearances, and meetings.
Don’t take advice from friends or family.
Your sibling(s), parents, or best friend may give you unsolicited advice about what should and shouldn’t happen in your divorce based on their experience with divorce.
Your best bet is to ignore that advice, no matter how well-meaning your friends are.
Every divorce is different and every person’s experience with it is just as different. Also, there is a lot of “advice” out there regarding divorce but no real reviewing process to determine what is real and what isn’t. All that means is a muddying of the advice waters when it comes to divorce.
The best bet is to rely on the advice you will get from your attorney, mental health professionals, and financial consultants, all of whom are familiar with the law, and the specifics of your case.
There’s no winner in divorce.
While divorce may be the right decision for you and your spouse, avoid the temptation of wanting to “beat” your spouse in court.
There’s seldom a true winner in divorce. Rarely does one spouse get everything they want and negotiation and compromise will be required. You and your divorce lawyer should discuss which items on your list of “wants” you might be willing to give up in favor of a quicker, less stressful divorce.
There are alternatives to court.
Most people think all divorces end up in court. In fact, there are alternative ways to resolve divorce cases.
One method is “mediation” in which a mediator (neutral third party specially trained to work in divorce cases) facilitates face-to-face negotiations between divorcing spouses and helps them work out mutual agreements. The mediator will often recommend that each spouse consult with a divorce attorney while the mediation process is proceeding and oftentimes you can attend mediation with the attorneys.
You’ll have to provide a ton of documents.
Examples of documents that are almost always needed in a divorce action include tax returns, proof of monthly income, credit card statements, mortgage statements, utility bills, a list of marital assets and debts, and copies of any and all documents related to checking and savings accounts, as well as retirement account information and other investment accounts and properties.
You’re bound to get overwhelmed.
Divorces are typically highly emotional and long, drawn out processes.
You’re bound to get overwhelmed and might be tempted to make quick decisions about important topics (e.g., selling a house, child custody) just to get things over with. To avoid making long-term consequential decisions based on short term pressures, always discuss big decisions with your divorce lawyer first. They will be able to assess the situation objectively and provide you with sound advice that isn’t under pressure.
Also, consider talking to a mental health professional or a trusted spiritual leader for emotional support during this difficult time.
The right divorce attorney makes all the difference.
A good divorce attorney won’t sugarcoat the situation for you.
He or she will give you the straight facts about your situation and how to best proceed. Ask around for recommendations and only hire a divorce attorney who has a stellar reputation. They may charge more, but you’ll definitely get what you pay for.
Are you about to start the divorce process with your spouse? Are you already involved in a divorce?
Set yourself up for the best potential outcome by speaking to a qualified divorce attorney first.