Even though the divorce rate in the United States is at an estimated, for many married couples, the prospect of divorce remains a very true reality. If you’re contemplating or have begun to initiate a divorce it is important to understand the process and ramifications of this life-altering decision.
Here are 10 things divorce attorneys want you to know about divorce
Understanding these insights can help you understand the process and consequences, and hopefully allow you to make better, more informed choices throughout.
1. Don’t make hasty decisions. Deciding to get a divorce is a huge decision, and it is not one that should not be made lightly. A divorce is time-consuming, complicated, and often expensive. Make sure you are entirely certain about your desire to get divorced before you start the process.
2. Your divorce is unique. If you’re considering a divorce you’re probably trying to weigh the pros and cons by consulting friends who have gone through divorces of their own. While this can be helpful, it can also prove to be detrimental. Your relationship with your spouse is unique - it is defined by you, and you alone.
Friends who have gone through divorces likely had entirely different circumstances surrounding their relationship. Just because their divorce was a piece of cake - or extremely trying - does not mean that yours will follow suit. Similarly, the cost of divorce is unique to each case. Circumstances unique to your case - such as the number and type of marital assets in dispute and child custody and visitation determinations - will determine the ultimate cost.
3. Divorce won’t happen overnight. Divorces take time. The average divorce process - from the date the papers are filed to the final settlement or judgment - takes between 11 to 18 months. Many factors can impact the amount of time a divorce takes to complete. Spouses who cannot agree on the terms and force the issue to court are more likely to wait nearly two years to have a divorce finalized.
4. Focus on the future, not the past. It is hard to focus on the future when going through a divorce. However, making the decision to get a divorce is about the future. Dwelling on the past often causes spouses to harbor anger and resentment which hinder the process. It is important to look beyond the present and make decisions about your life moving forward. This will help you come to terms with your divorce and set yourself up for success when the divorce is finalized.
5. Have reasonable expectations. Even if your divorce is motivated by hurt feelings you need to have reasonable expectations. A divorce won’t be finalized overnight and you probably won’t walk away with all of the marital assets and earnings. Understanding how the divorce process works - and what you can legally fight for - can help to make the process unfold more smoothly.
6. There is no “winning” and “losing” in a divorce. Divorce should not be used as a tool to punish a soon-to-be ex-spouse. Divorce should be about moving on from a relationship and/or situation that was not conducive to happiness and enjoying life. Think about your future and what you want to achieve, and set your goals for the divorce to help you get there.
How easy or difficult a divorce is, rests on your shoulders. Don’t worry about “winning” the divorce - do your best to compromise. If you really want something out of the divorce think about letting something else go. While you may “win” in court you may lose in other ways.
7. Be honest. A divorce attorney is only as strong as the information he or she has to work with. If you are dishonest you are putting your attorney - and by extension, yourself - at a disadvantage. Divorces are lengthy processes and the truth will likely surface, whether you want it to or not. Be upfront with your attorney about anything that may be relevant. The more honest you are, the better your chances of resolving the issues at hand and finalizing the divorce.
8. Divorce is stressful for kids. Kids don’t ask for a divorce, but they are front-and-center during the process. Battles over custody and visitation rights aren’t the only aspects of a divorce that affect kids. Watching parents embroiled in bitter arguments and fights can have lasting effects on children's ability to construct and maintain healthy relationships. How parents behave and interact can be some of the most influential parts of a child’s life - be sure that you set a good example.
9. Consider alternatives to court. Not all divorces need to be disputed in court, even when spouses vehemently disagree over each and every aspect of a case. Court can be extremely expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally draining. The financial cost of disputing a divorce in court should not be underestimated. Marital assets - often those that are the target of a dispute - can be drained by the cost of heading to court.
To avoid the stresses of court, consider mediation or arbitration. These processes allow spouses to use intermediaries - similar to a judge - to resolve details of the divorce. Choosing an alternative to court allows you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse to resolve the divorce on your own terms. This tends to allow greater flexibility and room for compromise.
10. Choose the right divorce attorney. Choosing an attorney is an extremely important - and often overlooked - part of the divorce process. Different divorce attorneys have different styles and approaches to divorce. You are putting your future and well-being in his or her hands. Make sure that you feel comfortable with your attorney and trust his or her instincts. The type of divorce attorney you choose will set the stage for the divorce proceedings in which you engage.