Most women fall victim to this misconception about divorce, “I’ll hire a divorce attorney and let him/her deal with the legal issues.”
HUGE mistake. If you have decided that divorce is the only option in your situation you must be willing to “take charge” of the path your divorce will take. Divorce attorneys are fallible, they make mistakes. Ex-husbands can be angry and allow that anger to rule the direction your divorce will take.
You could go into the process not fully prepared. Any and all of these mistakes keep you from being in charge at a time when you need to feel in charge.
Below are 10 tips for those who wish to take charge of their divorce.
1. Think about the big picture before filing for divorce
Before filing for divorce make sure you have all your ducks in a row. Do you know how you will support yourself after divorce, where you will live, and what reaction to expect from your husband? Plan ahead for any possible outcome and be prepared to meet any obstacles that you run into.
2. Get your support system in place
Make a list of friends and relatives you know will be there to support you through your divorce and after. Who will be there to listen when emotions get the best of you? Who will be there to help when you are strapped for cash? Divorce is a legal, financial and emotional process. Make sure you have a support system to turn to during each phase of the process.
3. If you are in an abusive relationship or high conflict relationship, don’t share your plans with your husband
For some leaving a marriage can put them in danger. And, for some reason, many who are in danger feel it is their responsibility to share with their abusive husband the details of their plan to leave. Big Mistake! If you are making plans to leave an abusive relationship, don’t tell him. If you are making plans to hire an attorney and file for a divorce, don’t tell him.
If your husband is abusive you don’t owe him an explanation for why or when you will be leaving. You owe yourself and having a secret plan in place means less likelihood of conflict or an escalation in abuse when you leave.
4. Make copies of all documents related to marital finances
Once you hire an attorney and get the legal ball rolling he/she will need copies of all financial documents related to the marriage. You will need copies of bank statements, tax returns for at least five years, retirement fund statements, any accounts that are in both your names and individual. You will also need income documentation for you and your husband.
Having these copies and storing them in a safe place until needed will put you one step ahead of the legal game once you hire an attorney.
5. Do not engage in conflict or any behavior that will reflect negatively on you in court
This should be common sense but I’ve found that some don’t understand the importance of being on their best behavior, before and during divorce. Once you decide to divorce it is time to put down any anger you feel and move ahead with the process.
Don’t send angry emails to your ex; don’t respond to angry emails from your ex. Don’t use text messages to engage in conflict. Keep your personal business off Facebook and other social media. And, for goodness sake don’t fight in front of your children and neighbors. If you feel you can’t be around your ex without there being conflict then choose not to be around your ex. Take the high road!
Lastly, if you join online support communities use an email address that your ex is not familiar with and a username he will not be able to trace. If your ex googles your email address he will be able to find any online support community you belong to. Anything you share online via a support system you must take great care to do so anonymously.
6. Don’t agree to use the same attorney
A divorce attorney is YOUR advocate. One attorney cannot be an advocate for two people. If you are lucky enough to come to an agreement on all issues such as child support, spousal support and division of marital property, great. Just be sure not to sign anything until YOUR attorney has reviewed the agreement.
7. Hire a divorce attorney you can trust to have your back
The most important relationship you will have during the divorce process is that with your attorney. Follow these guidelines to insure that you don’t make the mistake of hiring the wrong attorney.
8. Learn your state’s divorce laws
As I said earlier, divorce attorneys are fallible and make mistakes. Knowing your state’s divorce laws and family court procedures will enable you to become proactive in the legal aspects of your divorce. Your attorney will do everything possible to protect you BUT no attorney is as invested in getting your needs met as you are. Arm yourself with knowledge so that you will be in a position of knowing you are well represented.
9. Be willing to negotiate but don’t give away the kitchen sink
Divorce is a legal process; one is which you have to be willing to negotiate with your ex during settlement negotiations. Don’t go into a divorce believing that you are going to get the highest amount of child support possible, a large sum of spousal support monthly, and the family home. You aren’t!
You are going to have to be willing to give to get. A divorce settlement agreement should be fair to you and your ex. Go for fair!
10. Make your children’s needs your main focus
Although last, this is your most important consideration. Every action you take during divorce will have an emotional impact on your children. DO NOT do anything that will cause them to suffer the negative consequences.
Your children love both their parents. If your divorce is handled properly they will come away feeling free to love both you and your ex AND they will feel secure in the love that you both have for them.
When you are angry, tempted to fire off a nasty email or text to your ex, stop and think about your children. The love we have for our children has a magical way of keeping us on our toes and in line with what is right and wrong. Don’t let them down!