Making the decision to end your marriage will be one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching decisions you’ll ever make in your life.
So before you leave your husband, here are 6 divorce realities you need to be aware of.
This way, if you ultimately choose to proceed with a divorce, you can be more prepared for what lies ahead.
Reality #1: Your life (and your children’s lives) will change in every possible way.
Putting financial matters aside for a moment as that will be covered later in this post, there are some significant changes that will occur once you’re divorced.
The biggest one has to do with parenting. Even under the most liberal of parenting plans, there will likely be days where you won’t see your children. That’s something that will be very difficult to get used to, especially if you’ve been a full-time mom for the better part of your marriage.
As for your kids, the reality is they will now need to get used to being shuttled back and forth between two separate households.
No matter how resilient they are, this can be difficult for kids.
Certainly, there are things you can do as parents to minimize the impact your separation has on them, but it still will be a big adjustment for them – and you.
Reality #2: Divorce creates expense, not income.
Your financial picture will most definitely change with a divorce – and not for the better. Divorce doesn’t create income, only expense. You’ll be looking at two mortgages or rents, two car insurance payments, two cable bills, two cell phone plans, etc.
If things are tight before you get divorced, they are most certainly going to be even tighter after you divorce, no matter how much alimony or child support you think you might receive.
Because your income will be reduced, your lifestyle will undoubtedly change. Items that were deemed as necessities before will become luxuries now. Spending will have to be pared back and that goes for both you and your children.
For example, you may want to continue to send your kids to that $4,000 camp they enjoy each summer, but instead, may have to send them to the Township Recreation Department camp for $250.
The experience won’t be the same, but the financial realities of your post-divorce life will have to take center stage and tough decisions will have to be made. Putting food on the table and keeping the lights on will need to be priority number one.
Reality #3: There are very few laws around who gets what in a divorce
In the United States, 43 out of 50 states follow the principle of “equitable distribution” meaning you and your husband are to divide your marital assets and liabilities in a manner you both deem fair and equitable.
Notice it doesn’t say 50-50. Or any other percentage for that matter. And what exactly does “fair and equitable” mean anyway?
On the issue of child support, every state has some formulaic guideline using one of three models. But in many states, the guidelines represent an estimated minimum the state thinks it costs to raise your child or children. It’s not a hard and fast formula and is open to negotiation and interpretation.
And since 38 states here in the US use the “income shares” model to determine child support, that means both of you pay child support. Yes, you read that correctly.
Each of you had a hand in bringing your children into the world, so you are each responsible in some way (even if it’s very small) to support them financially.
Then there’s the issue of alimony.
Unlike child support, there’s very little in the way of formulas or guidelines to determine what an appropriate amount of alimony should be. Many states use vague statutory factors but nothing in the way of calculated guidelines, so coming to an agreement on an amount and duration is often quite difficult.
Reality #4: If you try to use the legal system to hurt, punish or seek revenge on your spouse, you will hurt yourself and your kids, too.
Ready for a harsh reality? The law doesn’t care about who did what to whom while you were married. And the chances are extremely slim it will factor into your settlement.
Add into the mix as you just learned, the law isn’t exactly clear on who gets what in a divorce. So using the legal system to try and punish your soon-to-be ex-husband is a recipe for disaster and should be avoided at all costs.
Reality #5: Lawyers are not required in order to get a divorce.
There is no law anywhere that states you must work with an attorney at any point in a divorce. Certainly, some people choose (or are forced to) hire lawyers due to trust or power imbalance issues.
But you can get a divorce without using lawyers if you and your spouse both choose to.
Naturally, it takes a high degree of trust to negotiate without the use of attorneys. And you’ll need to have the emotional maturity to put your differences aside and focus squarely on your children.
But if you can do these two things, divorce without a lawyer is possible.
Reality #6: The divorce method you choose will determine how peaceful, fair, child-focused, cost-effective your divorce will be.
There are 5 different ways to get a divorce and the one you choose will go a long way towards determining how peaceful, fair, cost-effective and child-focused your divorce will be.
Your best bet is to take the time to research all of the available options for divorce. This way, you can choose the method that is most appropriate for your particular situation.
If you have children, you’ll want to do whatever you can to get through your divorce as peacefully as possible for their sake. Don’t forget, if you divorce, you won’t be husband and wife anymore, but you’ll always be mom and dad.