Divorce is similar to natural disasters, death, and car accidents; yet, many people (bless their hearts) enter into the process with dewy-eyed optimism, believing that their ex “wouldn’t do that” or fearing to act in their best interest because they “don’t want to make it turn ugly.” Most seem to realize that divorce is as fun as a quadruple root canal while simultaneously having a colonoscopy; but, a glimmer of hope makes us believe that ours can somehow be better or different.
Many people going through divorce aren’t thinking clearly. These people have reasons to be unhappy, distrustful, or hurt by their soon-to-be-ex; but, somehow they still feel as though they can trust the ex or know them well enough to believe he or she won’t destroy them in the process.
My words of caution to these trusting souls? Don’t be so sure. A wise man once said “you never really know a person until the end of the relationship.”
Your ex may have done some terrible things in the marriage that hurt you badly. Abuse, infidelity, deceit, you name it. Yet, you were still in a relationship and married to them, and there may have been some component of still treating you with a degree of love, decency, or respect- whatever their definition of that was!
Now that you’re getting a divorce, the gloves are off! There’s no need to protect you, care about you, or be nice anymore!
Think twice, consider seeking a second opinion, and proceed with caution if you find yourself or ex stating any of the following:
1. “I can trust him. He wouldn’t do that…” Maybe you are fortunate to have a soon-to-be ex with some integrity and decency who will not show his Mr. Hyde side during the divorce; just don’t take that to the bank! Divorce is an every man (or woman) for themselves situation; so, especially once your ex seeks legal counsel or advice from friends, expect them to become increasingly concerned about what is best for them, regardless of how that affects you!
In many ways, this is as it should be. The two of you are transitioning from one unit that had to be (ideally) concerned for what was best for the couple, family, and household. Many times in a relationship partners are expected to compromise for the greater good; but, in divorce it is only the good of the one that matters.
The re-focus of priorities from the couple to one’s self may, unfortunately, mean that the needs and best interest of others get driven over by a very large and fast moving truck. You may have faith that the one you married would never kick you out of your home, take away your pension, or seek full custody of the kids, but nothing can be ruled out!
Consider entering each situation from this point forward with an attitude of hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. This is not the time to be a deer in the headlights, too stunned to jump out of the way of that oncoming truck. Make sure you have some solid advice and a plan up your own sleeves, because you need to take care of your future!
2. “You don’t need a lawyer, we can both use mine.” Oh, isn’t that so thoughtful of your ex to be concerned for your legal costs and to so graciously offer to simplify the process with one lawyer?
Really? I was born on a Monday, but it wasn’t last Monday!
Think about it, the first one to call a lawyer becomes that attorney’s client, and it is their duty to serve the best interests of their client! Be very suspicious of this Trojan horse because it is questionable on so many levels, and one simply cannot be guaranteed ethical or equal representation.
Perhaps the legal counsel involved can draw up all the paperwork and file it, eliminating the need for a second attorney to be involved; but, you can bet that the “agreements” being signed were developed with your ex and their needs in mind!
3. “This is what my lawyer said has to be done…” Again, so very sweet of you to share; but, I would consider any such dispensing of legal wisdom from an ex to either be some sort of ploy to intimidate or wolf in sheep’s clothing maneuver to trick you into doing something in their benefit! If you need legal advice, the last person to consult or believe is the other party you are facing off with in court! Remember, your ex’s attorney works for them, so if your ex is regurgitating legal strategy to you, you can be assured that it is from the perspective of what is best for your ex!
4. “Oh, I couldn’t do…because I don’t want this to get ugly!” Sorry to inform you that because you decided to get a divorce, “it” is already ugly! I don’t advocate for all out annihilation of your ex, especially if you will still have to interact with them to co-parent or for other reasons; however, you need to act in a way that protects you and your children!
I have seen numerous divorcing people bow out of accepting full custody, child support, alimony, and other concessions of the divorce because they have faith that their ex will continue to help take care of the kids, not strip them of their fair share of assets, and so on, only to be rudely awakened to a totally different reality!
A mother of two young sons agreed to her ex’s request not to include child support in their plan because he promised to help buy everything the boys needed and to remain actively engaged in their lives. Fast forward a year after the divorce, and he has moved out-of-state (she doesn’t know where) with a new girlfriend, leaving her holding the bag for all of the children’s needs! She can go after him now for child support, but it will be a much more costly and difficult prospect than it would have been at divorce time.
A father of three was initially offered full custody of his children by the courts when he and his ex-wife filed for divorce. Even though she was busy partying and living the single life, he made the choice to allow her 50/50 custody because he wanted his kids to have equal access to their mother. He now regrets his decision because she continues to be an unreliable and disruptive presence in the kid’s lives, and wishes he would have acted for their needs rather than to be nice.
During divorce, don’t be a pushover! That doesn’t mean that you have to become a vindictive person bent on revenge, just don’t fall prey to what others might do while still trying to play nice! Many people begin the process with the best intentions, but change tactics as things progress. Never let your guard down or let emotions dictate your decisions, and hang on for a bumpy ride!