Surviving a divorce is a little like making it through a shipwreck – they’re often survivable, but it takes a little luck and some hard work to swim to shore. The following tips should help you navigate the shark infested waters as you head back to calmer seas.
Your Next Marriage
No, I’m not talking about who you date after the divorce is over, I’m talking about family lawyers. This is the person who will calm your nerves, hold your hand through rough times, stand up for you and your interests, defend you, and generally be your guiding light for months. You’ll also likely pay them a tidy sum of money so it’s absolutely critical you find a match for your budget and for your personality. It’s like a marriage.
How do you find such a kindred soul? Interview, interview, interview. If you’re stressed out because you’ve been served with papers, or you want to file for divorce right away, the tendency is to go with the first family lawyer you meet. Don’t do that. Remember, you have to find a match. Are you comfortable with them? Do you like their personality? Are you a person who needs a quick response to questions? Did the lawyer (or their assistant) quickly return your phone call or email? What do other people say about them (on-line reviews of lawyers actually exist and they’re extremely helpful).
Make a Decision (before you start)
There are many outcomes of divorce proceedings, and many reasons for filing for divorce. It’s important to understand two things: what are YOUR reasons for divorcing, and even more importantly, what do you WANT to happen.
It’s critical to make this decision up front for several reasons: first, if you can effectively communicate what you want to your attorney they can fight for that outcome. However, if your attorney thinks you want to divorce, but you really just want to eventually reconcile, you’re headed for a disaster.
Think about the details because they will matter. Do you want maintenance (that’s the modern word for ‘alimony’)? If so, how much? Is there property you want and feel entitled to? Make sure your family lawyer knows what that is quickly. What about the kids? What arrangements do you want for them?
My point is that it’s important to make these assessments and decisions before you talk to an attorney. Sure, you may not even know what you don’t know, but with a little concentration and common sense you’ll be able to write down everything you want and talk to your attorney about it. Take time, be careful, and remember that courts and judges will usually make decisions that seem fair to both parties.
Most jurisdictions now employ what is called ‘no fault’ divorce and that phrase means exactly what you think: neither of the parties can be held ‘responsible’ for the divorce, no matter how deplorable their conduct is. That does not mean there is no limit to what they can do, criminal behavior is still, well, criminal and the courts deal harshly with spouses who also endanger the family with criminal conduct. However, for the most part, it means that no matter who did what, the court will not assign blame for the divorce to either parties. In rare circumstances exceptions to this rule exist, but they are less and less common.
Finally, your best weapon in a divorce is a cool head, information, and good communication. If you remember those three things you’ll make it back to shore and live to sail another day.
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