After 16 years of helping people with divorce, I have a really good sense of what is wrong with the divorce industry. At the top of the list is a lack of transparency for how it all works which is partially brought on by the culture of lawyers hiding behind a fortress of information. Some attorneys fear that you won’t need them if they give you answers. Even well-intentioned subject matter experts (i.e. divorce lawyers) often fail to provide a solution that resonates. They get too nuanced in their responses which inevitably makes us even more confused and uncertain than we were to start with.
Well, we want to change that. NOW.
In this post we share real, tangible solutions to help you feel empowered and in control (or, at least a lot less overwhelmed).
Problem: We’ve been separated for a while and we used to get along pretty well. In the last few months, our communication has deteriorated and now we can’t get along at all. I need to lawyer up right now, right?
Solution: No! (with the caveat below*), you might still be able to salvage your divorce without spending $1000s ($15,000+ on average!) or battling it out in court. Consider consulting with a lawyer to understand your rights and responsibilities but then starting mediation. If you have a history of getting along but now it’s chaos – there’s probably a serious trigger that might not even be related to you but is causing your ex to spiral (e.g. their income has dropped dramatically and they’re afraid and disappointed). Your relationship is salvageable, you just might need some help working things out.
Remember, no one knows your spouse better than you. Not a lawyer, not your best friend, and maybe not even their mother. For just a minute I want you to think beyond what awful thing they did during the breakup and maybe even how they treated you towards the end of the relationship. How you divorce lays the foundation for the future you are creating. And in most cases, lawyering up in the traditional sense doesn’t help that outcome – if anything, it hinders your ability to co-parent going forward or have any type of healthy relationship and it certainly depletes your pocketbook. Not that you can’t get legal advice, you can. So remember:
- Don’t act out of anger or revenge.
- Don’t act out of fear.
- Don’t rush.
- Take care of yourself – always.
- Get the help you need.
*This advice assumes your physical safety and/or your financial wellbeing isn’t in imminent jeopardy nor has there been a credible threat to take your kids from you for an indefinite period of time.
Problem: My soon-to-be-ex (STBX) wanted the divorce but now is stalling. What should I do to get this divorce moving so I (and our kids) can have closure?
Solution: Ugh – this is so frustrating. We see this a lot and for a lot of different reasons. Whether your spouse is afraid of the consequences of their decision (e.g. dividing assets in half), just plain lazy, or is no good at dealing with things that are uncomfortable or likely to cause conflict – it all feels crazy-making. So, first things first. It might have been their idea to get divorced but unfortunately, you’re likely going to have to be the ‘do-er’. If STBX never has been the one who gets sh*t done before, s/he is not going to be that person now. Second, read this post on how to get your divorce unstuck. Third, try to set some ground rules. Without threatening litigation, explain the consequences of litigation and/or why delaying your divorce is not a good idea.
Problem: I am afraid that I’m going to give up too much if I don’t hire a lawyer. But at the same time, I am afraid that if I hire a lawyer we will start fighting and I’m afraid our kids will suffer.
Solution: First of all, even in a so-called ‘amicable’ divorce, conflict is inevitable. The best thing you can possibly do for your kids is to try and shield them from that conflict. And if your spouse is unable to, at least they will have a loving, stable, healthy home with you. Second, in most states, you can consult an attorney without telling your spouse. So, for example, if you do decide to use a mediator to help you resolve divorce-related issues, you don’t have to agree to anything until you consult a trusted professional (e.g. lawyer, financial analyst) and/or have time to read through a proposed agreement and ask any questions you need to understand the impact of signing. Many mediators will also meet with you separately (and it can be quite effective) so if that’s important to you, make sure you ask about that before you hire one.
Problem: I don’t know how to get divorced in my state? It feels really amorphous and makes it challenging for me to know where to start. Where do I go to understand the legal process?
Solution: Knowledge is power. Start with an overview of the divorce legal process before you break it down into actionable steps.
Example: If you are in California, click here.
If you don’t see your state here, do a quick search (we’re always adding new content) and are launching in Texas, Florida, and New York soon. You can also try your state’s family court website, Survive Divorce, and /or you can try your state’s court website. These websites should have some helpful guidance on what divorce looks like in your jurisdiction.
Problem: We need to divide our assets and accounts but I have no idea where to start.
Solution: Before you can figure out how you have to understand what.
In other words, before you can start negotiating an agreement, you’ll want to:
- List every asset and debt either/both of you have; and
- Determine their value.
Sometimes one or both of you will make a legal claim that a portion (or all) of an asset or account is ‘separate’ and not subject to division. If this is the case, you may want to review reliable resources, consult a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and/or speak with a lawyer. And remember, just because a house or a credit card bill is one spouse’s name, doesn’t necessarily mean the other has no interest or liability associated with it.
Problem: I don’t understand what our assets are or how to value them. My spouse says s/he wants to divide everything fairly but I’m not even sure what would be fair.
Solution: Meet with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. Working with a CDFA (either by the hour or via a flat fee service) is a great way to understand your ‘estate,’ avoid costly financial mistakes, understand what is marital property (or not), value assets like business interests or restricted stock units, and/or plan a financial strategy before, during or after divorce.
Want to work with one of us? Request a quote here.
Problem: I don’t know if I can afford a divorce.
Solution: Can you afford not divorce? And at what cost? Your life will look different in every way – from your morning rituals to how you parent and maybe where you live. And it most certainly will be different when it comes to finances – splitting one household into two is expensive. So, it’s time to get creative.
Wealthy Single Mommy has an awesome post on creating additional income sources. Is there an asset you can liquidate to help offset expenses for a while? Maybe you need to think twice about keeping the home or buying out your spouse if it means you will always be stressed about making the mortgage payments. One thing is certain, what money you do have shouldn’t be spent – if at all possible – on never-ending legal fees. The more certainty you can get with expenses including the software or services that are helping you uncouple, the better. And don’t forget that all-important financial budget! See your situation as a challenge, not a catastrophe, and know that you won’t be in it forever.
Problem: I have zero credit. Everything was in my spouse’s name.
Solution: Apply for a credit card NOW. Build that credit. It’s not rocket science – it takes a bit of time but now is your chance to make it happen. Check out the great tips we have at this post to take control of your credit before, during, and after divorce.
Problem: My spouse is a narcissist. Am I destined for a long, messy, expensive divorce?
Solution: Not necessarily but it’s time to get a strategy in place now. I’ve litigated, negotiated, and mediated several divorces with high conflict personalities and while always grueling, the clients that were most successful did five important things: (1) consult with an expert; (2) serious self-care; (3) read Splitting by Bill Eddy; (4) relied heavily on their trusted tribe; and (5) stayed committed to a strategy (although sometimes they had to change it up a bit). In this post by narc expert and top-rated lawyer Rebecca Zung, she lays out four steps for how to negotiate with a narcissist.
Problem: Since we’re separated, can I sell our house right now?
Solution: Yes, if you have an agreement with your spouse (but caution: you might end up needing to use some of those funds to equalize assets. If you don’t have a well-thought-out agreement in place and you’re currently in the divorce process, you’ll likely need a court order before you can sell your home.
Problem: I have a really tight budget. Can I file with Hello Divorce but also request a fee waiver with the court so I don’t have to pay the filing fee?
Solution: Absolutely. We’ll even help you with it.
Problem: Stuck in indecision. “I want to do what’s best for kids but I am also really unhappy in my marriage. Should I stay or should I go?”
Solution: First question: Are you and your spouse both ready, willing, and able to do all the really hard work associated with trying to save your marriage even though ultimately, one or both of you may not want to stay married?
Really, we’ve seen 1000s of couples break up. We’ve seen 100s reconcile. And we’ve seen 10s truly save their marriage. Why? Because it’s one of the most challenging commitments you will ever make to yourself and each other. To truly have a fulfilling marriage, it’s more than just staying together out of convenience or because you don’t fight — it takes work – lots of it. You have to dive deep to not only (re)build trust, friendship and intimacy — but you also have loads of personal work ahead to discover everything from boundaries and triggers to what brings you joy and what prevents you from being ‘all in.’
Assuming you both are 100% in, go forth and conquer! But if one of you keeps coming up for an excuse not to go to therapy or whatnot, read this article, it will help.
Problem: I don’t know if I need a lawyer.
Solution: Consider consulting with a lawyer if:
- You have completed the divorce on your own but your forms keep getting rejected by the court;
- You are about to start mediation and you want to first understand your best and worst-case scenario;
- You would like to create a strategy for your divorce;
- You are afraid you will make a costly mistake and want to double-check your thinking through your agreement;
- You need temporary orders because your STBX has cut you off from finances and/or your children;
- Your STBX made a settlement offer and you want a lawyer to review it and/or provide you some advice;
- You need some help calculating child support or alimony; and/or
- Your divorce is stuck and you want help getting it to the finish line.
Consider skipping a lawyer if:
- You want revenge and think a lawyer will get it for you;
- You found a super cheap lawyer who is willing to help (you get what you pay for!);
- You need help valuing stock or business interest (a financial analyst can help with that);
- Your sister/brother/niece/best friend ‘lawyered’ up; or
- You need emotional support (there are better people to help you with that!)
Do you still have a divorce-related question? Enter it below and one of our (kind and smart) team members will get back to you.