After 16 years of helping people with divorce, I have a 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. This is partially brought on by the culture of lawyers hiding behind a fortress of information.
Some attorneys fear 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).
Solution to crumbling communication
Problem: We’ve been separated for a while, and we used to get along pretty well. In the last few months, however, our communication has deteriorated. We now don’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 divorce without spending $1,000s ($15,000+ on average!) or battling it out in court.
Consider consulting a lawyer to understand your rights and responsibilities but also starting mediation. If you have a history of getting along, but now it’s chaos, there’s probably a serious trigger behind it. It may not even be related to you, but it’s causing your ex to spiral. (For example, maybe their income dropped dramatically, and they’re afraid and disappointed.) Your relationship is salvageable; you just might need 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, think beyond the awful things they may have done during the breakup and maybe even how they treated you toward the end of the relationship.
The way 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 to have any type of healthy relationship. What’s more, it depletes your pocketbook.
Not that you can’t get legal advice; you can. But keep these tips in mind:
- 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 financial wellbeing are not in imminent jeopardy, nor is there a credible threat to take your kids from you for an indefinite period of time.
Solution to a stalling spouse
Problem: My soon-to-be-ex (STBX) wanted the divorce but is now dragging their feet. 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 lots of different reasons. Sometimes, the spouse fears the consequences of their decision (e.g., dividing assets in half). It could also be due to just plain laziness or an inability to deal with discomfort and conflict.
So, first things first. Maybe they initiated the divorce, 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, they are not going to be that person now.
Second, read this post on how to get your divorce unstuck.
Third, set some ground rules. Without threatening litigation, explain the consequences of litigation and why delaying your divorce is not a good idea.
Solution to lawyer fears
Problem: I am afraid I’m going to lose too much if I don’t hire a lawyer. But at the same time, I’m afraid if I hire a lawyer, we’ll start fighting, and the kids will suffer.
Solution: First of all, even in a so-called amicable divorce, conflict is inevitable. The best thing you can do for your kids is to try to shield them from that conflict. If your spouse is unable the same, 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 decide to use a mediator to help resolve divorce-related issues, you don’t have to agree to anything until you consult a trusted professional (e.g., a lawyer, a financial analyst), read through a proposed agreement, and ask questions about the impact of signing.
Many mediators will also meet with you separately. This can be quite effective. If that’s important to you, ask about that possibility before hiring a mediator.
Solution to a lack of knowledge
Problem: I don’t know how to get divorced in my state. This 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 Florida and New York soon.
You can also try your state’s family court website, your state’s court website, or Survive Divorce. These websites should provide guidance on what divorce looks like in your jurisdiction.
Solution to asset division confusion
Problem: We need to divide our assets and accounts, but I have no idea where to start.
Solution: Before you can figure out how to divide assets, you have to understand what you’re dividing.
In other words, before you can start negotiating an agreement, do these two things:
- List every asset and debt both of you have.
- Determine each asset’s value.
Sometimes, one or both spouses 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, or speak with a lawyer.
And remember, just because a house or credit card bill is one spouse’s name doesn’t necessarily mean the other spouse has no interest in or liability associated with it.
Solution to a lack of asset knowledge
Problem: I don’t understand what our assets are or how to value them. My spouse says they want 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 plan a financial strategy before, during, or after divorce.
Want to work with one of us? Book a call here.
Solution to a lack of funds
Problem: I don’t know if I can afford a divorce.
Solution: Can you afford not to divorce? And at what cost?
After divorce, your life will look different in every way, from your morning rituals to how you parent. It may even affect 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 offset expenses for a while? Maybe you need to think twice about keeping the home or buying out your spouse if it means you would 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 neverending 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 you won’t be in it forever.
Solution to poor credit
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 grab the reins on your credit before, during, and after divorce.
Solution to dealing with a narcissist
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. While always grueling, the clients who were most successful did five important things:
- Consult with an expert.
- Perform serious self-care.
- Read Splitting by Bill Eddy.
- Rely heavily on a trusted tribe.
- Stay committed to a strategy (although sometimes they had to change it up a bit).
In this post by narcissism expert and top-rated lawyer Rebecca Zung, she lays out four steps for how to negotiate with a narcissist.
Solution to uncertainty about selling the house
Problem: Since we’re separated, can I sell our house right now?
Solution: Yes, if you have an agreement with your spouse. Caution: You might end up needing to use some of those funds to equalize assets. If you don’t have a thoughtful agreement in place and are currently in the divorce process, you’ll likely need a court order before you can sell your home.
Solution to a tight budget
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.
Solution to indecision about divorce
Problem: I’m 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 the really hard work of trying to save your marriage even though, ultimately, one or both of you may not want to stay married?
We’ve seen thousands of couples break up. We’ve seen hundreds reconcile. And we’ve seen tens truly save their marriages.
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, you must do more than simply stay together out of convenience or because you don’t fight. It takes work—lots of it.
You have to dive deep to (re)build trust, friendship, and intimacy. 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 making excuses to skip therapy or whatnot, read this article. It will help.
Solution to lawyer indecision
Problem: I don’t know if I need a lawyer.
Solution: There are times when you definitely need a lawyer, and there are times when you can skip it.
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 want to first understand your best and worst-case scenarios.
- 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 or your children.
- Your STBX made a settlement offer, and you want a lawyer to review it or provide advice.
- You need help calculating child support or alimony.
- Your divorce is stuck, and you want help reaching 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 a business interest. (Consider a financial analyst instead.)
- Your sister/brother/niece/best friend ‘lawyered’ up.
- You need emotional support. (There are better people to help you with that!)
Do you still have a divorce-related question? Enter it below. One of our (kind and smart) team members will get back to you.