If I could go back and do it again, I’d have still been a divorce lawyer. I just would have shifted the way I practice a lot earlier and spent less time in the courtroom and more time at the negotiating table. But, live and learn and without all of that experience, I would not have been able to call myself a Certified Family Law Specialist. Below are a few #divorcetruths I’ve learned after 15 years as a divorce lawyer, owner of Levine Family Law Group, and Founder of Hello Divorce.
(in no particular order)
Divorce isn’t an overnight decision
The truth is, most people agonize over the decision to divorce — sometimes for months — but usually for years. Even so, critics of Hello Divorce say that now that we’ve made the process of divorce easier, people that would ordinarily ‘stick it out’ will now divorce instead. Um, that’s silly. Divorce is not an easy option. You know that so I need not harp on this point.
There’s almost always a “doer” spouse
An amicable separation does not mean there is no conflict in the divorce process or that both parties work together to complete all the forms. Actually, in my experience there is usually a ‘doer’ spouse – one who leads the way, completing most of the procedural steps. This isn’t a bad thing. As long as the more passive spouse agrees on the terms of the divorce judgment before it’s submitted to the court, it’s a win-win. Besides, who doesn’t love it when someone is willing to do the bulk of the ‘work.’
Transparency leads to settlement
Being transparent with finances is not only the law, it’s a way to build trust in the divorce process and usually leads to settlement early on. Listen, I know you’d rather keep your raise to yourself, but if it’s found out later (after the divorce) it can come back to bite you. Family Court judges hate it when people don’t share financial information willingly.
Divorce is a marathon, not a sprint
Doing your divorce in steps is easier on the heart, mind, and body. This doesn’t mean dragging it out forever. It took how many years to get to where you are today? Expecting to undo that in a few days is impractical, if not impossible.
The “Marriage Story” isn’t completely fictional
The “Marriage Story” won “Best Picture” at the 2020 Oscars. And while there were certainly elements of it that were far fetched, the premise is on point. The system is set up to encourage fighting. Starting with calling your divorce a “case” and labeling it X versus Y. Even well-intentioned lawyers often take the divorce narrative away from their clients and turn it into counsel v. counsel — making your “case” about the lawyers winning, not about setting both parties up for success in their next phase of life.
Mediation is a great option (sometimes)
I’ve seen way too many (ex) couples enter mediation when one or both doesn’t trust the other AT ALL. Here’s the deal: divorce mediation only works when BOTH spouses are committed to negotiate in good faith and stay out of court. It doesn’t mean there won’t be conflict. I expect there to be. After all, this is a major life event and the unwinding of the biggest financial contract most of us will ever enter into. Not to mention the emotional triggers that come with that. BUT if your spouse is not playing fair, and the mediator doesn’t acknowledge that and put it in check, you’re wasting your time and money continuing on with the process.
Lawyers are just one piece of a big pie
Lawyers are important. There’s no question about it. Especially when you have a complicated legal issue, want help or tips for strategizing mediation, and/or have a court hearing you need representation for. BUT, they shouldn’t be the center of your case, you should be. Most divorce actions don’t happen overnight – there’s plenty of time to seek legal advice if you need it. But if you have a fairly amicable or mediated divorce, you don’t need a lawyer to handle it all. Our easy-to-use software and experienced legal assistants can handle most – if not all – of the procedural stuff. (and there’s a lot of it). So unless you want to throw thousands of dollars away, consider your options.
Speaking of which, sometimes there are professionals that are even MORE important than having a lawyer on speed dial
Here is a sampling of some of the most underrated divorce professionals — the people you didn’t know you needed but they might actually make your life so much better:
Divorce Coach (non legal) – help manage your anxiety and overwhelm with a divorce coach. A good one will help with everything from finding clarity and inner-knowingness so you can make good decisions for you and your kids. You’ll talk about what’s not working for you right now and chart a course forward for how you’ll get to where you want to be.
Therapist – A divorce therapist is a licensed, certified therapist who is certified by the state to practice therapy. For example, A therapist will help you look at the whole picture, starting by looking back at the events that led you to where you are now.
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) – especially important if you have a long term marriage, have a complex or large estate, or are nearing retirement. A CDFA provides information that enables you to advocate for yourself and negotiate a settlement or separation agreement that will meet your current and future financial needs.
If you are trying to decide which divorce service is right for you, schedule a free 15 minute planning call here.