10 Truths You Need to Know if You're Filing for Divorce
If I could go back and do it again, I'd still have been a divorce lawyer. I just would have shifted the way I practice a lot earlier, spending 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 16 years as a divorce lawyer, owner of Levine Family Law Group, and founder of Hello Divorce.
Divorce truths (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 who 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 "do-er" 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 "do-er" 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.
Marriage Story isn't completely fictional.
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 didn't trust the other AT ALL. Here's the deal: Divorce mediation only works when BOTH spouses are committed to negotiating in good faith and staying 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 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, or have a court hearing you need representation for. But your lawyer 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. However, 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 who are even MORE important to have on speed dial than a lawyer.
Here is a sampling of some of the most underrated divorce professionals: people you didn't know you needed who might actually make your life much better.
- Divorce Coach (non-legal): This person can help manage your anxiety and overwhelm. A good one will help you find clarity so you can make good decisions for yourself 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 where you want to be.
- Therapist: A divorce therapist is a licensed therapist who is certified by the state to practice therapy. 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): This professional is especially important if you have a long-term marriage, 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're trying to decide which divorce service is right for you, schedule a free 15-minute informational call here.
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