Divorce is horrible. This is why I only handle a few divorce cases at a time. The emotional toll from divorce is just too much. It affects not just the divorcing couple but everyone in their wake. I have just a few pieces of advice for divorcing, or soon to be divorcing couples:
1. Have a Plan. There are very few instances where a spouse truly has no idea that a split is in the offing. Usually there are signs. If you start to suspect that you may be headed to divorce start taking precautions. Where are your bank accounts? Retirement accounts? Who manages your money? How many credit cards are in your name? If your checking account was closed tomorrow what would you do? How will you pay for health care deductibles? Who pays the mortgage?
2. Hire a lawyer. You will probably be unable to answer many of the questions posed above. You may not even know what questions to ask. A good lawyer will help you line up a strategy to maximize your future.
3. Take the high road. You will be hurt and emotional. You will be inclined to say and do things you will regret. Please resist the urge to act in an irrational manner. Divorce is about taking the steps to insure the brightest future possible. Focus on the future.
4. Be honest with yourself. What positive contributions are you making to the process? Are you looking for resolution or retribution?
5. Listen to your lawyer. You may not like what your lawyer has to say. You may think he/she is not aggressive enough or tough enough or hateful enough. Your lawyer is paid to maintain an emotional detachment from the situation. If your lawyer fosters or stokes your emotions, you have hired the wrong lawyer.
6. The Judge doesn’t care. Your husband didn’t drop off your child at the appropriate hour. Your wife had an affair. The Judge who is hearing your case has heard it before, thousands of times. A “he said, she said” battle doesn’t matter to the Judge. Gather your evidence and present it in a logical way so the Judge can make an informed ruling.
7. Don’t be manipulated. If you were able to trust your spouse you probably wouldn’t be in a divorce. So stop listening to what your soon to be ex-spouse says. It’s most likely an attempt to leverage a better deal. Actions are the only thing that matter.
8. Tell your lawyer everything. No surprises. Your lawyer can only help you if you are fully transparent. If there are embarrassing things in your past that you are afraid to share, share them anyway. Confront your weakest aspects head on. This will minimize their impact on your outcome.
9. Never ever use your kids as a bargaining chip. This is not only wrong, a Judge will sniff this out and punish you for it. Your kids will already feel like a pawn in your divorce. Minimize the collateral damage by keeping them away from the process as much as possible.
10. Keep a stiff upper lip. Divorce is as emotionally taxing as anything you will ever experience. You will feel like you are being torn apart from the inside out. As difficult as it may be, you must keep your emotions in check during hearings, depositions, mediation and trial. When you are emotionally overwrought you say and do things you will regret. Try to save your emotional venting for a private time/place.
11. Get off social media. Remember. Everything you say and do can and will be used against you in a court of law.
12. Happiness is the best revenge. Divorce will make you a better person or a bitter person. You choose.