Clients often ask this question — If you had to give divorce advice to your sibling, what would you say? The question intrigued me as to why a client would believe the advice to a sibling would be any different than the advice provided to a client. As someone who has been a divorce lawyer for twenty-four years, I’ve given my share of divorce advice. But why would a client wonder if what was being told to them was my best advice?
If my brother, or my best friend, was getting divorced, what would I tell them? When I considered that question, I realized that oftentimes, it’s not that we don’t give every client all our best divorce advice. Rather, it’s that advice is tailored to the needs of that specific client whose needs may be very different than that of a sibling or a best friend.
So here are ten tips that you should consider for your divorce situation.
1. Educate Yourself
Divorce is not a process you would have learned in college or had a reason to learn about at all until now. If you don’t know how the divorce process works, you are much more likely to make mistakes that you will later regret. Having a lawyer, a therapist, and a financial planner on your divorce team is great. But no one will care more about your post-divorce life than you will. Educate yourself on the process so you can have more engaging conversations with your lawyer, therapist, and financial planner at the right times. Being engaged will allow you to have your questions answered and result in you having less stress about the divorce process and your post-divorce life.
2. Set Goals and Plan
If you don’t know what your goals are, then you should not expect your lawyer to know and obtain them for you. Also, your lack of goals prevents your lawyer from having a realistic discussion with you about them and putting a plan in place to try and achieve them. When you have no goals, you end up with whatever you end up with once your divorce is over. You must put in the time and effort to decide what you want, discuss the want with your lawyer, and go over the plan for how you and your lawyer can get what you want. There is no guarantee you will achieve each goal, but at least you will have a much better chance since the goals will be known and the discussion and planning with your lawyer will have taken place.
3. Ask for Help
Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to deal with divorce. You will need legal advice. Getting a divorce without solid legal advice can cause you financial or child custody problems for years to come. You may also need emotional support. Even if you’ve never gone to therapy before, consider whether you need to go now or join a support group. You will need financial and tax advice. Not knowing the tax consequences of the financial choices you made in the final divorce settlement could cost you thousands of dollars. Trying to do everything yourself, just to save money, will most likely cost you more money in the long run. Figure out who and what you need for help today to prevent you from having to spend more after the divorce is over.
4. Put Your Kids First
I know that everyone says they will put their kids first when making child custody decisions in a divorce; however, not everyone does this. Be a good parent and put forth a custody plan that really is what is best for your kids, even if it emotionally hurts you. Your kids will be much happier in the long run for you making this choice during your divorce.
5. Get Copies of All Important Financial Documents
If your divorce is amicable, you should be able to get your financial documents at any time. But, once a divorce gets ugly, those important financial documents tend to go missing. Since you may not be able to know in advance whether your divorce will go smoothly, it is best to get copies of all the important financial documents you will need for your divorce as soon as possible.
6. Chose How You Want to be Remembered at the End of the Divorce
You – the person and the parent – are much more than your divorce. While no one expects you to be your best self while going through a divorce, you don’t have to be your worst self either. How much is your integrity worth? What kind of role model do you want to be for your kids? If you spend your divorce doing things that you will regret, you will carry those regrets around with you for the rest of your life. Think about how you want to be remembered after the divorce and then act accordingly.
7. Find the Right Lawyer
Most of the big problems clients have with their lawyers could have been prevented had they thought about what type of lawyer they needed. You don’t want to hire a lawyer who has an entirely different approach to divorce than the one you want or need to take. If you want to try to resolve your divorce amicably, the last thing you want is to hire an attorney who is a pit bull. On the other hand, if your spouse is abusive and has no problem self-destructing if it means taking you down with him or her, you need a lawyer who is strong-willed and experienced in tough cases. Think about what type of lawyer you need based on the approach you want to take and then hire that type of lawyer.
8. Divorce is Not a Sprint
No matter how much you want your divorce to be done quickly, 99% of the time, it’s not going to happen. Divorce can only go as fast as the other party allows. You will be much better off if you try to go with the flow. If you don’t then expect to have frustration with your attorney and daily stress over how long your divorce is taking.
9. Stay Away From Legal Advice from Friends and Family
Getting divorce advice from your friends, your family, or your neighbor who was recently divorced, is a terrible idea. None of those people know your full fact pattern. None of those people are actual experts in divorce. Most important, none of those people are objective and each will tell you what you want to hear. You can still speak with your friends and family for emotional support while you go through your divorce. Just don’t rely on them to give you legal advice.
10. You are Still Parents After Divorce
It will be extremely difficult to co-parent or even just sit next to your former spouse at your child’s game or play if you asked your attorney to attack him or her during the divorce process. The uglier your divorce, the harder it will be to co-parent after your divorce. You can’t un-ring the bell about you claiming your former spouse has an alcohol problem or is neglectful toward the children’s needs after the divorce is final. Keep that in mind before you start making allegations that you cannot substantiate in court. The repercussions are long-term.
Should you need the advice of an experienced divorce and child custody attorney or have questions or concerns about your child custody situation, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those issues with you.