As you begin to navigate the often choppy waters of divorce, wouldn't it be nice if you had the wisdom of someone who'd been through the process at your beckoned call? Perhaps a woman's roadmap of sorts to get the through it in the best possible shape? Even better, how about a girlfriend's, no-bull, shot-from-the-hip-guide to avoiding some key pitfalls of divorce, mediation, child custody, and dealing with your STBXH's debt?
Well, in many ways our social network provides this, as it's filled with women in all stages of divorce filled with tons of compassion, love and sound advice. In fact, one of those wonderful women wrote the following in response to another member's blog post providing some very helpful advice. While it's not a guide for the entire journey of divorce, it does zero in on some key points that can help us avoid the major pitfalls we can often make while working our way through divorce.
- Prepaid legal is not the same as retaining a lawyer: If the other party is 'lawyering up' in your mind, make sure your facts are straight. Prepaid legal is only for amicable divorces that are uncontested.
- Retaining a lawyer is an act of war in divorce: It means you have given up amicably dealing with the other person. It is NOT something you should do to feel 'safe'. Retaining a lawyer means you have money that could go to a mediator. It's a choice to not save to pay for a mediator.
- Don't hold the other person accountable for trying to find out all their options: A one-off meeting with a lawyer is not the same as retaining a lawyer.
- There is always a choice: You may not like the options. You might hate the options. But there is always a choice. Never say "you forced me". That's just not how it works.
- Mediation: Remember, an acrimonious divorce can take a long time and cost a hell of a lot of money, as opposed to an amicable divorce, which can take a short time and be relatively cheap. Even though a mediator may be expensive, a mediator is not as expensive as each of you paying for an attorney. If the cost cost of mediation is scaring you (it's expense up-front), find a way with your STBXH to pay for out of your common assets. If that means you sell the TV or something to pay for it, do it. Don't fight over who's going to pay for this. This is something you both should be able to find money for out of the COMMON assets. And, if you ever start to doubt the wisdom of doing whatever it takes to maintain an amicable divorce, I can send you my latest lawyer bill. Bottom line — the cost of mediation is a lot better then having to go into debt to keep paying for your attorney; then having to lose the attorneys because you find you can't afford to keep going into debt to pay for the attorney. This is what my Ex did — he refused to divorce amicably, and we are still not divorced, and he is further and further in debt.
- Child custody: I'm going to be blunt here. Your children need you both. Don't be a toad and try to cut the other parent out. Whatever is in keeping with your child's current schedule is what the court will usually support. If that means your child stays with the mom, and the dad sees her after school 'til bedtime and on alternate weekends, that's how it's going to be done. Breaking up your marriage means breaking up your time with your child. You don't have any more right to her than the other person does in the court's eyes. But your child has the right to a constant and easy schedule with as little change as necessary. If that means swallowing your pride and giving up your dreams of having her every other day of the week, than that's how it has to be. The courts will advocate for mitigating the harshness of the divorce as it impacts her. That means they will decide this unless you do. And usually that means neither of you will like what the court decides. Realize that now and WORK THINGS OUT with your STBXH. You may have strong feelings over what's right and wrong as it pertains to custody, but the courts won't care who's feelings get hurt. What they will care about is that your child is given the most normal environment possible. That means the house she's grown up in, on the schedule to which she's accustomed, around the friends she's made.
- Debt: My ex-MiL had loaned my Ex about $4k. He took the money against my wishes but the way the law read meant that if it was during our time of marriage I was 50% responsible for it, whether I'd wanted the loan or not. If you or your spouse bought something, sold something, or went into debt during the time of the marriage to the date of separation, you are both 50% responsible for it. And the courts won't listen to a "Well I didn't want it" excuse — think about that. When it comes to the marital home, either decide that it's worth keeping and paying off to give your child the home he or she grew up in and the best school available OR find a way to rent the house so that the mortgage is paid. At such a time that the market recovers, agree (prior to the divorce being finalized) that the house will sold if a profit can occur or the loss is minimized. But realize, often the sale of a house will effectively change your child's school. In the end, do what you have to do, out up with what you have to put up with, because your child's health and welfare and education are more important than imposing your will on the other parent.
- A final word on debt, it sucks: If you can find a way to mitigate your debt by selling assets that were purchased during the marriage, do so. Set up a spreadsheet of assets and debt. My partner and his ex did this and they were able to amicably determine who got what assets and who ended up ahead. As it stands, my partner is owed about $50k by his ex. However, they've set up a payment plan and neither spouse feels 'ripped off' or 'stuck' with the debt.
Always remember, a true compromise leaves nobody truly happy and that's a fact. But you will be able to move on, get ahead, and maybe even survive this with minimal lawyer's fees, minimal therapy, and possibly a child who feels like she/he can recover from the trauma that this has already caused her. With love, Allie