I am likely one of the few who decided when I was young what I wanted to do, and was able to do exactly that. I went to law school knowing that I wanted to practice Family Law, and was fortunate enough to work for a firm right out of school that allowed me to do so. I learned quite a bit during that phase of my practice, mainly that I didn’t want to be a Family Law attorney after all.
I did however gain a great deal of insight into the divorce process from the outside and would like to share some helpful advice for those who find themselves contemplating this path:
• Divorce will not solve all of your problems, especially if you have children together, they will still be there, and most likely will be intensified.
• Divorce is not a threat to be leveraged in the heat of the moment. I know many of us have been so angry that we have launched that missile just to see the resulting explosion, but this is a very serious life decision with very serious consequences, and such a threat may result (often unexpectedly) in one party actually following through on it.
• If divorce is inevitable, shop for an attorney like you would shop for a doctor. Ask for referrals, read reviews, ask to meet with attorneys to see if you click. You need to establish a comfort level with a person because you will have to divulge more to them then you have to your closest friends.
• Your attorney is on your side, trust me! At times they may be the only one who will advise you honestly and look out for your well-being. Attorneys are ethically obligated to represent YOUR interests once they are retained.
• You and your (ex)spouse need to discuss and decide what custody arrangement will work best for you and YOUR CHILDREN. Only you know what your kids need, and only you know what will work logistically for your lifestyle. If you leave it to the Friend Of The Court or the judge to decide, I can assure you that no one will be happy, mainly your kids.
• It is best for you and your (ex)spouse to be fully aware of all debts, assets, accounts, etc. prior to meeting with an attorney.
• Your attorney will bill you for every document, call, email, hearing and meeting. Just as a dentist charges to fill a cavity or do a cleaning, your attorney will charge for legal services and legal advice. This is their profession and it is how they make their living.
• Your attorney doesn’t think you are nuts, and is not judging you. I can assure you that we have heard it all!
• Remember that your kids are the most important thing in all of this, and that they need to know that they are loved by both of you and that you put them first. It is important to show one another kindness and respect and it may be the hardest thing you have to do.
• Take care of yourself and lean on those you are close to. Ask for help when you need it and accept it when it is offered.
It may seem like the end of the world when faced with a divorce, but I promise you that it does end, and your life will return to a new type of normal, so hang in there!