10 Truths About Divorce—A Series
1. Agree on ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you can – Litigation is lethal
I’ve chosen to work with women in transition. Nearly 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. Ending a marriage is one of the most difficult transitions women will face. I’ll certainly discuss having children, balancing work and family, re-entering the workforce, empty nesting, and many other life changes. This series examines the consequences I wish I had known about before I embarked upon my own divorce. Sure, friends and family offered advice along the way, did I listen? No. We tend not to listen clearly when our lives are bordering on disarray. This much is now clear: despite the hardships, I know I made the right choice in “uncoupling.” Knowledge is power and my goal is to share the realities of divorce to empower you to make confident choices.
Here then is the first in the series “10 Truths About Divorce”
Agree on ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you can—Litigation is lethal
While recounting my “divorce story” to a family attorney I work with, I heard myself say “I wish we had just sat down to work it all out.” Whoa. When I decided I was ready to end my marriage, I imagined a hundred ways it would go… Not one of them happened. I approached my husband about a legal separation. I thought maybe some time apart would help. He summarily rejected both ideas. We did go to counseling, but we made absolutely no progress. Ultimately, I needed to pull the trigger and file with my attorney. She told me to see if I could get my husband to “have a four-way conversation with both attorneys and hash it all out." That evoked another resounding “No way!” from my husband.
So on we went. Depositions, filings, court dates, recriminations, “What happened to all the money” discussions, you’ve heard it all before. Our proceedings dragged on for almost a year, surrounded in the courtroom by hundreds of boxes of files from a high-profile case presided upon by the same judge as ours. When the judge finally tired of our meaningless “he should/she should” arguments, he ordered court mandated mediation.
What a revelation. The meeting suggested by my attorney so many months and dollars billed before, was finally taking place, by court order. Very onerous.
Entering an empty courtroom, waiting for the details of how you and your ex-husband were going to handle your children, your separate lives and separate finances is daunting, but I was prepared to finally end the wearisome battle. The judge and the court-appointed mediator were fair and tried to balance each of our needs and requests. The end result was not much different than what I expected from litigation once I observed that not everything “goes the wife’s way”. My expectations were unreasonably high as it turns out, despite being a stay at home mom of five children for 17 years of our 23 year marriage. Without enough money for a meaningful financial settlement, we agreed upon division of the proceeds from selling our home, 50/50 joint custody of the kids and splitting “actual and reasonable” expenses for said kids. “Your honor, he doesn’t think very many expenses are reasonable, so this isn’t going to work”, I said. No matter, that was the court was prepared to do.
Of course you’d expect me to say I wish my attorney had prevailed with her initial “four way conversation” concept. You’d be right; I wish she had. The ugliness and difficulties that followed from our court battles weren’t worth it. If you each have representation, mediation in most cases will be cheaper and less painful. If you’re contemplating divorce, give mediation a try. You can always decide to go to war if you don’t feel you’re getting your due, but check your expectations with other recent divorcees first. You may be woefully over-confident in a beneficial outcome. More on that soon.
You need to try the high road first… even if you’re the only one trying that road.
Do you feel like you need a little help structuring and balancing your life through a divorce or after a divorce? Contact me at [email protected]