Divorce is a challenge for everyone, but less so for women who have taken the time to gather the information and set priorities.
All too often, women (people in general, mind you, but women are our particular concern here so I focus my narrative on them, or, perhaps, I should say us) make decisions, especially in traumatic circumstances, emotionally and without a rational basis.
It’s completely understandable. When you’re talking about the end of your marriage, about dividing the assets you spent your entire adulthood accumulating, and the impact of your choices on your children, it all amounts to a really overwhelming, upsetting, emotionally-charged environment. It’s hard to make careful, calculated decisions under the circumstances.
It’s especially difficult if you’ve been the victim of domestic violence, if your husband committed adultery, if you’re in a position to have trouble supporting yourself, if you’re afraid that you’ll become homeless, if you’re concerned that your husband might try to keep your children away – if any number of circumstances exist, it’s difficult to think straight.
Combine that with the fact that there are a LOT of decisions to be made, big decisions, complicated decisions – well, it’s just a recipe for disaster!
Today, we’re going to talk about the questions you should be asking – asking yourself, asking others – to help ensure that your divorce runs as smoothly as possible, and that you put yourself in the best possible position to be successful.
1. What are my goals for the divorce?
I think the first question to ask yourself is what, exactly, your goals are. In many cases, equitable distribution means that you’ll receive something close to 50/50 in terms of the assets and liabilities, but the question still remains – which 50%?
Having an idea, ahead of time, can give you a strategic advantage. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of women wanting things more calculated to hurt their husbands than what I think that they must really, actually, want.
Giving yourself some time and space to reflect on what your goals and priorities are will help you begin your discussions with a clear and level head.
2. How do I want to achieve those goals?
A lot of the decisions you make at the beginning of your case will impact how it progresses and, ultimately, the results you get.
Whether you choose to move forward with a contested or uncontested divorce, there are advantages and disadvantages. There’s not a universally right or wrong choice, but there are better or worse choices for a particular set of circumstances.
There are reasons you might choose to file on fault, but there are certainly many reasons you might choose, instead, to move forward without regard to any fault based grounds you might have. Having an awareness of your specific goals can help you make strategic choices early on that help serve your goals, rather than work against them.
You’ll want to consider all the options – working without an attorney, hiring a mediator, using the collaborative divorce process, negotiating an agreement with a Virginia family lawyer, and also litigation.
3. How much money do I have to expend on my goals?
It’s really hard to guesstimate divorce-related costs, but there are certainly some general assumptions we can make. Contested divorces are more expensive than uncontested ones; litigating custody and spousal support in particular can be extremely expensive.
It’s important to have a realistic idea of your financial picture and to make decisions with that in mind. The more aware you are, the better your choices will be.
Do you have money saved? Can you expect help from a friend or family member? Will you rely on credit cards? The choices you make may be expensive, so it’s a good idea to consider those costs at the beginning. If you wait until later, it may be too late to change your course to reflect your budget, or to adjust your priorities to reflect your situation.
Having an open, honest conversation with your lawyer, at the beginning of the process, can go a long way towards helping your attorney give you advice that will suit both your goals and your financial requirements.
4. Where can I gather more legal information?
Once your priorities are set, it’s time to start gathering legal information. We can help you there, too. Whether you want to request a copy of one of our free books, attend a seminar, or schedule a consultation, you should make sure you have the legal facts you need to make the decisions you need to make.
We can help make sure you have the information you need to make these decisions, too. You can request a copy of our divorce book or our custody book, register to attend our divorce seminar, or view our library full of resources. Gathering information about the process can help you begin to set your goals and priorities, to determine your course of action, and even to have a better sense of your budget.
It’s challenging, but having good information, and a sense of what’s most important to you, will help anchor you. For more information, or to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.