Avoiding a Messy Virginia Divorce

Posted on Jun 13, 2022 by Katie Carter


In a divorce, a lot comes down to the decisions that you make at the beginning of the process. I feel like I say this a lot, but I say it because it’s true. There is almost always a tense, emotional, complicated time between when you decide to formally separate and end your marriage, and when your final divorce decree is entered. Sometimes, even, that period of time extends beyond the entry of the final divorce decree.

But I want my divorce to be amicable.

Some couples, unfortunately, seem stuck in a toxic hate cycle, sometimes before, during, and even long after their divorces. I don’t think that this is ever anyone’s goal, though. Most people tell me, earnestly, at the beginning of the process that they hope that their divorce will be relatively amicable.

Of course, it’s an easy thing to say. Easy to be amicable, when, say, your ex partner gives you all the things you’re asking for; not quite so easy when they’re opposing you on all the things.

What’s important to the parties should be important to their lawyers…

Even so, though, it’s normal to expect that the parties in a divorce case will butt heads over, for example, how much spousal support is going to be paid (he naturally wants to pay less; she wants to receive more) or how parenting time will be divided (if he gets more time he pays less child support, so…). There are a million different issues, and they often vary from case to case. Sometimes, the issues even feel kind of stupid to someone outside of the marriage, but the question isn’t whether an issue seems stupid TO ME, but whether an issue is important to the parties.

…Unless we’re talking about “The Duck Plates” (more on this, dear reader, keep going.)

We always urge our clients to think carefully about the things that they’re making a huge issue out of; there’s a story from the archives in our office that has almost taken on a sort of folklore-ish quality to us, where the parties were fighting over some commemorative china plates with ducks on them. This was long before my time (and I’ve been here over a decade), so I didn’t see these plates first hand, nor do I really know how to describe them beyond what I already said.

Now, apparently, the parties couldn’t split the plates, because they were only valuable as a set. Nor could they repurchase an entire second set, because they were limited edition. Both parties wanted the plates, and they wanted the entire collection. They proceeded to spend a small fortune arguing over the duck plates. I’m not sure how much, since the real details of the case have been lost to the sands of time over the years, except that the cost of the litigation far exceeded the worth of the plates.

I don’t tell you this for any other reason than to remind you that (1) it’s not always the principle that matters (in fact, I’d generally advise you not to litigate simply on a principle – it’s expensive, those principles), and (2) to keep in mind what things are really worth. It’s not cost effective to spend more money litigating than an asset is worth.

So much about your divorce hinges on the decisions you make at the beginning.

Avoiding a messy divorce is a lot of people’s goal, but then their actions suggest that their head is somewhere else. I don’t think that means that avoiding a messy divorce isn’t their goal; it just means that they’re distracted by all they’re going through.

Divorce is chaotic. It totally upends your life. It changes your view of the future. It changes your finances. It changes your children’s lives. Even if you want it, it’s profound, traumatic, and expensive. If you don’t want it, well, it’s even harder.

I don’t say that to make you feel worse, but to make you feel seen. If you’re struggling with this, well, then, you’re normal. It is absolutely normal to be feeling a lot of feelings.

“Normal” and “Productive” are two different things when it comes to divorce.

“Normal” is fine. “Normal” is good. “Normal” makes you feel better. Feel your feelings, reader, and take comfort in the fact that they are, in fact, quite normal, even if they’re “bad” feelings.

Whether your normal feelings lead to productive discourse, though, is different. You can’t let your feelings, however normal they might be, lead you down a path that is ultimately counterproductive to your goals.

That means (1) not taking all the advice, however well meaning, of your family and friends, (2) considering very carefully before you share ANYTHING (related to the divorce or not) on social media, and (3) taking time to address your feelings before you act.

Get your divorce advice from someone who’d know – a Virginia divorce attorney.

You should get all of your divorce-related advice from a licensed attorney who is experienced in handling Virginia divorces. The right attorney will help you separate your emotions from what you should be doing to ensure the best possible chances of success. Spend some time talking with your attorney about your goals and priorities and come up with a plan designed to address them. However you’re feeling now (angry, sad, scared, depressed, anxious, whatever), you’ll feel better if you come up with a plan and turn your goals into a reality.

Beware social media during a divorce and/or custody case!

You should avoid social media. I’m not saying you can’t post anything ever, but I am saying to be very, very judicious about what you share. If you can’t do that, stay off social media entirely. I mean ALL of social media, too – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, whatever – STAY OFF if you can’t be sure that what you’re posting won’t be problematic later. Learn more about social media during your divorce and custody case, too.

Enlist the support of a therapist or mental health professional

It wouldn’t be inappropriate to consider reaching out to a therapist or other mental health professional, either. Your feelings may be normal, but you’re also under an abnormal amount of pressure. You should feel your feelings, name your feelings, and come up with a strategy to deal with them. Divorce attorneys are wonderful (I should know – I am one!) but we’re also not really all that strong when it comes to how to navigate these complicated emotional situations effectively. From a legal perspective, we know what you need to do, but from a mental health perspective, well, maybe we should involve another professional. At the end of the divorce, when the ink is dry on your final divorce decree, you want to be in the best position possible, legally and mentally, so you can make the most of your happily ever after.

Need more information? Feel free to reach out to us at 757-425-5200.