I hear you; this is hard. Divorce is scary. It’s overwhelming. It’s so wide-reaching, too! Buying a house or car is expensive, but a divorce divides EVERYTHING you’ve earned, purchased, or acquired (including debt, including calculating support, and including custody and visitation) during the course of your entire marriage.
If that’s daunting, well, that’s a pretty normal thing to be feeling. You’re not alone, and it’s normal if you feel like it’s an almost insurmountable obstacle. It’s not, of course. We do this every single day, and I can tell you honestly that this is manageable, especially with an experience attorney by your side.
But also this: having a great attorney, having the world’s BEST attorney, is no good to you at all if you don’t listen to her, or if you are so full of self defeating thoughts that you can’t get out of your own way.
Today, I’m going to talk a little bit about mindset in divorce, and some of the most frustrating and self defeating things we hear in our practice. I’ll debunk each a little bit, too, and help you understand a little bit more about how divorce works.
In general, I recommend getting a working knowledge of Virginia divorce law, including rights and entitlements, before you get started. There’s a lot of information out there, but nowhere so much as on our website. We have four free books, including books about divorce, military divorce, and custody, as well as a veritable treasure trove of free reports and articles, plus live divorce and custody seminars presented by our very own licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys who represent women only. I’m just saying – knowledge is power, and the more you have, the less you’ll be prone to unhelpful thoughts.
Also, as a suggestion, it’s not a bad idea to talk to a therapist. No, you’re not crazy. No, there’s nothing wrong with you. But divorce, even a long awaited divorce, is life altering, especially if you and your soon to be ex share children in common. My experience is that the women who weather this best, with the least difficulty, are the ones who enlist the support of the appropriate professionals in the right places. If you’re feeling consumed by guilt or stress or depression and anxiety, you need help. This is a big deal. In fact, I’ve heard therapists say that divorce is really akin to a death; it’s profound. I don’t say that to scare you, but only to say that the way you’re feeling is real, and it’s justified, and it’s probably pretty likely that you need help to come through this as unscathed as possible.
People ask me all the time how I do this work every day, and whether it isn’t just SO depressing. I’m not saying I’m superwoman or anything; sometimes, the struggles my clients face really get to me, too. It’s not easy work. But I stand by what I say to these people, what I have been saying now to people who say this to me, for years: I don’t do this for the woman who first comes into my office, who is in your shoes now. That CAN be depressing, especially if that’s all you see. But it’s not all I see, actually. I see women at all sorts of different stages in this process, and I can tell you, from almost a decade now of personal experience, that the women who sit in my office in the beginning of the process bear little to no resemblance to the women who I talk to later on in the process. I find that this work is actually really empowering, because I see the strength that these women develop over the course of the process, and the amazing things that they are able to accomplish. Is it hard? Of course! But they change and grow and strengthen over the course of the divorce, and that’s a pretty powerful thing to see.
But, anyway. You’re not there today. Not yet. I only say that to you to give you a little window into the future. But I also want to tell you about some of the frustrating, difficult, and downright unhelpful things I hear from women during the course of their divorces. Do we all have unhelpful thoughts? Sure. I do it, too! But sometimes you have to push down that inner voice that whispers terrible things, and tell yourself firmly that it’s wrong. Anyway, in no particular order, here are three frustrating (and downright WRONG) things I hear from divorcing women:
1. “I’m going to lose it all anyway.”
Ummm, what? Says who?
Lose what all? The retirement? No, you’re entitled to half the marital share. The kids? Pssh. We see more shared custody now than ever, and often dads just want to get some visitation. Shared custody is a lot for some of them. Of course, this is a case by case analysis, but good moms don’t often just LOSE kids for no reason. They share time with their coparent, sure. But losing custody is not the same thing.
I’m just throwing out two of the biggest hot-button issues. I don’t know if these are your issues, or if it’s something different. But it really doesn’t matter. The system isn’t set up so one party walks away with everything and the other is left homeless. It isn’t a perfect system, but it isn’t that bad either!
I don’t know what you mean, if you’re thinking this, and it’s always case-by-case. But it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney to get an idea of what, specifically, you might be entitled to in your divorce before you start saying terrible things like this.
2. “My husband says _______________. Why aren’t you giving me accurate information?”
Now’s as good a time as any for me to tell you that your husband is no longer on your team, so it’s probably a good idea to accept that what he’s telling you is not in your best interest. Nor is it necessarily true.
He’s trying to upset and intimidate you. Also, where did HE get his law degree? (And even if he is a lawyer, he’s not worth listening to on this particular point; it’s not like he’s a neutral, disinterested bystander!)
Your attorney gets nothing from lying to you. Your attorney is on the same team, and wants the best for you. Your husband… well, not so much.
3. “I can’t afford my own attorney.”
I’m not a personal financial coach or anything, and I know that money is tight – ESPECIALLY in a divorce!
But when you consider the costs of an attorney versus the value of everything that needs to be divided, I think you can see the value of having an attorney to represent you. It’s not enough for your husband to have an attorney; his attorney represents him exclusively, and is NOT looking out for your best interests.
Uncontested divorces cost less, of course, than contested ones, but either way you need someone on your side. You can’t rely on him to do what he said he’ll do unless you can get it in an agreement or an order from the court. It’s not enough to trust him. Remember what I said in number 2 – you’re no longer on the same team.
You need an attorney to represent YOUR interests, or you may give up assets worth far more than the cost of an attorney.
There’s no question this is hard, and that you’re overwhelmed. It’s normal and understandable. The important thing is, though, that you’re in the right place, you’re asking the right questions, and you’re getting answers that will empower you to make the best decisions possible for you and your family.
For more information or to set up an appointment with one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.