A lot of things are easier the second time you try. (Except kids. I’ve heard that the second kid is almost always stubbornly different than the first, so whatever you learned originally you’ll have to re-learn for baby number 2.) When you think about it, you can probably think of a number of different examples of things that were much, much harder the first time around than the second.
For me, I think about the experience of buying a house. I was shocked at all the choices there were to make about different kinds of mortgages. I was overwhelmed with all the paperwork involved and how much information the bank needed from me to help determine my credit worthiness. I had a few pretty heated conversations with the bank about mysterious underwriters who changed what they wanted on a dime and left me hanging in the balance, delaying my closing. (Apparently, you can’t just call and talk to an underwriter? Because that would just be way too easy.) I was surprised at a couple of things that happened, too. It’s impossible to wipe out your own personal biases when you take on something new and, considering my background as an attorney, I have always felt that knowing the facts and understanding the applicable laws of a client’s case is pretty critically important. (I mean, obviously! What a “duh” thing to say, right?) But, apparently, for mortgage lenders and bankers and whoever these people are, it’s really not all that important. They don’t care if they provide you insufficient information or totally WRONG information. It’s just not all that important in their line of work, apparently.
I remember, too, being totally shocked when they provided me with a purchase agreement that didn’t spell out the entirety of our agreement. When I noted the problems, and said that I wouldn’t sign until the contract reflected our agreement accurately, they acted shocked—my realtor included!
Well, you live and you learn. Going into the house buying process now, if I were to do it again, I would go in with so much more knowledge than I had before. I would still insist on a written contract being absolutely and completely reflective of our agreement as I understood it, of course, because the lawyer in me just can’t conceive of anything else, and, frankly, “it’s just the way it’s done in this industry,” isn’t good enough for me. But, still, my frustrations would be less, because I’d know what to expect. I’d know to do independent research and not to rely on the people involved (the realtors and mortgage lenders) to really know what’s going on and advise me properly. I’d be prepared to wait a couple of extra days to close. In short, I’d be better and happier, overall, because going in I would have expectations that fit the circumstances.
And that’s only one example. In adult life, there are lots of things you learn from experience. And, for many people, divorce is one of those experiences, too.
Much like I learned from my first home buying experience, you learn from your first divorce. It’s like the age old saying, “If I only knew then what I know now…” Only, this time, you do!
If you’re contemplating your second divorce, don’t feel bad. It’s been my experience that many smart, successful, savvy women end up divorcing a second time. It has also been my experience that no woman (yes, literally, absolutely no woman) moves towards divorce quickly or easily. It is always after a period of deep soul searching, and only after all other possible alternatives are explored. It’s not an easy decision, whether it’s your first divorce or your fifth; it’s complex, emotionally complicated, and fraught with self doubt. Still, as a second timer, you shouldn’t discount your experience, which will help you make better decisions and be generally more at peace with yourself this time around.
Here’s a list of 4 big, big things that you’ve learned.
1. The attorney you hire makes all the difference.
Whether you were happy or unhappy with the attorney you selected during your first go round, you know what you’re looking for now. Was your attorney attentive? Did she behave as though she felt your case was a priority? Did she promptly return calls and answer your questions? Did you feel that you were in capable hands? Were you happy with the result? To the extent that you were or weren’t happy, how much of that do you attribute to your attorney’s performance?
One of the most important indicators of divorce success is the attorney you hire. And now that you’ve been through the process once before, you’re in a much better position to make an educated decision about your attorney. Of course, NOT hiring an attorney is an option, too, and now that you’ve been through the process once before, you probably have a much better idea of what is involved.
2. Asking the right questions can get you the right answers.
It’s hard to know what you don’t know, right? And, if you don’t know what you don’t know, how can you ask perceptive questions that get to the root of the problem you’re experiencing?
I see it with the women I meet all the time. They know they have questions, but they just don’t know what to ask—so they ask these super vague, impossible to answer questions. I do my best to answer what I think they’re trying to ask (and usually end up talking their ears off, because I’m generally chatty anyway), but it’s hard. I can’t read their minds, either, and I don’t know what fears are keeping them lying awake at night. I try to ask the questions to get the answers I need to be sure I’m getting to the real root of the problems, but it’s easier for everyone involved if you can ask the questions yourself. (Attorneys are not mind readers, after all!)
It’s easier the second time around. You know what happened that was good, and you know what happened that was bad. You can ask questions to avoid the things you didn’t like, or try to make the most of the things that happened that went more in your favor. You can ask about things that you feel like you missed last time, or to capitalize on opportunities you maybe didn’t even consider.
The second go around, things are a lot easier. When you know what you didn’t know before, you can make sure your divorce is a better all around experience.
3. It’s NOT all about the principle.
People who are going through divorce for the first time get caught up in things that don’t matter so much, sometimes even regardless of what their attorney tells them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone justify their choices by saying, “It’s not about ______, it’s about the principle.”
Well, take it from me (and yourself, of course, because you’ve already been there and done that), the principle can get expensive. Like, prohibitively expensive.
What is it all about? Well, you probably already know. It’s all about making sure that you get the most out of your divorce possible. Because, when the dust all settles, you won’t care about the principle. You’ll care that you have enough money left over to start your new, post-divorce life off right. You’ll want to be sure you can do what you want to do for your children, if you have them, or make things comfortable for yourself, if you don’t.
The best divorce is the one that maximizes the return for the people divorcing. Of course, you getting more out of the divorce means that he’ll get more, too (because, let’s be real, things ARE going to get divided between the two of you). But it also means that you’ll pay less to attorneys, mediators, judges, court reporters, and paralegals. It means that you’ll spend less money fighting, and more money getting started on whatever it is you want to do once you’re on your own again. Right? Of course right.
4. It starts out bad, but things settle down over time.
You know it, because you’ve already been there. But divorce first timers don’t realize that it’s perfectly normal that things are tense in the beginning, but then settle down. First timers come in and say that they need a contested divorce, because they just know that their husband will never, ever (and I mean never!) agree to any kind of agreement. They’ll fight to the bitter end.
But…often, they don’t. It happens sometimes, but, generally, divorces settle. (And thank goodness, because, back to point #3, that leaves the most money afterwards for each of you to get the fresh new start you’re after.)
First timers think that it’s contentious now, so it’ll always be contentious. They can’t see past the immediate flare up to what it’ll be like down the line. It’s not their fault; they just don’t have the experience. You know, first hand, that you can wait it out. That things will calm down. That it will, in fact, be okay.
Because it will. Maybe you need to hear it, even though you’re not a first timer. It will definitely be okay.
We can help you get there. For more information, to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce attorneys, to find out about our upcoming divorce seminars, or give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.