The moment things start to go wrong in your marriage is a pretty overwhelmingly terrifying moment for most women. There’s so much to grieve and so much uncertainty to manage. Not only is there the loss of the marriage and the shared future to consider, there’s also the fear associated with the process of divorce. For most people, divorce is something that is part of our vocabulary, but it’s also, in a way, sort of a mystical process because of the involvement of attorneys and judges and experts. We know about divorce, of course, but most of us aren’t really sure what’s involved. We’ve probably all heard horror stories (and seen many, many movies featuring courtroom dramas) about divorces that dragged on for years and cost thousands of dollars and ended only in screaming matches between two barely recognizable people in the middle of a crowded courtroom. Fortunately, that’s not really what happens. Horror stories are just that: horror stories. They’re not grounded in reality at all, and they’re nothing like what people experience in their divorces.
Of course, I don’t say that to undermine the seriousness of the situation, or the difficulty you’re experiencing. Divorce is life altering in so many different ways, so the way you’re feeling right now is totally justified. Still, it’s important that you get the right information as early as possible in the process so you stop worrying about the things that aren’t issues at all.
If you’re anything like me, you lay in bed awake at night sometimes worrying about things that even you know are completely ridiculous. Sometimes, if I’m going somewhere new, I wonder about whether I’ll be able to find where I’m going, and exactly how much time I’ll need to leave myself to drive there so I won’t be late. (I have a paralyzing fear of being late.) I go over and over the list of things I need to bring in my head until I get so anxious that I’ll forget something that I get out of bed and organize these things somewhere near my car keys, so I’ll be sure not to forget anything (or, worse, leave absolutely everything behind).
It’s like that with divorce, too. Every single little minute detail becomes a massive, blown out problem that requires tons of time and attention to resolve. Of course, you only have time and attention to devote to these issues when you’re awake in bed at night. During the day, the flurry of activity keeps your mind off the more uncomfortable things, plus you like to keep up appearances in front of your children, friends, family members, and co-workers. No one wants to be around the girl who can’t stop airing her dirty laundry. But, still, you worry. You can’t help but worry. And, since you’re facing so many unknowns, it’s no wonder you can’t stop worrying.
So, if you’re facing a divorce in Virginia, what should you do? Where should you go? How can you get the information that you’ll need to move forward with your divorce? These are all great questions!
First steps for women in Virginia facing a divorce
Before you get started, you should seriously consider talking to a therapist. Most of our clients have seen therapists (there’s no shame in asking for help when you need it!) and find that their relationship with their therapist helped them get back on track. If you decide to hire an attorney, you should be aware that your attorney is not a therapist. You know this, of course, but you might be surprised the kinds of questions that we sometimes get asked! We’re not trained to teach you productive ways to handle your feelings, and we feel bad when we can’t give you the information you’re asking us to give. So, save us both some anxiety and just talk to a therapist if you need to. Trust me, it’ll help.
Step 1. Request a copy of “What Every Virginia Woman Should Know About Divorce,” or “What Every Virginia Military Wife Needs to Know About Divorce.”
They’re free! And chock full of tons of the details you’ll want to know before you take any big steps.
You’re probably wondering lots of things, like, when you’re separated and whether you can actually be separated if you’re living in the same house. You’re probably wondering whether you’ll receive spousal support, and how child support works. If you have property in common, which you probably do, you’ll probably want to know how property is divided in Virginia. You may also want to know how much of his retirement you’ll get, how you should begin preparing for divorce, and what to expect both in and out of the courts.
The books will even help give you important tips on how to hire an attorney and important things to look for. They provide a great starting place for anyone who is starting to think about divorce and plan their next steps, but doesn’t want to take any steps that can’t be taken back later. If you’re in a place where you’re wondering exactly how much you don’t know that you don’t know and want to start gathering the answers, this is a great place to start. Did I mention they’re free?
To request a free copy of either of our divorce books, “What Every Virginia Woman Should Know About Divorce,” or “What Every Virginia Military Wife Needs to Know About Divorce,” just click on the title and you’ll be taken to a page where you can order your own personal copy. If you live in our general area, we’ll mail you a hard copy, but regardless we’ll send you an email right away with a downloadable copy of the book attached. You’ll also start to receive a series of emails full of tips, tricks, and insider secrets about divorce that you need to know, all written specifically for women in your shoes by one of our licensed, experienced divorce attorneys.
Step 2. Register for (and attend) Second Saturday: What Every Virginia Woman Should Know About Divorce.
After you’ve read the book, the next step is to register for and attend one of our monthly divorce seminars. Each seminar is three hours long, and taught by one of our divorce attorneys. We cover the steps for the divorce process in Virginia, including how to file for divorce, how to establish temporary support and custody, how you determine what assets and liabilities are available to divide, how attorney’s fees work, how child and spousal support are determined, how property is classified and divided, how custody is handled, and more. You’ll be able to ask your questions to the attorney during the seminar, and hear how things work from her perspective.
The seminar is offered monthly on the Second Saturday of the month in Virginia Beach and Newport News, and on the Third Tuesday of the month in Virginia Beach. You can pre-register (at a discounted rate) to attend the seminar by going to www.monthlydivorceseminars.com, or you can register at the door on the day of the seminar.
Step 3. Consider your divorce options.
Once you’ve read the book and attended the seminar, its time to start thinking about the choices you may make. You have pretty much all the information by this point, so it’s just a matter of deciding which direction you want to go. Do you want a divorce? Is reconciliation a possibility? Do you want to hire a lawyer, meet with a mediator, or get more information about the collaborative process? Now is the time to think about the choices you have in front of you, and begin doing whatever other research is necessary to help narrow down your options and figure out what your next steps should be.
Make sure you consider alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in addition to traditional divorce. Collaborative divorce is gaining in popularity in recent years, as well as do it yourself divorce.
In a collaborative divorce, you retain a collaboratively trained attorney, along with a team of professionals, in order to work amicably through the issues in your divorce. You and your husband would each hire attorneys and divorce coaches. Together, you’ll share a financial expert and child expert, who will both help you determine an appropriate way to divide your assets that take both of you (and any children you may share) into account. In our office, Sheera Herrell is collaboratively trained.
A mediator is not necessarily a divorce attorney (though it is possible). In mediation, both you and your husband sit down with a mediator, who is responsible for trying to encourage you and your husband to come to an agreement about how everything in your marriage will ultimately be divided. Since a mediator is not necessarily an attorney and because the mediator doesn’t represent either of your best interests, you can’t expect a mediator to advise you of your rights, or tell you if something is a bad deal. The mediator’s only job is to help make sure that you reach an agreement. Still, it can be a way to get an agreement in place and save money.
Step 4. Schedule an initial consultation with an attorney, if applicable, get information about alternative dispute resolution (like mediation or collaboration), or research do it yourself divorce in Virginia.
Now, all that remains is to actually do something! Schedule that first appointment and start moving forward with the path you’ve selected.
That’s pretty much it! By following these four steps, you can make sure that you get the information you need, carefully weigh your options, and prepare effectively for your case. After all, the best defense is a good offense, right? What you don’t know can hurt you, especially if you don’t know what to expect in your divorce. Get the right information early in the process and make informed decisions. One thing’s for sure: you won’t regret it one bit!