You’re making a lot of decisions right now, and these decisions can have far-reaching implications for you and your family. You’re right to take your time, think carefully, and weigh the pros and cons of each possible course of action.
At this point, you’re in the information gathering phase. You need to figure out what is involved in all of the options that are available to you, so that you can make the best possible decision. Basically, you need to figure out what happens if you (1) stay married, (2) separate, or (3) divorce.
If you’re still at the point where you’re considering saving your marriage, you probably need some help. Obviously, there are some problems in your marriage, or you wouldn’t be here. That doesn’t mean that your marriage can’t be saved.. In fact, in a lot of situations (even situations that seem really bad at the beginning), it is possible to save the marriage–especially if both people are committed to it. But you’ll probably need a little extra help.
Sometimes, just talking to each other isn’t enough. You need help making the types of changes that are necessary to really change and improve your marriage. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. In cases where we’ve seen marriages saved, our clients have done a couple of key things.
1. Talk with a therapist
Whatever the issues are in your marriage, having someone that you can talk openly and honestly with can make all the difference. A therapist can help you manage your expectations, find better ways to communicate, or learn how to effectively handle your feelings. In cases where there has been some traumatic event, like an affair or the death of a close loved one, that is causing friction in a marriage, the help of a trained professional can help spouses learn to cope with reality and move forward productively.
2. Meet with a marriage counselor
Marriage counseling is the traditional solution for spouses whose marriages are in a difficult place, but there’s good reason for it. In many of the cases we’ve seen where reconciliation happens (and is successful), the parties have attended and participated consistently in a marriage counseling program.
If you’re considering getting a divorce, separation is the first step. In Virginia, you have to be separated before you can get divorced, but being separated doesn’t mean that you have to get divorced. Sometimes, couples separate for a little while, work on their marriage, and then reconcile later on. In other situations, the separation is permanent, and husband and wife eventually start to move forward with the divorce.
Before you decide to separate, it’s a good idea to attend one of our monthly divorce seminars (LINK), or talk to an attorney one on one to get an idea of what to expect in the divorce process, and how to make sure that you can prove to the court that you’ve been separated–especially if you plan to separate and still live in the same house.
It’s over, and you know it. When you’re ready to take your first steps towards your fresh new start, you know it. Mostly, what you want is to make sure that you know what your options are, so that you can be sure to make the best choices possible to protect yourself, your assets, and your family. It can be a scary process, but that’s why it’s so important to be informed. When you know what to expect, it’s easier to make the kinds of choices you need to make.
Most women choose to hire an attorney to represent them in their divorces, because they want to be sure that someone who knows about the law is looking out for their best interests. Regardless of whether your divorce is negotiated between you and your husband (and possibly your husband’s attorney), or whether it plays out in the courtroom, an experienced divorce attorney can help ensure that you get the best result possible.
When you mediate a divorce, you and your husband share a mediator. It is his (or her) job to help you reach an agreement. It’s not his (or her) job to tell you what your legal rights are, whether you could get more, or if your agreement is a good one.
For this reason, we recommend that women who are interested in moving forward with a mediated divorce meet with an attorney at least twice, once before mediation, and once after mediation. Before mediation, the attorney can help you figure out what your legal rights are, and what an acceptable range of solutions might look like, so you don’t go in completely blind. After mediation, the attorney can help you review your agreement to make sure that it really protects you. Mediators usually aren’t attorneys; don’t take the risk! Make sure you double check before you sign anything.
In a collaborated divorce, you and your husband both retain collaboratively trained attorneys to work with you and a team of other professionals to help you reach an agreement. Your team of professionals includes two divorce coaches (one each for you and your husband), a financial specialist, and a child specialist. You make a pledge to work together and not to go to court in order to reach the best agreement possible.
If, for whatever reason, you’d prefer to handle your divorce without hiring an attorney, you’re not alone! Our do it yourself program, Design Your Divorce, teaches you how to write a separation agreement as good as what an attorney would draft for you-all while allowing you to have access to an attorney for questions if you get stuck! It’s a great way to get divorced and save money.