What can you expect from the divorce process? It’s a scary thing, in the beginning, especially if you haven’t been through it before. And even if you have been through it before, each divorce is a little different, each state is different, and the passing of years or months between divorces mean that different laws apply, too, which can make even fairly legally savvy people anxious.
It’s scary no matter what, but there’s no question that divorce is especially scary if you and your soon to be ex husband have children in common. Wondering what will happen to the kids, and how they’ll react to the change is enough to send even the thickest-skinned mamas over the edge.
Divorce is hard. It’s complicated. I always compare it to buying a house. That was a big deal, right? When you sat down to sign the lending documents and looked at the amortization schedule, it was a little shocking. It was for me, especially the first time. And when you get a divorce, it’s even bigger than just a house. It’s literally everything – the house, the retirement accounts, the personal property, investments, stocks, etc. – all divided at once. So, really, everything you’ve built up over the course of your entire life, and it has to be divided.
So, where do you start? And what do you expect?
Well, first of all, I feel compelled to say that, although it is difficult, divorce doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. It doesn’t have to be abject misery. It doesn’t have to be a knock down drag out fight in the courthouse. It doesn’t have to be embarrassing. Or, as Joe Exotic so eloquently puts it, you don’t have to have a “I’m never going to financially recover from this” experience.
Where do you start? Well, I think, first thing’s first, you get some information about the divorce process. Right? Because everything is a little less scary when you understand it better. (And then you’ll also know that, in many divorces, no court is required!)
So, how do you learn about it? I’m so glad you asked! I mean, sure, you could do it the hard way. You could go to law school – though, incidentally, I don’t recommend it. You could also read all the Virginia statues related to divorce. Again, probably not all that fun.
Conveniently, for you, we have a TON of information to answer all the questions that I imagine you’re asking yourself right now.
Probably, first and foremost, “What does this all MEAN?” You probably want to know what your divorce will look like and feel like, what you can expect in terms of timeline and costs. You probably want to know about custody and support and dividing retirement accounts. You want to know about the house. You want to know what’ll happen. Will you be friends after? Will you hate each other forever?
I can’t answer all those questions, and many of your choices will ultimately dictate the experience that you have in your divorce. I often tell clients that the decisions they make at the beginning of the process will change their divorce – you can change it for better or for worse, but you definitely have a role here, and you should think about it. What are your goals and priorities?
Also, you should read our divorce book. We have one for military folks (active duty or retired) and civilian. We have a book on custody, too. We have a fourth book on whether you should hire an attorney.
We also have divorce and custody seminars, which are all taught live by one of our attorneys – which is important because it’ll give you the chance to actually ask your questions to someone who knows.
We have some free reports, quite an extensive library of blogs and articles, and then there’s always a consultation, too. We have lots of ways for you to have access to the up to date, Virginia specific divorce and custody related information you need – and you can be sure that it’s accurate, because it was all written by a licensed, experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorney.
What can I expect?
Now, this is a different question altogether, and one that is hard to answer. I’m happy to speak in generalities, as long as we both acknowledge that every case is unique and your case may or may not fall under this category of types of cases.
We have cases that go to court; we have cases that are nasty, drawn out, super expensive trials with lots of experts involved. In most cases, though, tensions initially start out high, but things simmer down, and the parties end up negotiating an agreement.
In most cases, everything is agreed on without needing to go to court (or, at least, without needing an entire trial). Why? It saves time, money, and almost certainly ensures a result that you’re both happier with. Why would you be happier? Well, agreeing gives you some sense of ownership over the outcome (as opposed to having a judge mandate the result), allows you to maximize the value of your assets, and assert your own priorities.
Is it easy?
Well, no. In many ways, I think divorce is one of the hardest things you’ll go through in your lifetime. Some therapists liken it to an actual death in the family. I don’t think there’s any way to take away from this feeling. I would encourage you, if you’re struggling, to talk to a therapist about the changes you’re going through and ways to use the time to heal as a person.
Legally, it doesn’t have to be difficult, but it could be. There may be difficult issues, but if the two of you are fairly cordial, we can usually work through them. If not, well, there’s always court.
For more information or to discuss your case one on one with a licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorney, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.