First off, some full disclosure: I’m not a divorce lawyer (nor do I play a divorce lawyer on TV). However, in the course of my work, I’ve interviewed hundreds of divorce lawyers and picked their brains on everything from billing policies to website design. However, without question, the information and insight that most resonated with me were when they went “off the record” and talked about the advice they share — or try to share — with struggling couples. Now, it’s advice that I’m going to share with you.
And so, if your marriage or cohabitation relationship has hit the skids — or if you aren’t yet in a serious relationship, and want to be prepared just in case you and your partner end up realizing that you aren’t soul mates after all — then courtesy of hundreds of anonymous divorce lawyers, here is what you need to know:
The more adversarial your breakdown, the more you’ll pay.
It’s understandable — and usually unavoidable — for soon-to-be-ex couples to severely dislike each other; or frankly, hate each other. However, using the law and family court system to exact revenge is an extremely bad idea. Granted, some issues will remain unresolved and need to be sorted out by a judge. But the more issues you can reconcile together — like who will pay for your kid’s lessons for violin — the better off you’ll be; at least, financially and emotionally.
Don’t use your divorce lawyer as a therapist.
Even if your divorce lawyer is caring and compassionate — and hopefully that’s the case — he or she is neither qualified nor interested in providing you with therapy services. However, he or she should be able to refer you to a qualified professional who has experience working with divorcing or divorced clients. If that’s not an option, then speak with your family doctor who should be able to refer you to a therapist, or look on the web.
Don’t dig into claim assets.
Of all the grizzly insights that divorce lawyers shared with me, this particular warning has remained the most vivid: don’t dig in to claim assets. For example, some men and women become obsessed with making sure that “he doesn’t get the Nespresso Delonghi Lattissima+ coffee machine” or that “she doesn’t get the rug in the den” — not because they truly desire these assets, but because they don’t want the other person to get them. Simply put: don’t do this. Let go of assets that you can replace, or that aren’t worth the money, time and stress to hold onto.
The Bottom Line
It’s said that criminal lawyers sometimes see bad people at their best behavior, while divorce lawyers experience the opposite: they see good people at their worst behavior. It’s much easier said than done, but if you can find the strength and get the support you need to avoid being at your worst (being at your best is an unfair and unreasonable expectation), then you’ll emerge from divorce with minimal damage to your finances, physical health and state of mind — and can start writing the next chapter in your life.