Divorce can be the worst time in your life. Aside from the heartbreak involved, there are legal and financial issues that must be dealt with and that can change your life in drastic ways. On top of that, many times you have to move to a new home or apartment, disrupt your children, and create a new normal all while fighting it out with your new ex-spouse.
Divorce can be a damaging financial blow. Many times it involves splitting up assets and selling things off. Starting over in your thirties, forties or fifties can be extremely discouraging. To make matters worse, legal fees and court costs can eat up a great portion of your personal wealth if your divorce is hotly contested and lengthy. The wealthier of the two spouses may even be required by the court to pay for both attorneys. That means every time the lawyers make a phone call, that party is paying double fees for the time that is ticking away. Every status conference, every discovery request, every minute of both lawyers’ time is subtracting hundreds of dollars from the pie that you and your spouse will divide in your marital settlement agreement, and from the wealth you have accumulated to support your children.
The court will likely appoint a guardian ad litem to determine the best interest of your children. That’s right. As a couple and as parents you will not be deciding the best interest of your children, particularly if you can’t agree, but a third party will be doing so by making a recommendation to the court. That third party will have much more say the more you fight with your spouse and the less you agree upon regarding the placement and rearing of your children. If you show the GAL that you both care about the best interest of your children and you are committed to doing what is best for them, your joint decisions carry much more weight and the GAL is very likely to recommend what you jointly decide for your kids.
There are less expensive, less taxing ways to get a divorce. A judge does not have to make all the final decisions for you. In fact, you can make all the decisions together, if you can be civil and come to an agreement together. Then all you have to do is have your agreement drawn up by a lawyer, or you can write it up yourself with the forms at the local clerk of court’s office, and file it with the court as a marital settlement agreement. There may be some pitfalls to doing it yourself, because you are not a lawyer and you may not think of everything or you may not draw it up in a way that a judge will accept without putting on a trial to make sure you’ve considered everything. If a judge does that to you, then you could end up in court anyway. Then again, many folks divorce without lawyers.
There are several new family law styles being practiced by attorneys these days. You may want to check into collaborative divorce or cooperative divorce. Those are topics for another article.
There is an even gentler and more cost-effective approach. In a divorce mediation where you hire the mediator and no lawyers, you and your spouse can work with the mediator to bring about a marital settlement agreement that you both can live with, without paying lawyers to litigate at all. Sure, you can also hire lawyers and bring them to mediation, but a good mediator is going to want to talk to you about your needs and find a good fit for the family, rather than allow two lawyers to bicker like they would in court.
The intangible benefits of getting a divorce in a more peaceful manner go without saying. Imagine your divorce running smoothly, settling fairly easily, and your relationship with the mother or father of your child remaining strong so that you can be the best parents for your child(ren) together even after you are no longer married. Imagine not having to spend more money than you have to, not losing or gaining weight or developing ulcers or other stress-related health issues that can often result from prolonged stress. Imagine not walking away from your divorce bitter and exhausted.
Surely, you can work out an agreeable settlement with the person you once loved, maybe still love, and the one you once agreed to commit your life to for better or worse. You can still live happily ever after, even if divorce is the only way you can work things out.
This article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice and it does not constitute establishment of an attorney-client relationship with anyone who reads it or an attempt to create an attorney-client relationship. Keep in mind that the law changes frequently based on legislation and case law. If you have a legal issue that relates to this article’s subject matter, please consult with a licensed attorney to determine your individual rights and to clarify the law with respect to your particular set of facts. If you live in another state, please consult a licensed attorney in your state. Dana Boyle is licensed in the state of Wisconsin.