Finding out my 23-year marriage was ending in divorce was bad. The loss of control I felt during the process made it even worse.
As a busy wife and mother, I was used to making decisions and planning the future. Suddenly lawyers, judges and well-meaning friends started telling me what to do, often giving me conflicting advice.
Getting divorced can be a scary process. Navigating the court system when you are feeing angry and hurt can bring out the stressed-out craziness in the best of us. What I needed most was to once again feel as if I had a say in what happened in my life.
There is no easy way to make it through the legal system. But these tips can help make the process a little less stressful and help you feel a little more in control.
1 | You are responsible for your own court case.
I strongly recommend you retain your own lawyer, but even so, you are still the person in charge. Your lawyer works for you. Listen to and heed his advice, but you have the right to approve any course of action.
2 | Don’t set your ex’s stuff on fire.
Or donate it to charity or throw it in the dump. I know it looks good in the movies, but acting out in retaliation could seriously backfire and hurt you in court.
3 | Embrace your inner hoarder.
Keep copies of everything – forever. Or at least for a very long time. Court cases involve an insane amount of paperwork going back and forth between the lawyers and the judge. Get a filing in system in place and keep it all. Be sure to have your own copy of financial documents, insurance policies and court orders.
4 | Get it in writing and signed off by a judge.
If things between you and your soon-to-be ex are amicable now that’s great and I hope it stays that way. But it might not. Emotions and circumstances change over time. Any support, financial promises, parenting plans or other deals need to be filed and certified with the court.
5 | Your lawyer is not your therapist.
Your lawyers job is to fight for your rights in court, not to hold your hand or give you a tissue as you sit having yet another breakdown in his office. And at an average rate of $250 per hour, finding a qualified therapist will be cheaper and more helpful to your mental and financial well being.
6 | Stay off social media.
Or at least limit your posts. Bashing your ex in public is never a good idea, and it just makes you look bitter and crazy. Remember, even if you have your ex blocked, his lawyer and his friends can still find what you are posting. Those posts can be used in court against you. Save the drama for your momma and save your angry outbursts for private.
7 | Insist on a full financial disclosure of all assets and liabilities.
You may have joint accounts, but you need to be sure there are no secret accounts. Expect the opposing lawyer to request a full disclosure on you as well.
8 | Keep communications civil and in writing.
Communicating via email or text will alleviate any he said, she said moments. Keep all communication so you can refer back easily to see what was agreed upon when any discrepancies arise. Remember though, if it is in writing, your ex can refer back to the conversation as well. Don’t write any angry messages in the heat of the moment. Take a minute to cool down and then address what needs discussed.