Understanding these practical divorce truths will put you on the path towards a less stressful, less costly, and more productive divorce:
- One lawyer cannot effectively represent both spouses. If both spouses say they are “using the same lawyer,” the practical reality is that one spouse is represented and the other is not. Make sure the represented spouse is you. Without proper representation, you could be setting yourself up for a disaster that could impact the rest of your life. A lawyer you did not hire is not obligated to serve your best interests.
- You must be financially rational. Divorce can be financially devastating. Think about cuts in expenditures necessary to pay for two households after the divorce. Determine whether you can afford to keep your house. Do you want a substantial amount of your net worth tied up in a home? What personal property do you want? Also consider tax consequences. What looks good on paper could end up costing you in the long run.
- Treat the property division as a business transaction. Remove your emotions from the negotiations. Divorce may be the biggest business deal you will ever make. Do so with a clear head and an end-game focus. Perform a cost/benefit analysis. Decide which assets are important, what they are worth, and the ones you don’t need. Never spend more money fighting for an asset than what it’s worth. Choose your battles wisely.
- If possible, settling is a smart thing to do. Reaching a fair property settlement or workable custody arrangement via negotiation or mediation, rather than letting the judge decide, is wise. Granted, not all cases can be settled. Backs get bowed up and one or both spouses get hardheaded requiring the judge to make the call. But working with your attorney and the other side is always the best bet. It may resolve your case faster and at less expense. You also stand a better chance of achieving your goals.
- Always negotiate for the future. When considering a settlement, think in terms of potential future litigation. Taking the time to be precise and get it right the first time will cost a fraction of what you will spend to go back to court to modify an agreement.
- Get over it. As difficult as it may be, work hard to be the mature spouse in the divorce proceeding. Focus your time and energy working to achieve the goals you have set for yourself and your children, rather than seeking revenge. Instead of dwelling on the past, move forward with your life. And get over it.
Sonya B. Coffman is a Board Certified divorce and family lawyer in Beaumont, Texas. She also is a C.P.A. Ms. Coffman only practices divorce and custody law in Jefferson County, Texas. She deals with these practical divorce truths—and others—all day, every day.