Don’t be fooled! Support, guidance, and advice are essential in divorce, but receiving the “wrong” kind of support may end up costing you lots and lots of money, time, and frustration.
In my profession as an alternative dispute resolution specialist working with families and individuals through facilitative mediation and coaching, I have witnessed firsthand many situations in which information shared by friends, family, and strangers has deterred the trajectory of one’s own divorce process and divorce goals of amicability. Unfortunately, the advice elicited is often grounded in someone else's unpleasant experiences, frustrations, and regrets.
Since 2016, I have been a member of a large private online Facebook community with a defined membership of women over 40 years of age. With close to 30,000 members throughout the country, this community shares thoughts and questions on everything from sex to aging parents. And, as I am sure you can imagine, divorce is a frequent topic of discussion. According to the Pew Research Center, 2017, among U.S. adults ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s with women initiating divorce at a significantly higher rate than men.
Casually surfing through the group’s page last night, I was astonished to see a post shared by a soon-to-be divorced mom of three pre-teen and teen children from Oregon who negotiated her divorce agreement in mediation. In essence, she was questioning the agreement she made and was looking for input from the community. I was not taken aback by her comment as I believe she was expressing some real concern regarding her ability to maintain the same lifestyle for her children that her soon-to-be-ex was while dealing with rising housing and living expenses in her hometown. What shocked me, however, was the over 270 comments with the majority of members advising her to go to WAR. To lawyer up at whatever the cost with the implied notion that the money she would have to sacrifice now will be well worth the money she will receive in return. “Get a lawyer. Someone great who can get you what you deserve” is what some members said.
Expert perspective, legal and financial guidance, and support are all extremely important in a divorce process. Knowing what your state statutes are and how they apply to your divorce action is imperative to preparing yourself to engage in a decision-making process. Additionally, understanding your past and current financial landscape can better prepare you for what you will need to do to structure yourself financially moving forward. But this notion that a “good attorney” can get you what you “deserve” is extremely subjective. In a no-fault divorce process, there is no “deserving." You get what you are entitled to under the law and or what both parties to the divorce action are willing to agree upon.
Attorneys are trained to fight for their clients but at what and who’s cost? Interview attorneys for your divorce and you'll probably hear how they promise to fight, fight, fight for you. Of course, all that fighting costs money. In the beginning, you may not be worried about those fees because your lawyer promised "to get you thousands of dollars in temporary support" and "to make your spouse pay your legal fees", but when those motions filed by you and your attorney fail to return any result in the court of law, you still have to pay. I have had many clients come to me after motions for leave to withdraw have been filed against them by their attorneys, which basically means that their attorney has fired them for non-payment of fees. In the end, no matter what you may or may not be promised by an attorney, there are no guarantees and ultimately, you will be financially responsible for their work on your case, “win” or “lose”. This is why more and more states are moving towards an alternative dispute resolution process when it comes to divorce. In many states, courts will not allow a party to move forward with court action until they have made relative and reasonable efforts to resolve their matter through a facilitated private or court-ordered mediation process.
Today, there are many reputable resources and professionals available for those looking to navigate the divorce process in the most time-efficient and cost-effective way. AND, even better, some also take into consideration how the emotional impact of the process can be best handled and supported.
Working with a certified and professionally trained divorce coach can make a real difference in one’s overall outcome, experience, and bottom line.
If you are unable to afford a personal certified divorce coach, there are many wonderful private groups, such as The Split Society, that are led and moderated by a professional divorce coach to help you get the information you need and the support to keep you on the track of minimizing conflict rather than waging it. Online communities, such as the one I referred to earlier, can be wonderful sources of support, just don’t be fooled into believing that their words and opinions are anything more than just that, words and opinions.