Let’s face it, everyone knows how to get married and very few people know how to get divorced. As a child you learn to think of marriage as an institution. You are equipped with an almost innate ability to plan for marriage. You find that special someone, you fall in love and you set a date. You schedule a trip to city hall and obtain a marriage certificate. In some cases you follow that trip with an official ceremony. Then you are off on your honeymoon with your spouse beside you and the rest of your life ahead of you. Typically, the process of getting married involves great time, detail, commitment and careful planning. It is a consuming yet rewarding endeavor.
The truth is that no one would go through the marriage process if they expected to also go through the divorce process sometime in the future. Unfortunately what to expect from the divorce process is not programmed into our DNA the way marriage is. The following is a list of general truths that may help you navigate the turbulent waters of divorce:
1. Timing is Everything:
Once you or your spouse decide to divorce you must determine how you will live separately and what it will take to accomplish separate living. This could take months or even years depending on the facts of your case. In Georgia, even the simplest matter will not be finalized until thirty (30) days after the divorce is filed with the Court. As an attorney, I recognize the client’s desire to resolve their matter quickly. However, I also recognize the danger in rushing a Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce. There are many factors that may affect how long it will take to finalize your matter including, but not limited to, the Court’s calendar, your spouse’s actions, your actions and your children’s needs. I leave you with the following cliché’s: “Patience is a virtue” and “Time is of the essence”.
2.The Devil is in the Details:
When couples decide to divorce, they often wonder what facts of their marriage will be important in the divorce case. The answer is always, “all of them”. Part of my job as an attorney is to sort through those facts for you, prioritize them, analyze them and if necessary, present the most relevant facts to the judge or jury. Your role as a party to a divorce action is to divulge every fact to your attorney and to present him or her with the “complete picture”. You accomplish this by organizing your thoughts, keeping a timeline of events relevant to your case, obtaining and organizing all your financial information, and gathering all evidence you believe is essential to your case. Once you or your spouse have indicated that divorce is inevitable you need to begin reflecting and focusing on the details both past and present.
3. “Control your Destiny or Someone Else Will” – J.W.
Regardless of whether you are in agreement with the divorce or not, the divorce process is one of the most emotional experiences a person will live through. That being said, you need to remember that you will live through it. Also, remember that what is good for the soul is not always good for the case. Think before you act in response to your spouse. Before you send an e-mail or text message read it over, save it and send it later in the day when you are no longer emotional. Never forget that you may have to explain your actions or language choices to the judge or jury who will be deciding your case.
4. Expect the Unexpected from your Spouse:
Even in the least contentious divorce case, your spouse is going to surprise you. A person’s attitudes, beliefs, convictions and general outlook on life tend to change during the divorce process. Topics that you and your spouse always agreed to in the past may become a point of contention during the divorce. If your spouse has a sudden change in heart you will undoubtedly feel like he or she is being unreasonable and irrational. Unfortunately, you have no control over your spouse. One of the most significant mistakes clients make is trying to change their spouse’s opinion back to their “pre-divorce” position. This will only lead to frustration, wasted time and expense.
5. “Money often costs too much” -R.W.E.
Many clients are surprised at the cost of divorce. A person does not have a right to an attorney in a divorce case. However, failing to hire an attorney to handle your divorce case may lead to an unfavorable result. Attorney’s fees vary depending on the complexity of your case. If you do hire an attorney, make sure you understand the fees associated with filing and/or litigating your case. Be sure to ask about the attorney’s hourly rate and retainer policy. Remember to inquire about the costs of each strategy before agreeing to pursue a particular course of action. You need to have a comprehensive and proactive understanding of how your decisions will affect your invoice.