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What You Don't Know in Divorce Can Hurt (and Cost) You

Tips and tools for making your marital dissolution as easy as it can be.

Going into a divorce situation is terrifying for the average person under average circumstances.

You will probably feel scared through most of this journey and much of the information you hear and read will seem overwhelming (especially in the beginning of the process). As insurmountable as divorce may seem, it isn’t. As I always tell my clients, divorce isn't easy but it's doable. Thousands of people get divorced every day. The key to a better divorce is in getting the support you need. One man who came in to see me jokingly asked, “What do I need, a divorce team?” and I said, “Yes, you do!”

You will need friends, family, and divorce professionals to guide you and be with you every step of the way and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you learn nothing else in your divorce process, I hope you will learn to ask for help when you need it.

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I have seen people suffer needlessly and make the process much harder than it needs to be simply because they lacked the facts and an understanding of the divorce process. Despite the large number of marital dissolutions in this country, those who face their first divorce (and sometimes subsequent divorces as well) still feel quite lost and overwhelmed and they are not given much information even on how to begin the process. These people have no idea what to expect mentally, emotionally, or financially. They often flounder and spend much more time, money, and energy than they would have had they been armed with the facts and choices available to them.

Making Mistakes

I know very few people who look back on their divorce and say that they made no mistakes. Just as in other areas of life, mistakes are an inevitable part of the process. If you become immobilized for fear of taking a wrong turn, you will almost assuredly make the process more difficult and expensive than it would otherwise be. You might even make more mistakes.

From what I have seen, those who err most are those who try to go it alone. Having the right divorce support professionals, and trusting that support, can make a big difference. Not only is it okay to ask for help, but it is also crucial in minimizing any negative impact the divorce may have.

When you know that mistakes are bound to happen, you will trust those working with and for you more and you will be more resilient when the errors occur. If you feel more unsure about an issue or more likely to make a mistake, you may want to get a second opinion before moving forward, but keep in mind that this can get extremely expensive.

I’ve worked with many people who are divorcing or even simply contemplating divorce who try to think their way through the process. It’s important to think through each step, but trying to consider every little thing that can go wrong will result in paralysis. At some point, you will just have to take the next action and trust that all will be well—maybe not as you planned or hoped, but well enough.

Ideas for Saving Resources

The more you know, the better you do.

There are three things I tell clients to do (regardless of their individual circumstances) to save time, money, and energy.

Susan Pease Gadoua
Source: Susan Pease Gadoua

1) Do research to find the best help and resources for your personal situation rather than following blindly what others have done before you. Read books (refer to the suggested reading list in the back of the book), read articles, and visit websites about divorce on the internet. Interview several attorneys for at least 10 to 15 minutes each (ideally, an hour) to get a sense of who would be a good fit for you. Ask each attorney about their area of expertise to make sure they are a good match for you.

Contact your local court or jurisdiction to ask about programs in your area that may provide low-fee or no-cost legal assistance to help you with your divorce.

2) Learn from others by talking to a variety of people about their divorce experience. Ask them what type of lawyer they had, what type of divorce they employed, and what special circumstances came up in their case. Ask them what they would do differently in their divorce process if they could turn back the clock. Involve other professionals such as financial experts, therapists, and real estate agents. You’d be surprised how much information you can get at low or no cost from these resources.

3) Trust your instincts: If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Many people feel that they should defer to the attorney, financial planner, or accountant because “they are the experts.” Keep in mind, however, that all of these people are working for you. You have the right to ask questions, say no to suggestions they may have, and otherwise be in charge of your own process.

The divorce proceedings will not seem so daunting once you start to gather the facts and figures you need. You will know more, waste less, and feel more confident.

When All Else Fails, Ask for More Help

I again encourage you to ask your neighbor to help you with carpooling, your mother to watch the kids for you, and your friend to pick something up at the store for you.

We all do too much on any given day but, during tough times, I promise you'll fare much better by reaching out for support.

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