The following is a guest-post from a friend that recently went through a divorce. I asked if they would write up some personal thoughts about the process. They asked that they remain anonymous, which I have honored. The below should be helpful to anyone going through a divorce or considering a divorce to see what another person’s perspective was on the process and the lessons learned.
Divorced: What I Learned – A Personal Experience.
Going through a divorce is not an easy process for anyone. It not only affects the participants in the divorce, but it can also have a significant impact on their family and friends. Couples that have been married for a long time need to be particularly sensitive to these issues. If there are children at home who are not yet emancipated, then child custody issues can be difficult waters to navigate. And of course, there are always the financial considerations as well, the cost of the divorce, living arrangements after the divorce, and so on.
Here is my personal experience. Even though I was married for many years and not happily married, I still felt betrayed when I was served with divorce papers. Feelings of anger, resentment, and abandonment abound. My first thought was that my spouse wasn’t getting any of my hard-earned money. I soon found out that in equitable distribution states such as NJ, the split is often 50-50, although not always necessarily so. In other words, it was considered our money whether I liked it or not.
The first step in the process was to hire an attorney to defend myself. I Interviewed several divorce lawyers prior to hiring (this is highly recommended). Ask yourself, do you want an attorney who is aggressive and adversarial? Or, do you want an attorney who seems reasonable and will help you settle quickly? I chose option 2, with the hope to settle as quickly and fairly as possible.
Although I made an excellent decision and was very happy with my divorce attorney, I wasn’t so fortunate with the opposing side (my spouse’s attorney). That attorney was unreasonable, buried us with paperwork and appeared as though the desire was to prolong the divorce proceedings for as long as possible. From my perspective, this was not good. The clock keeps ticking, attorney fees are soaring, hostility increases, and although usually upbeat, depression starts to take hold. The worst part of this situation is that you’re stuck. You can’t control the other attorney; all you can do is continue in good faith with efforts to work out a fair and equitable settlement.
In my case, things ended well. Why? My spouse (of his own free will) fired the attorney. Fortunately, my spouse could see that the attorney my spouse hired wasn’t acting in good faith to settle nor, was this attorney communicating effectively with my spouse.
After that, it was a matter of sitting down with my spouse and working out what we as a divorcing couple would consider fair and equitable to each of us. This took less than one-half hour. The information was forwarded to my divorce attorney who incorporated it into a Marital Settlement Agreement, which was then signed and notarized by both parties. Proceedings went quickly thereafter, as we appeared in court for an “uncontested” divorce.
If you are going through this process, what I encourage you to do is to sit down with your spouse and work out what you feel would be a fair and equitable arrangement. You may want to use a mediator to accomplish this.
Try to look at the big picture, your home (or homes), automobiles, pensions, savings, child custody arrangements (if applicable), medical insurance. Don’t get bogged down with insignificant stuff. And concede on certain conditions, if some of your more important terms are met. Remember the settlement agreement will probably not be perfect but should be as equitable as can be given the facts of the marriage. And If you can’t settle then others will do it for you. Do you really want strangers or one judge sitting on a bench splitting up your assets and deciding your future? I know I didn’t.