9 Common Misconceptions About Divorce and 5 Powerful Actions to Take Right Now

Divorce is probably one of the most anxiety producing events that you can experience in your lifetime.

After all, the only people who really know about the divorce process are lawyers and people who have gone through it. 

And from those who went through it, it’s the worst experiences that have the loudest voices.  You rarely (if ever) hear about a positive divorce experience – for no other reason than people just don’t talk about it. 

When we fear the unknown, it’s very common to dream up the worst-case scenarios and convince ourselves the worst will happen.  I like to call these worse case scenarios fictional beliefs.  They are without actual “proof.”

It is human nature to search out “proof” that is consistent with our beliefs, while disregarding anything that is not consistent.  That’s why you might rely on as “proof” the worst ever divorce experienced by your mother’s cousin’s brother’s half-sister’s neighbor.  Or you search on the internet and see the horror stories of never-ending divorce trials.  Or you turn on the news to see sleazy-looking lawyers that you wouldn’t want anything to do with – ever.  You get it.

It’s the same reason that you might be reluctant to search out more “proof” because it’ll only validate the fictional story you already tell yourself.

The 9 most common fictional beliefs I often hear include:

  1. I will be forced to leave my home.
  2. My kids will be emotionally scarred.
  3. I feel guilty breaking up my family and hurting my kids.
  4. I will never see my kids.
  5. I will be penniless.
  6. I will lose my pension or retirement plans.
  7. The legal fees alone will bankrupt me.
  8. I’ll never survive the stress of it all.
  9. I won’t be able to live alone (worse yet, I’ll die alone).

But is this really productive?  Is it empowering?  Of course not.  What it does do is keep you immobilized day after day in the same miserable environment. 

I have found that the best way to deal with fear is to take action.

First, however, get grounded by knowing your value and who you are and what’s important to you.  That is something sure and concrete that can never be taken away from you. 

Visualize what you want your future to look like, in as much detail as possible.  Then take a deep breath and do the following 5 things:

  1. Consider the risks of remaining stagnant and what it’s costing you.

You might ask yourself what your life will be like if you don’t take action.  First and foremost, consider the very real potential for emotional harm to your kids from living each day in ongoing conflict.  Unfortunately, I know this all too well.  At 13 years old, I was pulled into the bitter divorce and custody war between my parents.  Every night my sister and I were forced to hear the screaming fights, and during the days, the cold silence.  It got to the point that I begged my parents to get a divorce.  It was a relief when my father finally moved out.

Every day that goes by is one more day your kids will experience the hurt of ongoing conflict.  Children deserve the best of both parents.  They deserve to see what a healthy relationship looks like so they can model one someday.

At the same time, your life will be put on hold.  Every day delays you from investing in that new home, landing that new job and everything else you have been putting off out of fear.  The reality, however, is that you do have control.

Instead, resolve to set an example for your kids of what life should be like. They deserve the best of you.

From a legal standpoint, if you and your spouse have children and are already living apart, in general, it can be more difficult for the parent who does not have primary custody to gain additional time with the children.

Financially speaking, the longer the marriage continues, the more likely the values of marital assets, such as homes, business, and pensions, as well as marital debt may either increase (entitling your spouse to a greater share); or decrease (entitling you to receive a lesser value); the more likely any marital debt that has increased in value could obligate you to contribute a greater share; and/or the more likely your alimony obligation may be extended if you are the primary wage-earner.

  1. Make a pact with your spouse to resolve your divorce civilly respectfully and amicably.

 This includes a commitment by each of you to use lawyers who are settlement focused and attuned to your goals for your children and your financial futures.

  1. Make a list of all of the assets and debts acquired during the marriage, preferably with your spouse.

For instance, access your online banking or contact your financial planner, if you have one, for a list of all accounts in either or both of your names with current values.

  1. Identify the legal issues to be resolved.

 Make a list of issues that you and your spouse will need to resolve, for example, custody and parenting time, child support, alimony or other type of spousal support, division of marital assets and debts. 

Ideally, you should make some significant decisions together, such as what to do with the marital residence and other real property, where the children will live, and develop a parenting schedule. 

As difficult as this might be, it will be far better than handing off control to the court and the lawyers and paying them tens of thousands of dollars to make such personal decisions for you.

  1. Get the real facts about fees.

I’ve found that many people are reluctant to speak with a lawyer because not only does it make the divorce “real,” they are fearful of learning that their worst fears will be true.  In my experience, however, the opposite is true.  Most people are relieved to hear that they have many options in terms of how to approach the divorce process as well as the outcome.  They often feel a sense of confidence and control. 

It’s important to remember that if you’re going to make big decisions in your life, you need information. As the saying goes, knowledge is power.

We generally wouldn’t make any other major life decision without knowing what it costs and what it will be like.

Therefore, get a few good and solid recommendations for lawyers who focus on divorce and family matters.  You don’t want to talk to somebody who dabbles in family law.   Just because someone you know recommends a lawyer, you want to avoid someone who deals with real estate, traffic violations, personal injury – and also family law.  Family legal issues are very unique and the law and legal process is very specified.

Ask the lawyer how you can resolve these issues by agreement.  If you don’t like the answer, consult with another lawyer until you find one who will seek to achieve a divorce agreement for you without dragging you through the litigation process.  Ideally, lawyer you hire will give you an idea of the fees involved and will seek to minimize them through a cost-effective process that will be to your ultimate benefit.

Remain focused on not allowing fictional beliefs created by fear to control or immobilize you.  Own and take control of your fears.   Gather the information, form a plan, and take action.  Ultimately, go for what you want your life to look like.  You’re going to get through this.

If you found value in this post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend or sharing it on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.  Thank you!

 

 

 

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