What I wish I knew before I filed for divorce

I wish when I was first facing the prospect of divorce, I had someone I could talk to who would help me process what I was feeling and tell me what I was supposed to do next. Someone who was not charging me by the minute and who understood how it felt to have your world change in the blink of an eye. I wanted someone to tell me that there was a roadmap to my future, that they had been there and could explain to me in a way I understood what my options were.

Everyone told me I needed to find an attorney as fast as I could and begin the process of divorce. I had no idea how to go about finding an attorney that was right for me. What questions should I ask? How was I going to pay for the retainer and how much would it cost me overall? I had no idea that there were so many things I could do and should do before thinking about an attorney.

I paid for consultations that I went to by myself, blindly and ignorantly asking questions perfunctorily because the answers didn’t hold meaning for me at the time. I was going through the motions of what I thought I should be doing and the whole time I felt lost, anxious and alone.

“They” say hindsight is 20/20 and I couldn’t agree more. If I had known then what I know now, not only would I have saved well over $100,000, I would have saved myself years of stress, worry and aggravation.

Although I have convincing experience from my own case to know there is an unmet need that exists for women facing divorce. I have seen and heard of a plethora of divorce cases where women have unknowingly taken bad advice from attorneys, friends & family and from those who have been through their own divorce(s). These women have reached the end of the divorce process with settlements or judgments that have taken a toll on them financially (both for their current needs and future needs) and emotionally.

Any assets that were available prior to the divorce have been reallocated to attorneys through exorbitant fees as they “battle” it out. Savings have been decimated and are now lining the pocket of attorneys who are using it to pay for their kids’ college education or to fund their retirement. This is not the end result most women are looking for when they seek a divorce or when their spouse decides he no longer wants to be married.

The complexities of Family Court create a system that is not looking out for the best interest of those (or their children) who must navigate it. You may think that what you are asking for is fair, right or just, but a judge may not see it from your perspective. The judge in Family Court has a wide berth of discretion in deciding your case including property distribution, alimony, child support and all the other factors that may be specific to your case. It is NOTat all what you see on television. The Court moves very slowly and demands rigorous adherence to procedure, rules of evidence and timelines. There is not free reign to tell a judge everything you want them to know if you are one of the unlucky 5% who cannot come to a settlement agreement and move on to litigation.

For many women who are in the throes of a divorce or of contemplating divorce, there is no frame of reference for the intricacies this journey will entail. It is very important to know that this has nothing to do with “intelligence” or with not having the educational background to understand how it all works when it comes to the process of divorce. Some of the savviest women I know with solid financial backgrounds and with doctorate level education under their belt, have been victimized by the system and lost a tremendous amount of their assets in the process. Shouldn’t they have known better? And if not, how are any of us able to survive the ordeal of divorce and come out of it secure, financially and emotionally?

What would I do differently if I was just starting now? I would find a divorce coach to be my thinking partner, to guide me as I become informed of all my options, to explain the details of the process to me from the perspective of someone who has been there, to keep me focused on what is important and what needs to be done and not let me get lost in my emotions, to understand that I have never been under so much stress and that I am anxious about facing the unknown.

I would work with a coach who has patience, is available and understands when I ask the same question more than once or twice. Someone who is knowledgeable about the process of divorce, the options that exist and who knows when I should retain an attorney and how I should utilize my time with him/her in order to save as much money as possible.

If only I knew then what I know now….

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