The legalities of divorce can be a hard thing to wrap your head around, especially when you’re going through the process. Divorce is such an emotional and life changing event that it’s hard to be aware of every little detail you need to know. When you go in with eyes wide open though, you can feel confident you’ll be able to get the best possible outcome for you and your family.
1. Don’t File Until You’ve Given It Time
Unless abuse is a factor, filing for divorce as a spur-of-the-moment decision often leads to higher levels of tension, anger, and sometimes a hefty amount of regret. It’s wise to take the time to really consider what you’re doing and to decide if the marriage can be saved. Take time to really weigh your options and calmly make your decision. That being said, once you take the plunge of filing for divorce, the decision can be undone. Like any lawsuit, a divorce suit can be dismissed at any time. While rare, couples do sometimes decide to reconcile after filing for divorce.
2. You Really Can’t “Win”…Except Sometimes You Can.
It’s understandable. You feel wronged by your spouse, and you feel you deserve to get everything you want in the divorce. A common cliché you’ll hear from divorce lawyers and perhaps your friends who are still bitter about the outcomes of their own divorce is that there are no winners in a divorce. Often, this is true. The emotional and financial toll exacted by litigation can make even a favorable outcome seem insignificant by comparison. At the same time, however, if you go to trial seeking primary custody of your child and get it, that’s a win. If you are awarded spousal maintenance from a spouse who doesn’t want to pay it, that’s a win. If the judge awards you a disproportionate share of the community estate because you were able to prove your spouse cheated, that’s a win. The point is, you don’t want a cynic representing you in your divorce, someone who will rush you toward a shotgun settlement, when a better outcome can be achieved if only your lawyer were a fighter who believed in your cause. We don’t often associate outcomes in divorce cases with “justice”—a term usually associated with keeping an innocent person out of jail, winning a civil rights battle, or obtaining a personal injury verdict against a negligent corporation—but for someone going through the personal hell of divorce, it’s all about justice.
3. Be Careful About Surveillance
You may be tempted to catch your spouse saying or doing something incriminating, but if you gather evidence the wrong way, the tables could end up turned on you. For example, electronic surveillance of conversations, as well as emails, faxes and voicemail, is regulated by federal law. Make sure you understand what you’re doing, or you could face civil and criminal sanctions.
4. Rein in Impulsivity
You’ll be faced with countless decisions during a divorce, many of which could be life changing. Will you need to sell the family home? Will you need to pull your children out of their current school? Don’t make these decisions on impulse. Take time to breathe, think through the consequences, and move forward only when you feel you’ve reached the right conclusion.
5. Divorce Is Not Fast
Expect your divorce to take between six months to a year to be finalized. Some divorces even take a year and a half. And things relating to your children can go on and on for years because parents often go back to court to modify their court order after it has been finalized.
6. Don’t Expect a 50/50 Division
Many factors go into the division of property in a divorce. The Texas Family Code requires courts to divide the community estate in a “just and right” manner. While in most cases, this translates into a 50-50 division of property, courts can consider other factors that might result in an unequal property division. These factors can include the education levels of the spouses, business opportunities of the spouses, relative financial condition of the spouses, relative health of the spouses, and more.
7. Think About Your Children’s Emotional Well Being
Remember your children are watching you through this divorce. Remember they will continue to spend time with and be influenced by your spouse. Do everything you can to hold your tongue when you really want to unleash on your spouse. Do what you can to maintain civility through the divorce, and consider finding an empathetic counselor to walk your children through their emotional processing.
8. Debt? What Debt?
Even if you don’t know about a debt your spouse has accrued, you could still be responsible for it, as debts are part of the community estate. And even if your spouse is assigned to pay for a debt, some creditors can still come after you to collect. For this reason, it is wise to close joint accounts and separate debts into individual spouse’s names. If you have a loan under both your names on your car or house, refinance the debt into the name of the person who will be keeping the asset.
9. Your Friend’s Divorce Is Not Your Divorce
You’ll hear plenty of advice from anyone who’s been through a divorce and from anyone who knows anyone who’s been through a divorce. Much of this “advice” will be passed off as truth, when in actuality, it’s simply the experience of one couple. Don’t get caught up in what happened to your neighbor. Focus on what’s happening in your own divorce.
10. Don’t Do It Alone
The legal and emotional complexities of divorce can leave you more and more confused and unsure by the day. Choose a qualified divorce attorney to walk you through the process and help you move on with the least amount of battle scars.
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