As Philadelphia family attorneys we end up having to correct a lot of misconceptions about divorce. These misconceptions can impact how clients try to approach their divorce, and can lead them to wasting a lot of energy.
Sometimes this wasted energy just prolongs the process. Sometimes it leads to making bad decisions. Either way it draws focus away from the issues that really matter.
Here are the top five.
#1) Painting your spouse as a villain.
One of the hardest things we have to tell our clients is judges don’t care about bad behavior unless the behavior is dangerous, illegal, or abusive. If your spouse is doing or selling drugs, that will matter. If your spouse is an alcoholic, that matters. If you can prove abusive behavior, that matters.
The spouse’s affair doesn’t matter. Neither does his or her refusal to get a job. If he or she did certain things financially it might matter, or it might not.
Either way, trying to make sure everyone knows your ex is the bad guy is just a waste of time and energy. Most of the things that have you so furious won’t impact assets, debts, custody, or support payments in the least. These are the issues your divorce will be focused on.
#2) Fighting over every last point.
We don’t mean fighting over who gets the beloved bedside table (though this, too, is a waste of energy). We’ve seen people drag out divorces by quibbling over a few days, give or take, on a co-parenting schedule, too. It may seem important, until you really think about what you’re fighting about.
Before deciding whether to fight something, sit back and evaluate whether it really matters.
#3) Making unrealistic demands.
You want your ex to pay 80% of his or her income as alimony for life? Good luck. Lifetime alimony is rare. In some cases, getting alimony at all is becoming rare, even for stay-at-home Moms. Ratchet back your expectations.
The divorce is not a tool to “screw over” your ex, or to punish him or her. It’s a tool for dividing assets and liabilities, and for making sure the best interests of the children are seen to while you dissolve the legal relationship created by you and your spouse by virtue of creating the marriage.
We can tell you exactly what a judge is likely to do if you take the matter all the way to trial. You should probably keep your demands somewhere within that ballpark.
#4) Getting hung up on what’s “fair.”
Divorce isn’t about what’s fair. It’s about what’s equitable under the law, which is an entirely different issue. If the process works correctly it’s likely neither you nor your spouse will be entirely happy with the arrangement that emerges. Then again, if it works correctly neither of you should be entirely miserable about it, either.
Of course, what’s equitable boils down to a lot of complex factors, and it’s important to consider every one of them. It’s very difficult to do this alone, which is one reason why we, your attorneys, are here to help you at every step of the way.
#5) Asking family members and friends for advice.
Friends and family members mean well. And tend to have opinions about everything.
A lot of the time, those opinions come from sources which aren’t very reliable. They’ve heard bits and pieces about certain issues while watching television. Maybe they don’t understand the complexities of their own half-remembered divorce, and assume the way something went for them is the way it’s going to go for everyone.
They want to help. They want you to feel better. So they say whatever they think is right.
But unless your friends or family members are divorce attorneys, they don’t know what they’re talking about.
This issue of friends and family members giving bad advice which should be left to professionals isn’t unique to divorces, of course, but the result is usually the same: you end up second-guessing yourself, making risky moves, and creating problems.
Keep most of your information about your divorce to yourself during the process. Talk about other things. Let your friends and family members take your mind off matters rather than get involved with them. It’s better for everyone.
What to Do Instead
Once you’ve sidestepped all these energy-wasters you can focus on the real issues. Setting goals for your divorce. Finding an attorney to guide you and following that advice. Doing your best to stay calm, reasonable, and amicable.
If you can do all that you’ll come out better than most.
Want to talk about your divorce case? We offer free consultations. Contact us to schedule yours today.