This will be the last blog post I write on the subject of divorce (dissolution is the legal term). It is time to let the past go and move forward with my new life. I hope the following lessons can help someone else who is faced with this life altering event.
When I was finally able sign the final Judgement for the dissolution of my marriage, I realized a few days later that it was one day shy of sixteen months from when I discovered my marriage was going to end (I was the respondent). Many have asked why my wife of 28 years filed for dissolution? Others have wondered when I noticed that something was amiss? I have struggle to answer these questions and many others. I have speculated on many factors but they do not provide an answer and only create more confusion. I have concluded the reason(s) will remain a mystery.
Over the years I have learned that when your world starts to come apart, start looking for the lessons. As one might imagine, I have learned many lessons during this complex, confusing, and perplexing process. The following are the lessons I have learned. They are by no means an exhaustive list nor have any order of importance.
1. Interview several attorneys before you retain one to protect your interests. Having an attorney that you are able to communicate with is extremely important. As with most things in life, experience is key. Ask around and research their background (this link to Avvo.com is one source of information). Listen to your attorney’s advice but don’t hesitate to ask questions. Family Law is extremely complex. Attorneys are their own boss and do not like to be challenged by their clients nor have their errors brought to light. Make sure your attorney provides a detailed invoice for each phone call, email and meeting so that you are not over changed for their services. This information should be included in the signed agreement between you and your attorney.
2. Where I live, if you do not respond to the lawsuit within 30 days of being served the lawsuit, you give up your rights to all your assets. You may find yourself in denial but be sure to respond to the lawsuit or you may lose everything.
3. Learn about the Family Laws in your state. Most states have websites with links to resources to understand the process. There were several aspects of the laws in my state that I learned after the fact that would have changed my decisions and saved me grief and attorney fees.
4. Community property division can be very contentious, stressful, and expensive when the attorneys become involved. In the end there are very few things that are worth paying the attorney fees to fight over. In talking with others who have been through this process, one party wants everything and the other just wants what they need to survive. The fact of the matter is is that in most states community property is supposed to be divided 50/50 for both assets and debts but that is not the case from what I have learned. Whoever gets the lions share of the assets will seek to assure the other party assumes all of the community debt.
5. Family Law is everything but fair. It is a frustrating process and will take a toll on your overall well-being, physical and emotional. You will most likely go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These are the same steps one goes through when someone close dies. Divorce is painful and extracts a very high emotional toll. Don’t be afraid to seek out help from your doctor to deal with the grieving you will go through.
6. From my research and observations, the amicable divorces are rare. Most divorces will have one person will want to complete the process as quickly and painlessly as possible and the other party will fight every decision and seek to cause emotional damage. They may even seek to destroy your reputation. The best advice I can give is to take the high road and do not allow yourself to be baited into a prolonged fight.
7. If you have children together, one parent will attempt to drive a wedge between the other parent and their children. Children should never be used as a weapon during a divorce. Keep the details to yourself and spare your children the grief of the dissolution process. As with number 6 above, take the high road. You will lose initially but eventually your children will figure out what is happening. I have seen this with a friends eight and ten-year old children as well as my two kids who were adults.
8. It will seem like the process will never end. But it will. The single most helpful piece of information I found was a letter written by Ms. Eileen Ansel Wolpe to a friend who asked her for advice on a divorce.
9. If you are in an abusive marriage, physical or emotional, divorce will be your only option and you should not hesitate to file. I was asked the question several times as to how long I was going to endure the emotional abuse? My answer at the time was that I was committed to my wedding vows. In hindsight that reasoning no longer makes sense. Each person needs to evaluate their situation and make the correct decision to be a petitioner (the person who files) or the respondent (the person who is served). A good attorney can help guide your decision (back to number 1).
My hope is that those reading this post will not have to experience going through the dissolution process. A divorce will try your patients, hurt on many levels, and leave you in a financial hole. It has been shared with me by several wise souls, who have been through a divorce, that with time the raw emotions will heal but scars will remain. As with physical scars, with time they too will fade. Now it is time for me live the life that is waiting for me.