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Do I Need a Lawyer to Get Divorced?

I am asked this question by almost every coaching client in the beginning of their divorce process. People are sometimes hesitant to use a lawyer for fear of it making them “look mean”, spending thousands of dollars on legal fees when they can just do it themselves, or they simply have no idea how to begin to find one that will mesh with their values and goals. Makes total sense. However, we strongly recommend that you put those hesitations aside and add a lawyer to your list of go-to divorce resources.

Just because you are working with a lawyer doesn’t mean you’ll be in the courtroom battling it out. You could be having a do-it-yourself divorce (i.e. kitchen table divorce) or working with a mediator, and still receive the benefits of working with a divorce lawyer. Below are some thoughts about how to incorporate a divorce lawyer into your mediation or do-it-yourself divorce.

In the beginning…

If you are in the phase of contemplating divorce, it is a perfect time for that first conversation with a divorce lawyer. He or she will advise you on any precautions to take prior to having the conversation with your spouse. This could include issues around your children, whether or not you should stay in the marital home, or a variety of financial matters concerning having adequate cash and securing bank and credit card accounts.

Your lawyer will also guide you on how the state divorce laws apply to you and your situation. I cannot stress the importance of you fully understanding your rights. Even more importantly, your lawyer may see things you aren’t in terms of what may be the best parenting arrangement or financial settlement based upon your particular circumstances. For example, parenting time may not automatically default to 50/50 if the husband has an alcohol problem or the wife travels all of the time for work without having adequate family support. You also may think you need to split that inheritance from your Grandfather, when in fact it is all yours because the funds have remained in a separate account with your name only.

If you simply do the research to understand the laws and think you need to apply them at face value, you could be missing some items that seriously impact your children or your financial picture. It’s definitely worth the few billable hours with a lawyer to have complete clarity on your situation and likely outcome.

During…

As you progress through your divorce, it’s pretty likely that you’ll hit some speed bumps. You and your spouse may find yourselves in a situation where you cannot resolve at least one item. Your divorce lawyer may help you with a negotiation strategy where you could give in another area to get what is a higher priority to you. He or she can also advise on the likely outcome if this issue were to go to arbitration or litigation. Mediators are also an invaluable resource to help with this process. Just remember, mediators cannot give either party legal advice. That’s the job of your divorce lawyer!

The end…

Your documents could be prepared by a Mediator, or you could have completed them from the forms you downloaded online. Now that you have the final settlement documents in front of you, take them to your divorce lawyer for final review. This may seem like an unnecessary step and expense, but this precaution could save you greatly down the road. You may think you agreed to one thing, but the legal drafting might not quite capture the spirit of your agreement. If there is an issue later, the words on the page will prevail regardless of the intent. It’s best to suck up the couple of hours of legal fees to be on the safe side. Fixing an issue later will cost you much more! Trust me on this one. Unfortunately, I learned this one the hard way!

The percentage of divorces that are do-it-yourself increases every year. At the same time, many divorce lawyers share with me that most of their clients are dealing with post-divorce issues. That would tell me that too many issues are slipping through the cracks when a lawyer isn’t involved to give their expert advice. That said, I sincerely hope you consider this guidance carefully when making your decision about engaging a divorce lawyer.

Untangle The Knot has much more information on finding a divorce professional and working with your lawyer. Learn more about how we can be your — your go-to online divorce resource.



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Father’s Day 101 for Divorced Dads

Let’s face it: Celebrating Father’s Day as a divorced dad is just not the same. In the past, your wife may have helped the kids create hand-made presents while you enjoyed a relaxing day free of “honey-do” lists and being honored and loved by your family. Now the day may bring on feelings of sadness or failure or frustration that you weren’t able to make your marriage work or that your relationship with your kids has changed. Here’s how you can put a positive spin on the day so that it continues to be a meaningful celebration for you and your kids, no matter what the situation is.

If you won’t be able to see your kids on Father’s Day, it’s important that you still reach out to them. Set up a time without interruptions where you can call, Skype or FaceTime with them. Make the day even more special by sending them a handwritten note or card telling them how proud you are to be their father. If you will be able to see them at a different time, plan to celebrate Father’s Day together then.

And even if you aren’t able to see your kids on this special day, don’t forget to take some time for yourself. Schedule a game of golf with your buddies, go for a mountain bike ride or hike or grab dinner at your favorite restaurant.

If you have your kids for just part of the day, spend some time in advance planning out what special activity you would like to do together. Grab some sandwiches and hit the park to fly kites, throw a football around or ride bikes. Go for a hike, play a couple rounds of mini golf or plan a special meal you can make together.

If you have the kids for the whole day or weekend, make sure you have their typical nap, meal time and other schedules down pat so you can avoid any unnecessary meltdowns. Once again, get the kids involved in planning some activities. You could hit a baseball game or other sporting event together or have a “family movie night/slumber party”. If you know other divorced dads who have their kids for the day, send out invites for a kids/dad barbecue and lawn games.

When it comes to handling Father’s Day with your ex-husband, depending on the nature of your divorce, you may not be feeling a strong desire to shower him with gifts and celebrate his accomplishments as a father. But it is very important to support your kids in honoring their father; you must respect their relationship with him, and this is an opportunity to support that bond as you navigate your way through the ups and downs of the divorce process. Help them to pick out a gift for their father, encourage them to make cards for him, and do what you can to ensure they are able to spend some time with him.

The bottom line? Look at Father’s Day as an opportunity to get your kids involved in starting some new traditions. This will make the day much more enjoyable for everyone.  Dads – Leave a comment about how you plan to celebrate. Moms – leave a comment about how you are supporting your kids with Father’s Day.



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How to Break Up Like An Adult

The break-up–it can be good, bad or ugly. Or a little of all three. We’ve all experienced break-ups–everything from those first middle school “romances” and high school loves to long-term relationships and marriages. While the middle school and high school relationships seemed so traumatizing and “real” at the time, telling your spouse you want a divorce or ending a long-term relationship is a very tough thing to do–for both of you; this is when all this business of being an adult might just make you want to revert to those simple days of school romances–can’t you just have your best friend pass a scribbled note to your soon-to-be ex during math class saying it’s over and you’re sorry? Yes, in this day and age of texting, Tinder and Twitter, things like that still actually happen in a slightly different form. But when another human gives you his or her heart and their life, you owe them a dignified ending. You’ll feel better about yourself in the process, and you will be more likely to salvage a co-parenting relationship or friendship going forward. Let’s explore some real-life scenarios–I’ll start by leading with some bad examples.

Here’s what not to do:

Settlement Option A, B or C

It was just another ordinary evening for this couple, who had been married for 12 years and had a toddler and a newborn. Unfortunately, not unlike many other evenings, the bickering began. This time, he decided he had enough and left. Three days went by, and the wife finally heard from him, albeit indirectly. A family friend called her to let her know that her husband had retained him as his divorce attorney, and he was requested to provide her with three settlement options from which she could choose. This is how she learned she was getting a divorce from the man she had put through school and supported through his career. She later learned he had left her for his mistress. Four months later, the couple was divorced, and he married his mistress shortly thereafter.

iMessage Sent

Their love affair was fast and furious, and they spent every free minute of the day and night together of their two-year relationship. Their friends thought they were the perfect couple, and they regularly discussed their future together. Until one Saturday morning. He left to run some errands, and she went to work out. They were planning on getting back together in a few hours. He received a text from her, which he initially assumed was her letting him know she was on her way. Instead, the words left him cold. She didn’t love him. She wanted out. iMessage sent and message definitely received, with zero closure and leaving him to not only deal with the pain of the relationship ending, but the truly disrespectful, unfeeling manner in which she chose to end it.

You’ve Got Mail

After a couple of years together, he had to relocate for a job he couldn’t refuse. Unfortunately, she couldn’t go at that time. They knew their relationship was something special, and they didn’t want to let it go. They continued on for several more years, but the timing was never right for them to be together. Finally, on one of their too few visits, they made a plan. He was moving back, and they would start their lives together. Marriage was in their future. A few days after he left, he went dark. She called, emailed and texted, with no response. Then, on Monday afternoon, he sends her an email explaining that he’s going through “some things” and she should move on. Quite the unceremonious ending to a 10-year relationship that was on the cusp of marriage.

These are all true stories, as unbelievable and heart-breaking as they may sound. Hopefully none of these stories resonate with you, from either perspective! Let’s talk about doing the right thing–about being an adult and respectful of yourself and your partner. Relationships run their course and may come to an end. Feelings, circumstances and people may change. It happens. However, I’d encourage you to make the parting as respectful as possible. Whether you are married, living together or simply in a committed relationship, your relationship deserves an appropriate ending.

Six Tips for a Mature and Respectful Break-Up Conversation

  • Don’t Lie – There is no need to be unnecessarily harsh, but be wary of hiding behind a white lie to spare the feelings of the person receiving the news. Chances are, he or she will learn the truth and will feel worse as a result.
  • Choose the Right Time and Place – Telling him you don’t love him any more on his birthday in your favorite restaurant is not the right time or place. Pick a neutral location, a place where, if things get emotional, you won’t be the center of attention. Allow time for questions to be asked, versus having to rush off to another commitment as soon as you deliver the news.
  • Avoid Piling On – Try to be sensitive to what is going on in his or her life. Is he struggling with a medical issue, or is she dealing with the loss of a loved one, having serious issues with a child or did someone lose a job? I’m not recommending you stay around if the issue will take some time to resolve, however, try to break the news when the stress is at a lower point.
  • Do It In Person – Very few circumstances make anything other than a face-to-face discussion remotely acceptable. You once loved this person and he or she loves you. Show some basic respect and have the conversation in person like an adult.
  • Be Empathetic and Respectful – This situation is difficult enough without making it worse by being insensitive. Put yourself in his or her shoes, and talk to them as you would want for yourself.
  • Talk Logistics – If you are living together, and especially if you are married, you’ll need to talk about who will be moving out. Perhaps you can offer to leave for a few days to let the other person get their feet under them while you jointly decide on the right path.

This is obviously the tip of the iceberg if you are married, especially if you have children. If a divorce discussion is in your future, please learn more about how Untangle The Knot can support you through it. Among many other resources, you’ll receive helpful information and scripts for telling your spouse you want a divorce and scripts and other considerations for telling your children about your divorce. Ending any relationship is hard work; doing it the right way may be even harder, but in the end, it’s the best way.