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Amicable Divorce

What is an Amicable Divorce? 5 Ways to Ensure One

When seeking a divorce, many couples do everything within their power to simplify the process. And the simplest solution is an amicable divorce, which may significantly facilitate the overall proceedings.

And yet, it may not be that easy to reach an agreement regarding all your divorce-related issues, especially following a heated breakup. Nevertheless, there are several ways to ensure a peaceful divorce. So without further ado, let’s review the amicable divorce definition and learn ways to divorce amicably.

What Is an Amicable Divorce?

Some couples choose to proceed with an amicable divorce, meaning they both agree to the terms and conditions, including marital property division, spousal support (alimony), child custody and support, visitation, etc. It is much easier to go through a divorce if the spouses manage to avoid litigation and create a divorce settlement agreement.

Amicable divorce has gained popularity because it saves time and money on costly attorneys and allows spouses to save their nerves by avoiding lengthy and exhausting fights.

Several Approaches to an Amicable Divorce

Those couples considering an amicable divorce may look into several options for their divorce, which include:

  • Uncontested Divorce
  • Collaborative Divorce
  • Mediation Divorce
  • Do It Yourself (DIY) Divorce, or
  • Therapist Counseling

Let’s take a closer look at each option.

Uncontested Divorce

An “uncontested divorce” implies that it is handled out of court by the spouses themselves. In this case, they sort out their divorce-related issues amicably and come up with a Marital Settlement Agreement.


For more, read our “What’s the Difference between an Uncontested Divorce and a Contested Divorce?”


Collaborative Divorce

Such a divorce is handled out of court when soon-to-be-ex spouses agree to negotiate while retaining separate counsel. This way, the couple saves time and money and keeps their divorce process fast and straightforward. Being able to reach an agreement without the judge involved shortens the process. In addition, if the spouses decide to hire their own lawyers, they may facilitate communication.

Mediation Divorce

This option implies that the parties resolve their divorce-related issues out of court but with the help of mediation services. A mediator is a neutral third party who assists the couple in their disputes. Unlike lawyers, a mediator’s key challenge is to ensure an open dialogue between the parties to move towards a mutually-beneficial agreement.


To consider what you might be doing (and how to sequence steps), check out our “55 Must-Do’s on your Modern Divorce Checklist.”


Do It Yourself (DIY) Divorce

Sometimes called the Kitchen Table Approach, a DIY Divorce is the cheapest option, as it doesn’t require any expensive legal assistance. In a DIY divorce, spouses agree to all their post-divorce arrangements and proceed with their divorce without attorneys. Considering it may be challenging to handle the whole divorce process without legal assistance, spouses can consider an online divorce that provides some structure to the process and helps facilitate the paperwork and filing stage of their divorce.


Read more here: “How Does An Online Divorce Work? And Should You Get One?”


Therapist Counseling

And last but not least, therapist counseling may be a wise decision for couples who are willing to keep their communication efficient to facilitate an amicable agreement. This option is best if the divorce is preceded by heated arguments and strong emotions. The therapist will be able to cool things down between the spouses and encourage a friendlier divorce.

5 Tips on How to Navigate an Amicable Divorce

The right path to an amicable divorce is to keep things respectful and calm. Almost every divorce starts with finger-pointing; however, it doesn’t have to be this way. To ensure a peaceful divorce, the spouses must clearly understand the benefits of the amicable process, such as: saving time and money, protecting the children from conflicts and toxic co-parenting, avoiding lengthy and exhausting litigations, and promoting better mental health for everybody in the family, etc.

Here are 5 tips on how to have an amicable divorce.

#1. Get qualified assistance if you need one

Once you’ve decided that you want an amicable divorce, it’s essential to ensure you have all the tools you need. For some couples, handling their emotions and feelings can become the biggest challenge when negotiating the terms of their amicable divorce settlement.

Thus, it may be wise to seek qualified assistance for your divorce process to go smoothly, whether it’s consulting with a divorce coach to ensure the healthiest steps are taken and in the right order, hiring a divorce lawyer to provide legal advice, considering mediation services to improve the communication between you and your spouse, or just looking for a therapist.

Sometimes a third party allows the couple to keep things civil. But, all in all, it’s much easier to handle your divorce papers when you can ensure that everything is discussed and settled fairly.

#2. Keep your expectations realistic

The word “amicable” doesn’t necessarily mean an easy divorce. Its complexity is totally up to both spouses. So prepare yourself for it and get ready for what you may face.

Some couples find counseling in a therapist’s office handy for navigating the expectations of their divorce process. In addition, counseling can significantly help the spouses prepare for co-parenting after the divorce. Let the therapist work out your feelings and prepare you for a realistic divorce with all its consequences.

A therapist may also help you avoid getting carried away by old grudges and bottled-up feelings while making arrangements for your divorce settlement agreement. After all, it’s only reasonable that your agreements are just and fair and mutually beneficial. And to achieve this, you have to keep your feelings in check and your mind sound.

#3. Work through the terms of your settlement agreement with respect

In some cases hiring a divorce lawyer to handle your divorce negotiations can be a mistake. Some divorce lawyers are qualified to handle an amicable divorce, whereas others tend to go after confrontational and downright hostile proceedings.


This means you must understand the reputation of the lawyer you hire.  Make sure you ask the lawyers you interview how many cases they settle in a year and how many require their going to court. For more smart questions to ask a divorce attorney, visit our important piece: “Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney at a Consultation.”


Of course, when you’re negotiating the terms of your settlement agreement, you should keep your interests in mind. However, it doesn’t mean that there is no place for compromise. On the contrary, keeping your relationship civil and respectful and getting along during the negotiation process is much more crucial in the long run.

This is particularly relevant for those spouses with children. No one will benefit from you and your spouse becoming mortal enemies, and what’s more, it may end up being incredibly traumatizing for your kids. It’s best to remember dignity and respect and get qualified assistance if your negotiations get out of hand.

#4. Focus on your child’s needs

Amicable divorce with a child can become rather challenging as it involves lots of arrangements. Child custody, child support, and visitation (parenting time) must be resolved considering the child’s best interest. And spouses looking for a fast and straightforward divorce should be ready to reach an agreement out of court, as child custody issues may prolong the litigation significantly if handled by the court.

The goal of an amicable split is to keep the divorce uncomplicated, even with custody issues. Typically, the spouses need to sit down and discuss paragraph by paragraph which arrangement will work best for their children to provide a healthy and stable environment.


Determining child custody can be the most challenging aspect of the divorce process. It’s important to know the facts in order to take the necessary steps to achieve what’s best for you and your children. Read our “Best Advice on Custody for Divorcing Moms.”


If it seems impossible to agree on some custody issues, the couple may hire mediation services. The mediator will help them keep the negotiations reasonable and mutually beneficial regarding the child’s wellbeing.

#5. Negotiate the terms of your divorce agreement in good faith

Engaging in “good faith negotiations” is the best you and your spouse can do to end the marriage in a good place. A good faith negotiation means that both spouses have nothing to hide and are willing to reveal all relevant financial information.

When you separate from your spouse amicably, it is much easier to be frank about your assets, debts, income, bank accounts, etc., which simplifies the negotiation process. In addition, openness will allow you to tackle all the existing issues such as marital property division, alimony, custody, or anything else without any obstacles along the way

The amicable divorce process is not a myth, yet it’s not the easiest procedure. When an amicable divorce with no assets or kids involved takes place, it may save you an incredible amount of time and money, so long as you’re willing to cooperate. There are no issues that cannot be resolved, whether independently or with the help of a lawyer, mediator, or therapist. An amicable divorce requires effort, but it will be worth it in the end.

Notes

Jamie Kurtz is a divorce lawyer and a member of the LA County Bar Association and the State Bar of California. She’s a co-founder of a law firm dealing with uncontested divorces and a contributing writer for OnlineDivorce.com, an online divorce papers preparation service.

Since 2012, SAS for Women has been entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusion afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Surviving an Affair

The Stages of Surviving An Affair

Relationships can be complicated. At the very least, they’re complex because people are complex. And at no time is that more evident than when a married couple is in the throes of surviving an affair. This includes opposing sides of the betrayal, and a possible re-negotiation of commitment to the marriage.

Infidelity used to be largely a man’s game. And wives were often tolerant while suffering in silence, mainly because they had to be. Wives of yesteryear often relied financially on their husbands, keeping them trapped in these types of unhealthy marriages.

But the surge of women entering the workforce from the 1960s on, coupled with the feminist movement, changed things.

Gradually, the dynamics of relationships, marriage, and even infidelity began to shift. Women were now on the same playing field as men, at least physically, and they were exposed to the same “opportunities.”

Statistics on affairs vary, in part because research relies largely on self-disclosure. But they all huddle close enough to drive home an important trend: Infidelity is no longer just a man’s game. (Check out, “The Cheating Wife Phenomenon”.)

One study found that 15% of women and 25% of men had cheated on their spouses. And that number doesn’t include “emotional affairs” that don’t involve physical cheating.

So what are your chances of surviving an affair if you fall into these statistics? 

Whether you are the betrayed or the betrayer, can you put the pieces of your marriage back together? And, if so, how?

First of all, the short answer is yes. Infidelity is survivable. Couples prove that every day.

But how they survive it—and how their marriages look on the other side—well, that’s really why you’re here, right?

If you are the betrayed, you will undoubtedly spend a lot of time lamenting “should you stay or should you go?”

Even if you are the cheating spouse, you may anguish over the same question, but for different reasons.

After the initial shock of discovery or disclosure calms, there is the opportunity for clarity. And no good decision is ever made without clarity.

If you have hopes of your marriage surviving an affair, be prepared to go through a series of stages—difficult, painful, excavating, exhausting stages.

  • Discovery or disclosure

    There is always that unforgettable moment. A cheater gets lazy with the lies, a spouse gets suspicious or accidentally stumbles upon evidence, or there’s a confession.

    Whether you’re the one left in shock or the one left in shame, this moment is the beginning of a long road ahead.

  • Emotional overwhelm

    If you’re the betrayed spouse, and even if you’ve been giving a cold shoulder to your suspicions, learning the truth is emotional.

    You will feel to a degree that may seem unforgivable. Shock, devastation, sadness, hurt, anger, loss—they will all flood in and jockey for position.


Consider reading, “How to Survive Divorce. Especially if It’s Not What You Want.”


The important takeaway of this stage, at least for the sake of surviving an affair, is that now is not the time to make any major decisions.

  • Stopping the affair

    One thing absolutely must happen if your marriage is going to survive this infidelity: The affair has to stop. Completely. No “kind-of,” “just friends,” or “sneaking around.” The ultimatum must happen.

    As logical as this may sound, it’s not necessarily a no-brainer for the cheating spouse.

    Depending on the degree of involvement with the affair partner, a “one-night stand” cut-off may not be so simple.

    After all, the affair partner is a person, too, despite the indiscretion. And the cheating spouse may be vested in that relationship beyond just the sex.

    But your marriage can’t proceed with healing unless there is the confidence of no other relationship existing in the background.

  • Grief

    It’s an inevitable passage through any loss, and it doesn’t ask permission. Grief will happen, whether or not you welcome it.

    As difficult as it is to believe, your grief and all that you are experiencing in terms of emotions will be easier to survive if you recognize, acknowledge, and embrace them.

    Why is that important to know upfront?

    Because grief isn’t linear. It gives the stage to whatever needs the spotlight at the moment: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.


Grief may not be what you think it is. Learn more. Read “Divorce Grief and 3 Myths.”   


Some theories include pain and guilt before anger and depression, loneliness, and reflection after.

The relevance of grief to surviving an affair? You are saying goodbye to your marriage as you remembered it and hoped it would be.

  • Discussing the affair and your marriage

    This is the long, drawn-out, painful, exhausting stage of surviving an affair, and it’s best done with professional guidance.

    There will be the obvious need for the cheater to answer slews of questions.

    There will also be the need for the betrayed spouse to balance what is necessary to know and what is really about wanting to know.

    The importance of this stage isn’t limited to discussion of the affair, however. This is the time when you will be dissecting your marriage, too.

    While there is never a good excuse that gives license to cheating, affairs don’t exist in a vacuum.

    If you are going to go forward with and safeguard your marriage, you will both have to be fearless in examining your marriage.

    How and where was it vulnerable? What negatives have you brought to it? What positives have you withheld?

    Both of you are going to have to step up and take responsibility for your marriage – past, present, and future.

    A therapist, husband-wife therapist team, or a coach that specializes in marriage and infidelity can be a lifeline throughout your post-affair process. You really shouldn’t DIY such a critical journey.

  • Acceptance

    After the shock has worn off and you are entrenched in the work of repair, you will move into acceptance.

    This isn’t about accepting infidelity as “OK.”

    It’s simply about accepting the fact that your marriage, like millions of others, has experienced it.

    And the relationship you are working on now will be “new,” as it will reflect the choices, lessons, and pain of this experience.

  • Reconnection.

    When you reach this point in surviving an affair, you may look back and marvel at what your relationship has accomplished.

    This is the stage of truly living again.

    You have already accepted that your marriage will never be the same as it was before the affair.

    But you have done the work and earned the right to say, “That’s a good thing.”

Surviving an affair isn’t simple or formulaic, despite the stages presented to help you through it.

It also isn’t easy. At all.

To the contrary.

And not all couples survive it…or should.

Only you and your spouse truly know if there is something worth fighting for…

…and something worth forgiving.

Notes

Choose not to go it alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you—and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Top reasons for divorce

Top Reasons for Divorce. Are You Living This?

Suspicious of getting trapped in a marriage that might erode, my friend and I used to joke that we could get our peers to leave a perfectly good relationship. In remaining single, we weren’t necessarily afraid of the infamous “Top Five Reasons” for divorce. It was more of a disinclination to trade freedom for emotional comfort, if that comfort came with a loss of agency and intrusion of the state by way of the church.

We were also in our free-range 20s, perhaps a little cocky about what we felt entitled to vs. what we could reasonably predict would be best for us down the road.

Thankfully, we never did convince anyone to leave a happy marriage but we did talk a friend through her separation, fearing the change of divorce, and eventually into a happy departure from a husband she felt devalued her.

Long-Term Perspective

Now, at 50, we’ve won some wisdom, self-knowledge and more importantly, some much-needed humility. With all that and the perspective of age, we wouldn’t recommend being that cavalier about leaving a good partnership with a good man – all joking aside. They’re precious, these unions, even with the inevitable dusting of routine, occasional boredom, little resentments, stress, change, family demands, compromises and the sheer effort that intimate partnerships require of us even when they are excellent.

If we can remain honest about addressing our own issues and not project our unhappiness about ourselves onto our mates, and remain hand-in-hand with a someone who loves, supports and understands us, a lot of us would recommend it. Someone who we fell in love with so much it was worth the gamble of believing we could still be happy with them decades later is someone worthy of cherishing even in the midst of day-to-day exhaustion and conflict. If you can breathe life into your own individuality and be yourself in your marriage and your mate can do that as well, keep each other.

In this instant gratification, single-use, image-driven epoch, withstanding years and decades together and reveling in how time marks our lovers’ faces, bodies and souls may be a critical balancing point in returning a measure of wholeness to the planet.

How Culture Affects Marriage

Women are worth being valued both in an older physicality and beyond the physical; men are worth being valued beyond the bread-winning. If you made that promise, said “I do,” and you can be in the marriage organically, authentically and still see a glimmer living flame in each other’s hearts, protect and keep that union and that person with everything you’ve got.

Marriage is not disposable. It’s not a meme. It’s not about the dress or the wedding pictures or what we can post on Facebook. A healthy marriage is a gift that is worth the tending; it can yield years of joy with committed teamwork. It’s the art of creating an emotional ecosystem; it takes time for all the elements to evolve together.

This being a divorce site, there is a lot of attention given to getting out of marriages but it’s always worth reminding ourselves of why staying in them is glorious magic if we can make it.

That said, we all know that not all marriages or partnerships are excellent or even good, fine or functional. Some husbands, wives and relationship dynamics reveal their toxicity after the exchange of rings and promises. Sometimes even when they are good, it’s still necessary to leave. And when it comes to the undeniable top reasons for divorce, it can feel acutely imperative to do so. Take your time. (Consider reading, “#36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”)

When we’ve reached that point, it’s critical to give ourselves the gifts of acceptance, gentleness and patience. It is normal to grieve, not only what was but what was once possible. It’s normal to be afraid, to talk ourselves out of it many times, to be angry, elated, rebellious and frequently, a thousand other emotions a minute. Each of us has our own process through this but that doesn’t mean we’re alone. We not only give each other permission to move through it in our own way, but offer each other a context for what can be a strange yet empowering journey.

The Biggies

Infidelity, money problems, communication break-down, lack of intimacy and addiction: these are the Big 5 top reasons for divorce, which are indicative of issues not always but often beyond repair.

Infidelity:

Perhaps the most visceral and painful of the top reasons for divorce, infidelity is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of what would cause us to say unequivocally, “Absolutely not.” There’s a lot of it, too. Among Baby Boomers in the 57-75 age range, 25 percent of men and 10 percent of women have cheated. Just two generations later, among Millennials aged 25-40, females outnumber their male counterparts for infidelity with 11 percent of women cheating versus 10 percent of males.

And cheating packs a huge emotional punch. Money issues and communication break-downs are probably far more common, but sex with someone other than your wife or husband is a headliner because it hits our mates at such a vulnerable, primal level. Cheating takes all kinds of different forms, from a surprise encounter to long-term affairs (consider reading, “The Cheating Wife Phenomenon.”) but any of it cracks the foundation of trust between two partners and is difficult to forgive. It takes a lot of work and sincere re-commitment to do that, whether we stay with a cheating partner or not. Understandably, many choose not to. Even with that, it is not just possible to come back from it with the union intact, but with the right kind of professional help, the re-commitment in infidelity’s aftermath can make for an even stronger bond.

Lack of Intimacy:

Another face of a marriage’s sexual dynamic and one of the primary causes of infidelity, lack of intimacy is the emotional desert of the Top 5 reasons for divorce.

It’s starvation mode, denied fulfillment, a girdle and chastity belt on sexual expression and joy.  There are so many different reasons for a lack of desire, from unexpressed trauma or hormonal imbalance, to changing attraction, insecurity, simple preference or physiological discomfort. Communication breakdowns between partners may create a lack of emotional intimacy that form the root of the physical intimacy issues.

It’s our right to say no, always, and yet, it is also everyone’s right to their sexuality, provided it is based on informed consent and a lack of harm to others. If denial of a partner is something that can’t be resolved, does it seem fair to expect that our partner live without fulfillment of this primal human experience for the duration of a marriage?

It may be that lack of intimacy and/or cheating provide an opportunity to get creative with the relationship dynamic. Sexual expression is a foundational part of being alive. If two people love each other and want to remain in an otherwise successful and happy marriage, perhaps bringing in outside, professional help to come up with an alternative to divorce is the answer.

Money Problems:

Money issues are both the drudge and the task master of the Big 5 top reasons for divorce. They require all of the communication skills of sex or parenting and yet have few of the glimmering, laughing highlights. They’re draining, complicated and possibly generate more nagging, nitpicking resentment than any other issue. They are as fraught with the power dynamic as sex and communication and are tied most directly to simple survival.

So, if spouses can’t find common ground in their spending priorities, they create a great deal of conflict. And unless both spouses are earning a living and there’s an even spread of financial responsibility and say-so, there is a lot of room for a power deficit for the spouse who doesn’t have the clout of the dollar behind them.

When women are considering a divorce, it’s comforting to know that they shouldn’t expect themselves to understand all of the financial nuances. (Check out “Smart Moves for Women: A Financial Consultation for a Divorce.”) There are a lot of them and it often takes a specialist like a CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) to pinpoint all the loopholes and leveraging points. Additionally, divorce coaches and other professionals spend a great deal of time and expertise directing women toward financial self-education and strategy.


If you are looking for clear steps to take and thoughtful advice on the divorce process if you are woman, read our “55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”


Communication Issues:

Woven throughout the other top reasons for divorce is communication. It’s the common thread running through all human relationships and interactions. Without it, nothing else happens and nothing else is fixed.

The Gottman Institute calls criticism, contempt, stonewalling and defensiveness “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” for a marriage. When it comes to communication, there’s actually a whole herd of horses that can step on this subtle, essential and often complicated part of human interaction.

Know that you are in very good company if communication is a challenge for you and your spouse. Most people, most couples, have trouble with it in one way or another. And sometimes it is not possible to communicate effectively with someone, particularly if they refuse to take responsibility for themselves. Each of us impacts everyone else around us and no one is right all the time.

We shouldn’t continually stifle our own authentic selves to satisfy someone else’s needs or make them comfortable, but we do need to take an honest look at ourselves and change if necessary. Get a good therapist; having an objective third party play referee and help us identify patterns and underlying unconscious beliefs that impact how we speak to each other (or don’t) can be invaluable.


Learn more. Read “27 Cautionary Signs You May Be in a Toxic Marriage.”


Addiction:

As the most tragic of the Big 5 top reasons for divorce, addiction eventually poisons our relationship with ourselves and causes us to choose a substance, a thing, an attitude, a simple activity over our own self-worth or our loved ones. It begins with a single choice and turns it into a habit and eventually a compulsion so that despite its initial insignificance, it spreads like kudzu over the structure of marriage. A drink, a hand of cards, an unnecessary purchase, an addiction to the computer (or what you find on it), a religion or even a belief in one’s own rightness over another, it is something that may seem small at first, that begins as an isolated event, but eventually morphs from snowball to avalanche.

Addiction drains motivation, joy, vitality and monetary resources. It’s an agent of lies and mistrust. Like all the other major issues, it often requires outside help. All of us have an attachment or dependence on something, whether or not we realize it. Some addictions are more corrosive than others. It’s always possible to stop it; sometimes will power is enough, but more often than not, like the other big root causes of divorce, it takes outside intervention.

A marriage is worth fighting for but so are we. Sometimes it is not possible to stay with someone in order to love them or to love ourselves.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

Choose not to go it alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you — and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Divorce Checklist for the Modern Woman

The 55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist

Once you’ve reached an internal decision to divorce, you probably wonder what the external steps to the process will entail. The truth is that your journey is just beginning, and in order to determine the best possible outcomes, you’ll want to be educated and prepared. You may find yourself exhausted searching the internet for answers, only to feel more confused than when you began. We understand this, which is why, drawing from our decade-long, divorce coaching practice, we’ve compiled our most thorough divorce checklist to help you stay focused on what’s important.

A few critical reminders before we get started: Never threaten divorce unless you are ready and organized to file. While you may be anxious to get started with your new life, it’s important that you hold off on filing until after you’ve worked through some of the important frameworks we outline below.

Also, if you have had a divorce thrown at you, do not agree to anything until you are legally informed of your rights and entitlements. Chances are your spouse has been planning this for a long time and you deserve time too to catch up with how things will be split and what is fair for you.  Do not be pressured into agreeing to anything. This is most often a tactic on your spouse’s part to ensure the process takes place fast and before you can advocate for your rights.

Most importantly, do not begin with the list below if you are dealing with abuse. Instead, read our safety guidelines for leaving an abusive marriage. There are other, critical steps to take first.

For those ready to begin the work of getting educated and putting their plan into action, here is a holistic approach to supporting you — and the smart steps to take. Here are your 52 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.

Your first black and white steps…

1. Begin by getting a free credit report.

You’ll want to check it for any errors or open accounts that you may not know about. This will also prompt you to start paying attention to your credit score. You’ll want a good credit score, or work on nurturing one, so you can rent an apartment, qualify for a mortgage, or begin the process of establishing your personal financial identity. You can get a copy of your free, current credit report from Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.

2. Open a checking and savings account in your name at a new bank. 

Go to a bank that you and your spouse don’t currently use (—think fresh starts, so there’s no risk of any confusion between names and accounts). We also recommend you use a large institutional bank so you take advantage of the bank’s various complimentary services and professionals who can help you establish your independence, like mortgage specialists or certified divorce financial analysts and planners.

3. Open a credit card in your name alone.

This is another step toward building your personal credit. Research the best credit card for your lifestyle. Consider one that pays you back with cash toward your statement or cash to your savings.

4. Make a list of all your assets: everything you OWN individually and as a couple.

Don’t forget less obvious things like airline miles, perks, or reward points, and make sure you include any inheritances from before and during the marriage.

  • You will want to collect the latest statement for each asset and record account numbers.
  • Photocopy or use your phone’s camera to record documents that are not in your possession.

5. Make a list of your debt: everything you OWE individually and as a couple.

Don’t forget school loans and personal loans, and a list of anyone who owes you money, how much they owe you, and when they’re supposed to pay you back.

  • Gather a current statement on the debt and a statement from the time of the separation (if it’s already happened.)
  • Photocopy or use your phone’s camera to record documents that are not in your possession.

6. Track what is happening to marital debt.

According to divorce law in most states, you and your spouse are responsible for one another’s debt. You’ll want to lessen this potential burden.

  • Be on the alert if your spouse is spending recklessly. (You can put notifications on your accounts for any high spends or withdrawals.)
  • If this happens, talk to a lawyer right away about legal steps you can take to limit your responsibility. (See step #19.)

7. Gather the past three years’ tax returns.

If you can’t get your hands on yours, contact the IRS for your transcripts or report (the latter costs but it’s what a lawyer would rather evaluate). And be careful with the IRS mailing the reports to your legal home address. Will your spouse get the mail first?

If you cannot access the financial documents, it’s not unusual. When you meet with the lawyer to discuss your circumstances (see below), you will share what you do know and ask the lawyer what happens when one spouse does not know anything about the finances in a divorce. (It’s more common than you think!)

8. Collect passwords to all financial accounts if you can access them.

You may need to access information in your financial accounts, so you’ll want to be sure you have passwords on hand.

9. Create or contribute more to your Emergency Fund. 

An emergency fund is something you need throughout your life, but as you stand at this crossroads now, save cash by putting it to the side. You never know if you may have to reach for it in a hurry.

10. If You are a Stay-at-Home Mom (SAHM) Make Sure Your Emergency Fund Has 3 Months of Financial Reserves.

If you are the spouse with limited access to resources, make sure you have sufficient money saved to pay for three months of expenses. It’s not uncommon that the monied spouse will cut off the non-monied spouse financially during a divorce. (When you talk to a lawyer one of the questions you will ask about is temporary spousal support. (See #19.)

11. Write down your financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage.

Some contributions may be legally relevant and especially helpful to you.

Are there more documents you could organize as you head into divorce? Probably yes, but there’s no need to get ahead of yourself and do potentially needless work. So, wait. Unless a lawyer tells you otherwise, there are other things to tend to.

Practical To-Do’s on Your Divorce Checklist

12. Create a new dedicated email address for the divorce subject. 

Make sure all your communications on the subject go to this email address alone. This makes things easier to keep organized and lessens your chance of being compromised by your spouse.

13. Consider the technology set up in your home and exercise caution.

While using a secret email address is recommended, it is not a full-proof method of keeping your communications safe. If, for example, your cell phone and computer system are backed up to a “family cloud” account, whoever controls the account may be able to read phone numbers you call or any text you send.

We suggest that you contact your computer company (like Apple, Dell, etc.) and mobile carrier service (Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc.) and talk to a representative to learn if your computer or cell phone could be compromised. We also recommend you ask the representative if there are other measures you could take to digitally protect yourself.

Secure any passwords to shared accounts (especially financial if possible) and your private ones (such as social media accounts). Change all passwords to your private accounts.

14. Maintain privacy on social media.

Do not post anything about your divorce on social media. It could be used against you. Plus, it’s no one’s business but your own.

15. Get a Post Office Box so you can receive important mail to a private safe address.

Give the address to your lawyer. If you can’t afford a PO Box ask a friend or family member if you can have your lawyer send information to their home.


If you’re not ready to act but really, only in the “contemplating” divorce stage, you’ll want to understand what you could be doing instead of just pondering and pondering. For healthy and smart steps to take,  read our “36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce.”


Clarify Who You Want to Be Through this Crisis

16. Early on, choose who you want to be as you go through the divorce. 

This will help you remain civil and treat your spouse with respect. If your spouse is the father of your children, remember you still have many important moments and milestones in your future together—birthdays, graduations, weddings, reunions, and funerals. Trying to do the right thing now and throughout the process may not change your spouse’s behavior, but it will set a powerful example to your children who are watching and wondering how it will shake out.

17. If you have kids, keep them in your focus

The best person you can be will also be in alignment with keeping your kids (if you have them) front and center. If you are committed to going through the divorce in the healthiest way for them, it will mean doing what is also healthiest for youbecause they need a mama who is healthy and strong and thriving. (Are you now? No, we know.)

For you to discover what the healthiest way is, it will require your getting educated and putting your ducks in a row (and not just cracking and announcing you want a divorce!). This is why you are here reading this list, and are ready for more. You’ve organized documents and started taking black and white steps, and now, you’ve checked in with who you want to be. 

Remind yourself, that person may be scared, but that person is strong.

Now you’ll learn about the law, your financial choices, how to talk to your spouse, and how to decide on parenting issues. You want to do all this if possible before you talk with your children. (Do not involve the children in your decisions making or encourage them to take sides. That is not fair. Your kids are not adults (even if they act it) and should not be burdened with your adult decisions.) 

What’s most important to know about your kids today, and moving forward, is that the way you and your spouse break up (the degree of or lack of acrimony), and the long-term relationship you and your coparent have is what will determine the long term effect of the divorce on your kids. You’ll want to do your best to negotiate everything fairly with him* so you lessen the risk of emotional problems for them down the road. To know what’s fair it’s going to require your doing the work on this page. 

And if you are divorcing a narcissist, this blog post in particular may help you stand straight as you face oncoming days: 41 Things to Remember If You are Coparenting with a Narcissist.

18. Identify who is going to help you through your divorce. Whom can you trust?

Certainly, you’ll consult with a divorce lawyer to learn your rights (see #19), but beyond the legal or financial decisions, you’ll want someone who can give you perspective, help you problem-solve, hold space for you to be emotional or however you need to be – in confidentiality. Do you have a good friend who has both survived and healed from their divorce? Be careful of friends and family who mean well, but who can’t help sometimes leading with judgment.

Many find the objective and professional support of a therapist or coach to be the best, and in particular, a professional who is experienced with supporting people going through and recovering from divorce. If you are looking for a community with holistic support (that is guidance with the practical, legal, financial and emotional things you must navigate), consider an all-female educational and coaching program like Annie’s Group.

Legal Steps

19. Understand the value of a divorce lawyer.

No state requires you to use a lawyer for your divorce but it makes sense to protect your rights and interests. Chances are that neither you nor your spouse is a divorce attorney and when it comes to the many things that must be legally handled in a divorce, you don’t know what you don’t know.

For instance, you probably don’t realize that many divorce laws are designed to protect women and children. Which is why, this is not a time to be cheap with your life, nor trust what your spouse is telling you. While hiring an attorney will cost money, it may very well save you money and stress down the road. According to the research, recovering economically from divorce is usually harder for women than it is for men. This further reinforces what we know in our divorce coaching practice: if you are a woman, and especially a mother, you cannot afford to make mistakes with this financial negotiation.

20. Identify a local divorce attorney in your state (because divorce law varies from state to state), and schedule a consultation to hear what your rights are.

In this meeting you’ll learn what you are entitled to, and what the law would say about your specific circumstances and questions. Do not rely on what your spouse says. Do not rely on what your neighbor says. Do not rely on what the gang says in your Facebook Group. And be especially careful if your spouse tells you not to contact a lawyer or that you and he can “do this on your own.”

No. Talk to a divorce lawyer, also called a family law or matrimonial attorney. And many of them give free consultations todayso do some research to save yourself. You are worth it.

You can find a lawyer by consulting legal directories such as Avvo.com or Martindale-Hubbel.

21. Before the meeting, organize and prioritize your legal questions about the divorce, and gather 3 years of tax returns.

Your primary agenda for this first meeting with a lawyer is to get answers to your questions and to understand what type of divorce you might be facing. You will want to know what the divorce laws in your state say about how you and your spouse will split assets and debt (which depends on whether you are in a community property state or equitable distribution state); and how the custody of your children will be determined (if you have them). You will also ask specific questions that are weighing on you.

22. We recommend you ask a lawyer about these issues as well

  • Ask the lawyer to explain alimony or spousal support to you, and then if it’s appropriate for your story, your best and worst-case scenarios for this support (especially if you’ve been out of the workforce).

Consider reading:

  • Discuss “temporary spousal support” and how it works, if you have special circumstances that prevent you from working, like your health or caring for a young or special needs child. You may need access to money while the divorce is pending and if your spouse is not willing, the court may have to order your spouse to provide it.
  • Leaving the house: can you leave the marital home with the children or ask him to leave once you announce the divorce? What are important things to know so your actions are not used against you in the divorce?
  • If you are the one who is initiating the divorce, talk to a lawyer about finding a place to live BEFORE you file. How can you afford a place? Or, what are the steps you must put in place to minimize the time you must continue to live together as a couple?

For other questions to ask a lawyer, visit our “Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney“.


23. When you meet with the attorney, bring these things, so you get specific answers to your questions and fears:

1) Your legal questions, 2) three years of tax returns and 3) the list of your assets and debt. 4) You can also bring a friend or family member for support, but let the lawyer know beforehand so they can discuss confidentiality with you.

In the meeting with the lawyer, try to get your most important questions answered (that’s why you’ve prioritized them). But don’t despair if you don’t get ALL your questions answers. And do expect to walk out with new questions.

24. After meeting with a lawyer, evaluate the lawyer.

Was it someone who made you feel heard and protected? Could you work with them? Record your impressions and what you learned.

Try to meet with a total of three lawyers, if within your budget. Each lawyer will have different perspectives to your situation and the more you talk, the more you’ll learn about your options and how’ll you want to do this.

25. Then understand the different types of divorce.

Among them are DIY, traditional litigation, mediation, or collaborative approach, and think about which method is best for your story. Is it likely you can resolve matters without court? (You’ll want to understand the difference between an uncontested and contested divorce.) Will your spouse ultimately comply? Decide on which method you’d like to use to divorce and if any lawyer you met with, can help you.

26. If you use a lawyer, know that the lawyer works for younot your spouse.

If you do decide to hire a lawyer, to help you with your Statement of Net Worth or to review your Marital Separation Agreement (MSA) or to represent you in the divorce, you will have to use your own attorney. You and your spouse cannot share one, no matter what your spouse says. Divorce attorneys cannot represent both spouses. That would be a conflict of interest.

27. Let your lawyer know if you will want to change your name (back to your maiden name or something else?) after the divorce.

This will not be done officially until after the divorce is completed (see #51), but it’s good if the lawyer knows this is what you will want.

28. If you need perspective on how to find a lawyer or the right legal process for you, what to ask, what to do next, connect with a divorce coach who does this kind of work routinely.

An extra boon is that most divorce coaches give free consultations because they need to demonstrate what they do and how they can help.  Find one.

Before you move forward with speaking with your spouse about the divorce, we urge you to complete the important, additional steps below.

Financial Feedback Divorce Checklist

29. Determine who your Go-To Financial Person is for the Divorce.

We recommend you not rely simply on a lawyer to determine how things will be split, but to also learn what would be in your best financial interest long term. This requires a financial person skilled with understanding how divorce works.

Ideally, you’ll want to get this financial feedback AFTER you’ve heard the big legal issues in your divorce and BEFORE you announce a divorce or before you respond to your spouse’s request that you get divorced.

You can find this financial advisor at your bank or consult a CDFA. If you cannot afford to consult with one privately you might connect with SAVVY Ladies, a financial nonprofit dedicated to assisting women.

30. Ask a Financial Person these 7 Important Questions

  • What are the best things to optimize in the divorce given your age, skillset, and career options?
  • What is the best financial move for you regarding the marital home? (Should you try to keep it, give it to your spouse, sell it, hold onto it for a certain time, etc.)
  • What do you do with living together while divorcing? What can you afford? Many divorcing couples can’t afford to pay two mortgages or double rent and instead decide to stay in the same home throughout the divorce. For tips on surviving this particular purgatory, read “Women Share How to Survive Living Together During Divorce.
  • If you are leaving the family home, what is your expected budget for renting, or home-owning in the future? Consider your current living expenses and ask for help budgeting what you will need in the future.
  • What are specific financial needs regarding your children and how do you best ensure they be met? You may want to make sure 529 College Savings Plans are created or continue to be contributed to by both spouses? Or do you have a child with special needs who will need long-term financial attention?
  • What do you need to make as income in your future chapter? Consider reading “What Divorce Does to a Woman: You and Your Money.”
  • What is the financial advisor’s perspective on your securing health insurance?

31. Consult with a Real Estate Professional:

Learn the value of your house, what it would sell for in this market, what your options are for housing if you need to move. You can begin by consulting Zillow. But it’s usually in your interest to move beyond the internet with all things divorce and hear specific feedback about your story, your house, its issues, and its pluses.

32. Resolve your health insurance issue.

You’ve talked to the financial person about health insurance. Continue to explore what you will do, if you depend on your spouse’s insurance or he relies on you. There is COBRA to investigate, which is a federal law about health insurance. There is also the Affordable Healthcare Act, sometimes known as ACA, PPACA, or “Obamacare”.

By using its exchange, no matter what state you live in, you can enroll in affordable, quality health coverage. Visit Healthcare.gov to find the link to your state and to evaluate your options. You can also speak to a representative who can advise you. And know, that though the platform or the “Exchange” as it’s called, has a specific enrollment period, you qualify to join at any time of the year if you suddenly divorce or lose your job.

More Smart Moves on Your Divorce Checklist

33. Get a medical exam.

Be sure to take care of any medical issues before you divorce. If there are any hiccups in transferring medical insurance, you’ll want to be sure you’ve already taken care of any regular visits or concerns.

34. Identify and itemize your special possessions: these could be gifts or family heirlooms.

If you need to protect them, hide them, store them, or ask a friend or family member to hold them but make sure you disclose them in any legal documents so your actions cannot be used against you in the divorce.

35. Evaluate what you will need to do with The Move.

Will you be moving or your spouse? Will both of you? You may not want to, or be able to afford to stay in the family home. So this might mean starting to look for apartments ( — consult rentals nearby or AirBnB if you see the solution as temporary), or family and friends you might stay with for a while. This will depend on your financial situation.

If possible, talk to a lawyer about finding a place to live BEFORE you file. It will lessen the pain and stress of living together while getting divorced.

To learn more about moving out and how to go about it, read:

36. Keep a running list of all the documents you need to update once you complete the divorce.

Most legal documents cannot be updated until you have a divorce decree proving a change to your status. These things may include: filing a change of name, changing your will or creating one, or changing beneficiaries on insurance policies.

You can check with your attorney on when you can file changes to these documents.

Talking to Your Spouse and Telling Others

37. Identify your “D Day” and talk to your spouse before telling your kids.

There is never a good time to divorce, but there are better times than others. Look at your family calendar. Consider what’s happening in your children’s lives (are they applying to college? Maybe wait a little bit.) Or perhaps your spouse is up for a promotion, or you are? Evaluate your options and talk to a lawyer (see next step) and financial person about strategy, but after becoming informed and prepared, target a day to speak to your spouse. It could be a soft date, but it’s important to have an end date for ending the pain.

38. Check in with the lawyer you are going to use for the divorce (if you will use one) and discuss when you will file for divorce. 

Consider having “The Talk” with your husband before you tell the lawyer to go ahead “and file” and before your husband is served papers.

39. Plan the Day and “The Talk”

Consider where you will be (we recommend outside, away from home triggers), who will be around (can you arrange for the children to be elsewhere? ), what you will say (keep it simple), how you will do it (state it as simply as possible, be firm and clear but kind. “John, I just can’t keep living like this anymore. I want a divorce.”) Think about how he will respond and all the things he will say, but it doesn’t matter, your truth is your truth. Repeat your line: “John, I just can’t keep living like this anymore. I want a divorce.”

Give your spouse time to process what you’ve said, then discuss with him when and how you will tell the children. Make sure to share with him how it would be good if you both had a plan of how things will go before the children are told. Agree on a date for that and what you will say. This may take some time to allow for your spouse to catch up.

Drill down more by reading …

Parenting Considerations

40. Evaluate the best custody schedules for your family if you have children.

Many people don’t realize they can choose or create the schedules that they think would work best for their familythey don’t have to automatically do what the lawyers suggest.

Research your options and consider your and your spouse’s work routines and your kids’ needs. (Ideally, you are doing this with your spouse.) In general, the family court system will want your children to spend equal time with each parent, which means 50 percent of the time with you and 50 percent of the time with their dad. So, be honest with yourself and know it’s likely your kids will be away from you half the time. Do your best to make it easy on them.

If you don’t think your children should live with their father, make sure you talk to a lawyer about this. Be sure to also ask: “How much will it cost for me to try to get sole physical custody?”

Read this piece for important information: Best Advice on Custody for Divorcing Moms.

41. Make a parenting plan for the interim period until you divorce and for afterward.

This should include not only the parenting schedule but also involve details regarding holidays, important religious celebrations, medical, and educational needs.

42. Use a parenting app and create a detailed list of your children’s needs related to activities, health, schooling, and well-being.

To lessen confusion, stress, and direct contact, consider using a parenting app to keep everything organized and easily shared. A neutral tool will streamline your communication and information sharing. We suggest Family Wizard because it’s most often recommended by family courts. It is also the most well-known parenting app.

43. Prepare for what you will say, and tell your children together that you are divorcing or separating.

This is one of the hardest moments if not the hardest moment of the challenge, facing your kids and telling them how their reality is going to change. Discuss with their father what you will say to them in advance, and impress on him how important it is to have a plan to show your kids that there will be structure.

And know you may not be able to rely on their dad to team up with you for this talk.

For support and more steps, read:

44. Line up support for your children.

Tell your children’s schools as soon as you know there will be a divorce and ask for any resources the school may have or recommend. Evaluate therapists who may support your kids individually.  Children deserve a safe space to vent without worrying how it will affect you or your spouse.

Steps Toward Your Next Chapter

45. Take steps to separate your lives.

Begin separating how you do things and how you live.  Turn to others instead of turning to your spouse.  Are there other accounts you should be opening as you consider moving apart? And where will you live after the divorce? Did you ask the financial advisor what the best play is for you regarding your house or future living arrangements?

46. Think about your employment.

Whether this means going back to work, looking for a side hustle to increase your income, or transitioning to another kind of job, divorce can be a catalyst for our ambition. Yes, divorce can be a good thing. Ask the financial advisor what your expected reality will be for money after the divorce, what you will need to make for income going forward, and what you should be shooting for to contribute to your retirement fund.

47. If you are unemployed and have skills to find a job, your next critical step is to start your job search.

You might consider a career coach who can help you evaluate your strengths, strategize your resume, and organize your search, especially if you’ve been out of the workforce for a long time. Check out iRelaunch for helpful resources, advice and guidance.

Post-Divorce Checklist

It didn’t happen overnight but now you are on the Other Side of divorce. Having arrived here, there are still things to take care of and new things to (excitedly) consider.

48. Make sure all retirement accounts, investment accounts, and monies got transferred over as stipulated by your divorce judgment.

Make sure you’re checking that everything was completed correctly in accordance with your judgment. Prepare to make whatever calls you need to.

49. Change beneficiaries on all your accounts and policies (unless you negotiated otherwise in your divorce).

You may not even remember all of the places you listed your Ex as a beneficiary or emergency contact. Make sure to change or check on these designations.

50. Get a few copies of your divorce decree notarized so you can submit it for official things in the future.

Then file it, baby!

51. Change your name legally if you choose.

Don’t forget your driver’s license, social security card, passport, credit card, and bank account to update. For many accounts, you will need to submit a copy of your signed divorce decree.

52. Change vehicle titles (if appropriate)

Again, what matters is what’s on paper. Even if you physically have the car, you’ll want to make sure it is legally yours and registered to you.

53. Check your credit report again.

Make sure nothing new has happened and you know what your current credit score is.

54. Create a new Will, Power of Attorney, and Healthcare Directive.

So much has changed in your life, and that means your end-of-life plans may be very different as well. Make sure to update these documents with your new preferences to avoid any mistakes once you’re no longer around to advocate for yourself.

55. Make a plan for how you will care for yourself and continue to create your best independent life.

You are not fully healed or completed just because you’ve signed a legal document. But you are in a very different stage than the beginning. You are now working on your divorce recovery. Critical to this recovery plan is identifying the right people you will surround yourself with going forward.

Read 100 Must Do’s for the Newly Divorced, Independent Woman.

For many, finding other women who understand what they are going through and what they have been through as with a divorce recovery group for women, can have a huge impact on one’s individual healing. Surrounded by others who “get it” can help you feel saner, provide calm and give you a much-needed perspective on your own story. With the right people, you’ll be able to speak honestly and authentically. You’ll even be able to share some much-needed laughs that others who haven’t been down this road (—sorry, Ozzie and Harriet) simply will never understand.

Closing Thoughts

Divorce is challenging. It’s a life crisis. But by compiling this divorce checklist and putting the items in one place with suggested sequencing, our goal is to slow things down and guide you as you get informed logically and healthily. In doing this we hope to lessen the overwhelm that naturally accompanies this crisis. Even so, this checklist may require multiple read-throughs depending on where you are in your process. If it’s too much to nail down all of these moving parts in one fell swoop or two (very likely) then simply save or bookmark our checklist somewhere safe for you to return to throughout your journey.

You will get through this. Breathe, and stay committed to you.

 

Notes

Whether you are thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oftentimes complicated experience of breaking up and reinventing. 

SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you—and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

 

* At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of ease, we may refer to the Ex as “he/him” but we understand that exes come with many gender identities. 

How long does it take to get a divorce by weheartit

How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced?

When you want a divorce, it can’t happen fast enough. But, when you don’t want it or aren’t prepared, it can pull the rug out from under your life. The time it takes to get a divorce depends on a lot of factors — some within your control and some not. One thing that is always within your control? How wisely you use the time you have to prepare once divorce is inevitable.

Regardless of your initiative, mere compliance, or opposition concerning your divorce, your desire and need to know a timeline are understandable. Everything about the divorce process and its aftermath is time-sensitive.

Your first instinct is going to be to consult with “Google & Google, LLP.” Starting your research at the most obvious place makes sense.

But be careful and discerning as you collect information. Google can be a veritable rabbit hole, leading you from a general search with reputable sources to a downslope of information, advice, and questionable links. And it can quickly become overwhelming.

Anyone who has had to do academic research knows the cardinal rule of using primary sources. The reasoning is obvious: to avoid the dilution, changing, or skewing of information.

Educate Yourself with Up-To-Date Information

Online research is no different, but has the added considerations of fast-paced change and, unfortunately, a maddening dose of questionable integrity.

Just be careful and always consider the source. (Besides, the detailed, specific information you ultimately need will come from your team of experts – your divorce coach, attorney, financial planner, etc.)

Also, take note of dates on articles and be cautious about giving any information. You are getting educated and collecting information. Nothing more.

Google is a great place to get your compass pointing in the direction of familiarization and the reliable resources that will guide your journey.

You may have even found this site SAS for Women through a general search. But, as you click through our website, you see that it is thoughtfully, thoroughly, and securely developed. And the information shared here is consistent, reliable, and based on trustworthy sources.

This is the kind of confidence you need and deserve to have in your resources when the difficult time comes to get a divorce.

Again, always consider the source.

Your approach to getting educated about the divorce process can make a huge difference in the smoothness and outcome of your divorce.

It will directly influence your confidence and ability to deal with the inevitable stress of this life-changing process.

It will potentially help you save money and time and avoid making mistakes.

And it will lay the groundwork for how you move forward – and the people who become part of your life – after your divorce is final.

How Your State Affects Your Divorce Timeline

Your first online search should be for your state’s divorce process – and specifically its residency and waiting-period requirements. 

Every state will have its own laws regarding how long you have to live in the state before you can get a divorce. It will also have its own requirement (or lack thereof) regarding how long you have to wait before your divorce can proceed and be finalized.

State-by-State Comparisons

In Texas, for example, the petitioner has to have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing. Texas is one of the states that also have county residency rules.

Texas also has a “cooling off period” of 60 days from the date of filing. Why? To make sure one spouse or both spouses aren’t rushing into a “forever” decision because of a temporary and/or reparable period of discord. (This is especially understandable when children are involved.)

What this means is that, if you live in Texas, and choose an uncontested divorce vs. a contested divorce, you could be divorced in as little as 61 days.

However, if you and your spouse have points of contention regarding custody, assets, fault vs. no-fault, etc., you will add on both time and expenses.

California, as notorious as it is for the “Hollywood” marriage-divorce-remarriage-divorce cycle, has a six-month waiting period for divorce – one of the longest.

New Jersey, on the other hand, has no “cooling off period.” While a typical divorce involving children and assets takes about a year, a simple, no-fault divorce could be complete in weeks.

State-by-State Residency and Waiting Periods

Getting familiar with your state’s laws for the divorce process is one of the best and easiest ways you can help yourself. (Paul Simon wasn’t kidding when he sang 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover!)

Some states, for example, have long residency and waiting periods and may even have required separation periods and parenting classes. Have a momentary lapse in confidence and come back together for a let’s-make-sure weekend of cohabitating? The clock will start again.

If you’re looking to get a divorce quickly, living in states like Vermont, South Carolina, and Arkansas could test your patience.

Read more about the fastest and slowest states for getting a divorce to get a sense of where you stand.

Avoiding Litigation

Divorce is no stranger to the DIY approach. While you can find all the necessary forms online if you and your spouse decide to go that route, please be careful! If there is anything that could be a point of contention or complication, you are better off with legal representation.

Even if you choose a non-litigated path like mediation, you would do yourself good service by getting a legal consultation. And, whether you are simply “consulting” or hiring an attorney for the entire process, avoid hiring cheap divorce lawyers.

Even couples without years of accrued investments and complicated finances will have financial considerations, usually outside their areas of expertise.

Protecting Yourself Against DIY Divorce Mistakes

The disparity in income levels, years in or away from the workplace, years spent as a stay-at-home-parent, retirement funds, health/life insurance, mortgage – it all matters. And it all has relevance far into the future.

Women especially tend to take a hard hit financially after divorce, and they don’t always regain their financial footing. Their loss can be almost twice that of men and is often accompanied by a number of post-divorce surprises.

As you can probably see by now, that innocent question, How long does it take to get a divorce? doesn’t have a simple answer.

Some things you can control. Some things your spouse controls. And some (many) things your state’s laws control.

Remember that knowledge is power – or at least an analgesic to the inherent stress of getting a divorce

Remember also that the time it takes to jump through all the hoops of the divorce process says nothing about the time it takes to recover from a divorce.

But how you educate yourself, and the integrity and composure with which you navigate your divorce can influence everything, including your divorce recovery, the new chapter you deserve.

 

Notes

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and often complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are dealing with divorce or are already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and learn from others. Choose not to go it alone.

 

Divorce decree and Divorce certificate

What’s the Difference Between a Divorce Decree and a Divorce Certificate?

Legal terms and documentation concerning divorce can often be confusing, especially for people going through the emotional charges of a divorce and its trying legal process. Understanding the difference between a divorce decree and divorce certificate is just one of the many important details you may find yourself sorting through.

In 2019, there were more than 750,000 divorces and annulments in the United States. That means a lot of people changed their marital status, and to do so, they had to undergo various marriage dissolutions or disbanding complications.

Today, we will focus on two often mistakenly interchangeable terms—a divorce decree (also called “final decree/judgment”) and a divorce certificate.

And yes, these are two entirely different documents. So, without further ado, let’s find out how to distinguish one from the other.

What is a Divorce Decree?

Here’s a simple divorce decree definition: it is a document that officially ends a marriage and has provisions concerning the duties and responsibilities of each party after divorce. In addition, a decree can incorporate a settlement agreement if the couple agrees on all terms between themselves.

These terms include financial obligations (e.g., alimony and child support), custodial rights, property division, etc. The spouses and the judge must sign this decree.

Several states have a mandatory waiting period before the issuing of a final judgment. For example, in New York, divorces are granted no sooner than 60 days after the petition is filed. However, the waiting period can also be waived in certain circumstances.

The signed decree should be filed with the clerk’s office when both spouses, often in the presence of their lawyers, have agreed on and signed the settlement agreement. It can also happen after the final hearing is over—if there was a hearing. The signed decree is essential because the case is not finalized until the clerk at the court receives, records and stamps this signed document.

Is a Divorce Decree the Same as a Judgment of Divorce?

Yes, the divorce decree, the final decree of divorce, and the final judgment of divorce are different names for the same document. So, for example, in California, the spouses will receive the “Judgment,” in New York State, it will be called “Judgment of Divorce,” and “Final Decree of Divorce” in Texas.

On rare occasions, you can stumble onto the name “divorce sentence document,” which has become obsolete and is rarely used in connection to divorce in the U.S. As you see, there can be several alterations of the same title.

What Does a Divorce Decree Look Like?

A divorce decree is a several-page long document. The title page begins with the case (or cause) number, the name and address of the court that handles the case, and the full names of both spouses.

Below goes the name of the document, usually in large bold letters. The title will most likely have the words “decree” or “judgment.”

Although the form of this document is different in each state, the content is more or less the same.

Essential Parts of a Divorce Decree

  1. Information about the plaintiff and the defendant: full name, address, phone number, social security number, employer’s address, etc.
  2. Jurisdiction. Basically, the court states that it has the power to enter judgment concerning the marriage dissolution based on the residency of the parties.
  3. Information about children. The names, social security numbers, ages, and addresses of all children (natural or adopted) under 18 years old or those older than 18 attending high school at the moment of filing for divorce.
  4. Conservatorship matters. This section is especially long. It addresses the issues of the conservatorship type (sole or joint), the visitation schedule, each parent’s essential duties, and responsibilities, etc.
  5. Child support: who will pay child support and who will receive it, how much it will be, who will pay for medical and dental costs and insurance, etc.
  6. Property Division. This chapter determines each party’s separate property (belonging to only one spouse) and marital property. For example, it can be anything from real estate and vehicles to furniture and wedding bands. The decree also includes the orders on how to split the assets and debts between the parties. (See What is a Divorce Financial Settlement?)
  7. Spousal support. This section determines who will pay it, in what amount, and for how long.
  8. Name change. The spouses can ask to change their names back to their maiden names in this section.
  9. Court costs. This part states that the party that incurred the costs is responsible for paying them unless they requested a waiver and the court approved it.

How Many Pages is a Divorce Decree?

The more complex the situation between the spouses, the more pages and information a divorce decree will have. For example, judgments concerning simple marriage dissolutions may consist of 3-8 pages. But some cases require a decree of up to 25 pages.

An average divorce decree form has 8-15 parts (sometimes even more) that the spouses fill out (with or without the help of their lawyers or a mediator) if their case is uncontested.

And that is one of the tell-tale differences between the decree and the certificate. The former has more pages and content, while the latter typically comes printed on one page.

What is a Certified Divorce Decree Copy?

The marriage dissolution process ends with the court’s review of the signed divorce decree, or when the court hearings are over, all the documents are signed, and the divorce decree is filed with the court clerk. Once it is entered into the system, the clerk’s office where the initial papers were filed can provide the ex-spouses with a certified copy of the final judgment.

Basically, a certified copy of a divorce decree is a paper copy of the original document signed by the notary or person holding it. The clerk will probably charge a specific fee for the verified copy (approximately $10-$15).

In some states, a copy of the decree can be ordered online. Yet, most of them require that it be collected in person.

SAS Tip: Once divorced, we recommend you contact your courthouse or via online arrange to receive 3-5 copies of your notarized divorce decree. You may need a notarized version for official dealings in your future (like reverting to your maiden name) and you will not want to lose control of your original notarized version.

Sometimes, a person needs to present a copy of the decree to another court, e.g., for resolving child-related matters. In this case, they would need an exemplified copy of their judgment.

Exemplification of a divorce decree is a similar procedure to the certification. The difference is that a certified copy is signed by the clerk only, while the exemplified one is signed by both the clerk and the judge.

What is a Divorce Certificate?

A certificate of divorce is a document providing basic information about the divorced couple that states the fact the marriage ended.

What does a divorce certificate look like? It usually consists of one page and has the full names of the parties, date, time, and place of divorce. Sometimes, it also includes the place and date of where the now-dissolved marriage was entered.

The court does not issue a divorce certificate. Instead, it comes from the State Department of Health or similar institutions, such as the Vital Records Department. These institutions often allow ordering the certificate online after the case is final. Either spouse can access this document upon providing a driver’s license, ID card, or other photo-ID forms.

When Would You Need a Divorce Certificate?

A divorce certificate serves as proof of the divorce. It serves the following purposes:

  • Name change;
  • Remarriage;
  • Obtaining a visa or passport;
  • Insurance and retirement matters;
  • Getting driver’s licenses, etc.

Usually, there are no confidential details of a divorce order in this certificate. For this reason, many people choose to show this document instead of the decree as proof of their marital status.

Let’s sum up the above information.

1. Divorce Decree vs. Divorce Certificate

There’s no such thing as a divorce decree certificate. A divorce decree and a certificate are two separate documents. A divorce decree usually consists of several pages. It contains all the marriage dissolution terms, such as property division and child custody arrangements.

Conversely, the primary purpose of a divorce certificate is to prove the fact the marriage ended. It is printed on a single page and only contains the names of the parties and the date and place of divorce.

2. Judgment of Divorce vs. Divorce Decree

The divorce decree has the same meaning as the judgment of divorce. In essence, these are different names for the same document. Legally speaking, a judgment (decree) is a written court order stating that the spouses are divorced.

After the spouses and the judge signs this order, it must be filed with the clerk, who will enter it into the system. Until then, the marriage dissolution is not final.

 

Notes

Jamie Kurtz is a divorce lawyer and a member of the LA County Bar Association and the State Bar of California. She’s a co-founder of a law firm dealing with uncontested divorces and a contributing writer for OnlineDivorce.com, an online divorce papers preparation service.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule your FREE, 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are thinking about it or actively dealing with divorce, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and learn from others. Choose to not go it alone.

Pre-divorce checklist

A Pre-Divorce Checklist? Consider Composing One During the Holidays

“He’s making a list and checking it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.”

Should you be making your own (pre-divorce) checklist … and checking it twice? As an experienced divorce attorney in Utah, I find the second phrase to the jingle, “gonna find out who’s naughty and nice” an inspired idea, and one that is not coincidental. The day after Christmas, Dec. 26, marks the beginning of what is officially considered “Divorce Day”: what those of us in the divorce industry call divorce season.

After the holidays have subsided and divorce season begun, our phones are ringing off the hook, with plenty of revelations suggesting who is naughty and who is nice.

Taking the time now to create your own pre-divorce checklist is positive and it’s constructive — unlike racing to a lawyer’s office or venting on social media about the sorry state of your marriage. The slow, deliberate movement of checklist making adds perspective, grounds you, and informs your ultimate decision on whether or not to add to the divorce rate across the United States or Canada, or wherever you may be (besides purgatory).

In fact, making a pre-divorce checklist is, perhaps, the best free divorce advice I give my clients during the holidays. And so, in the spirit of giving, I’d like to share more with SAS readers. Let’s use this post as your go-to guide for creating that checklist.

The Legal Point of View

There are so many different ways to look at a divorce and what you may or may not need to navigate that beginning with the legal perspective is often the best first step. And this begins, if you are a US citizen, by talking to a lawyer in your specific state, because divorce law varies from state to state.

To prepare for that meeting, think about your questions and get the necessary documents organized in advance. This will give the lawyer something to look at, evaluate and base their answers on, when you meet.

If you wonder what documents to gather and organize, check out this post Thinking About Divorce? Be Prepared.

If you wonder what questions to ask, SAS for Women has you covered there, too. Consult this blog post Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney.  Of course you may have other questions you will not find on that blog post, like should you open a post-office box for personal or divorce-related mail? Would it be a good idea to take money out from an account in advance of the divorce? Can you leave the marital home before officially separating or divorcing? What happens to the money you are due to inherit if you divorce? Should you file for divorce before you get your bonus?

All of your questions (and fears) need to be explored and answered, but be careful about making any radical moves. It’s critical you vet your big actions with a lawyer before you act so nothing is held against you in the divorce.

This is why organizing your documents and meeting with a lawyer is such an important step on your pre-divorce checklist. You must get grounded on reality, what is and what is not possible.  

The Financial Point of View

Next, you cannot underestimate the power of getting educated on what your best business transaction would be if you were to divorce. Which is why gathering your financials and getting feedback on them is critical.

Here you can listen to Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and advisor, Stacy Francis discuss The Financial Do’s and Don’ts Before, During, and After Divorce.  Listening to Stacy will help you further formulate your financial questions. Don’t worry if your money questions overlap with your legal questions, that’s normal.

So, your pre-divorce checklist includes organizing documents, gathering your questions, meeting with a lawyer, and then going deeper with the money and getting feedback on your financial choices. This is best done with a financial person who is familiar with how divorce impacts the money. And now there’s a new professional who does just that kind of work.

Keep in mind to really forecast what you may have for money in the future, you’ll need to gather current Social Security calculations, details on debts, personal and marital property information, and monthly budget figures. Do you keep safety deposit boxes? What’s in them? Have you or your spouse already received an inheritance? All of these details need to be gathered and included on your pre-divorce checklist.


If you are thinking about … or beginning the divorce process, consider Annie’s Group SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching program for women looking for an education, support, structure, and a safe community.

A new cohort (with you?) is starting soon.

 


Consider Your Home Property

Ready to go deeper? You’ll also have to consider your home. If you have not previously done so for your home insurance, take pictures of each room of your house. Make sure each room’s contents are displayed as part of a more thorough listing of assets. With the home, your own accounting is not all that counts. Getting an appraisal can be beneficial as well, so add that to your list. Renting mother-in-law apartments in a home is common these days (all the more so in a COVID climate). Make sure to get copies of leases for in-home or other rental properties. Your To-Do list grows!

Take Care of Your Heart

Don’t forget to factor into your list your need for emotional support (besides all this legal, financial and practical info).

Chances are your heart and your feelings are not going to be in synch with learning about your legal and financial choices. This means you need a safe place to vent what you are genuinely feeling and to learn from the messages your emotions are trying to tell you.

So, add to your pre-divorce list “Emotional Support” and consider how you will find it. Have you got a therapist or do you need to work on finding one?  Or, do you have a coach who understands the divorce journey and can help you feel anchored as you begin to take steps?  Be careful in whom you confide during this vulnerable moment in your life. Sometimes our family or friends are not the best people to share our challenges with, because their opinion, reaction, prejudices may not be in alignment with who we really are.

You absolutely need a safe, neutral, judgement-free place to go and you deserve that place.

As you make your pre-divorce checklist, realize that action with these different steps deepens your awareness and possible commitment to divorce. As your sense of empowerment grows, you may move from flirtation to surety. 

Here are some other pre-divorce checklists I recommend

You might want to check the following to see if there are any other crucial items or steps you want to add to your list:

  • SAS for Women’s “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”
  • Donna Fulscado, Investopedia, Oct. 28, 2019 “Divorce Planning Checklist: What You Need To Know”
  • Shawn Leamon, CDFA, Divorce and Your Money: How To Avoid Costly Divorce Mistakes, March 1, 2017  “The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: What You Need To Prepare”
  • Communication planning is a unique aspect of Rebecca Jones’s list. Jones is a London-based family lawyer. Her divorce checklist includes letting everyone from family dentists and opticians to utility companies know about a divorce, if enacted. That’s something you can consider to do later on — if you indeed go through with the divorce.

‘Tis the Season for Making a List and Checking it Twice!

Yes, it may be the holidays, but if you are in a troubled marriage, the holidays may be anything but merry.

Breathe deeply, think clearly, and get anchored. Using a pre-divorce checklist will help minimize the overwhelm of everything seemingly coming toward you at once. And checking things off will give you a sense of “doing something” at the same time it keeps you moving in a sequenced, goal-oriented way.

To all, we wish you the Season’s Best, a better 2022, and to all a good night.

Notes

Jill L. Coil is Utah’s leading female family law and divorce attorney and invites you to hire her before your spouse does. She is admitted to the Utah and Texas bars and has contributed to case law by successfully arguing a landmark case before the Utah Supreme Court. Coil is a 2019 Super Lawyer and an author featured on Amazon, contributes actively within her community, and is the proud mother of four children.

 

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives on their own, healthiest terms. If you are recreating after divorce or separation, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown—with compassion, integrity and excitement.

Understanding the Difference Between Coparenting and Parallel Parenting

Understanding the Difference Between Coparenting and Parallel Parenting

Of all the complexities, strategies, and obligations involved in a divorce, none are as important as those involving children. The ability (or inability) of the parting couple to put their children above their own grievances is critical to the final arrangement. It’s also the essential difference between coparenting and parallel parenting.

Custody arrangements script more than just guardianship and a visitation calendar. They reflect the tone of the divorce and the maturity of the parents. And they lay the foundation for the children’s adaptability and happiness.

It has been almost half a century since joint custody became a custodial option, let alone the norm. 

Anyone who was a child of divorce before this major shift will remember a very different arrangement. The custodial parent, usually the mother, had legal and physical guardianship of the children. And the non-custodial parent had visitation, usually bi-weekly for a weekend.

You can probably imagine the emotional upending for parents and children alike. Anyone who has seen the 1979 Oscar-winning movie Kramer vs. Kramer can attest to the palpable agony of everyone involved.

For the non-custodial parent, being reduced to seeing your child only four days a month, while paying child support, could be emotionally eviscerating.

For the custodial parent, having full responsibility for your child, without the daily help from a spouse, could be overwhelming.

And for the child? Well, the effects of being raised by one parent, perhaps missing the other, and fielding alliance persuasions from both could be harrowing.

Important Terms to Learn

Before exploring the difference between coparenting and parallel parenting, let’s clarify a few terms that you will frequently hear.

Custody refers to the rights and responsibilities between parents for their children. It is divided into legal custody and physical custody. 

  • Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make important decisions for the child. Where will he go to school and church? Who will his doctors be? Can he travel out of state? 

One or both parents can have legal custody, contingent upon the amiability and communication between them.

  • Physical custody refers to where the child will live. Again, physical custody can be granted to one (sole) or both (joint) parents. 

It’s possible for parents to share legal custody but not physical custody. In this case, both would be involved in important decision-making. The child, however, would live with the primary custodian and have visitation with the other.

Visitation, while sounding like “physical custody,” refers to the actual arrangement for time spent with each parent. 

Having joint physical custody, for example, doesn’t mean the child has to split time 50/50 between parents. Because of school, friends, and other ties, a child will usually spend more time with one parent. 

You can probably get a sense of how these terms are going to play out in the different parenting arrangements.

The difference between coparenting and parallel parenting isn’t rooted in legal or physical custody. It’s rooted in the ability and commitment of the parents to behave and communicate in a responsible and amicable manner. 

A judge’s decision to establish one or the other will always come down to the best interests of the child(ren). 

To put it bluntly, if the two of you can’t be in the same room without snarling, arguing, or embarrassing your child, don’t plan on coparenting.

You may receive joint legal custody and even joint physical custody. But, if you can’t rise above who you are as exes to be exemplary parents, your child shouldn’t suffer the consequences.

So let’s start on a positive, best-case-scenario note: coparenting. 

The underlying premise of coparenting is that children of divorce benefit from having strong, healthy relationships with both parents. And both parents commit themselves to making that possible for the children.

While co-parenting may sound like the obvious choice, it relies on a special relationship between exes. It requires the kind of respect and healthy communication that you would naturally think could have saved your marriage in the first place.

What Does Coparenting Look Like?

  • You and your coparent are separated, divorced, or otherwise not romantically involved or cohabitating with one another.
  • You are both involved in important decisions involving your child, and you communicate openly and respectfully about them.
  • Communicationg occurs comfortably in various forms—in-person, by phone, by text, and by email.
  • You can be in the same room or at the same events for your child and be cordial. You actually make a point of both being present at important events like birthdays and school productions.
  • Both of you are flexible in matters of childrearing, accommodating things like changes in schedules, vacations, and transportation.
  • You allow your child to have a voice in the visitation arrangements. You understand that younger children don’t do well shuffling between homes. Older children, however, want more say in where they spend their time, and you both allow for that.
  • Your goodwill toward one another doesn’t preclude healthy boundaries. You don’t give false hope that you will be getting back together.
  • You are respectful and cordial toward your ex’s new spouse (if relevant). And you include him/her in communication when necessary for the good of your child.
  • Neither parent ever, ever bad-mouths the other in front of your child. You handle disagreements between adults only. And you share your frustrations (they will definitely happen) with adult friends, a counselor, a coach, or a support group.
  • You have a forum in place for conflict resolution to avoid problems.
  • Both of you want your child to witness his parents working together for his well-being.

The critical difference between coparenting and parallel parenting lies in the ability for and commitment to healthy communication with your ex. Sometimes, for possibly a laundry list of reasons, coparenting simply isn’t an option, and parallel parenting is the only viable solution.

What Does Parallel Parenting Look Like?

  • You and your ex may or may not share physical custody.
  • Your relationship with your ex is contentious, high-conflict, and you still harbor too much anger and negativity to communicate directly in a healthy way, even for your child.
  • You and your ex disengage. This may mean you limit direct contact in matters where you cannot communicate respectfully.
  • You and your ex, while sharing in major decisions, conduct your day-to-day parenting completely separately. Except for emergencies, you don’t check in with one another or impose your individual styles or expectations on one another. 
  • Your communication is “all business.” Nothing personal is exchanged—only necessary information about your child.
  • You avoid personal contact and talking by phone. This may mean you hand off your child without seeing or interacting with one another.
  • You use emails and calendars as your primary means of communication.
  • Neither one of you changes the schedule without a written agreement.
  • You never, ever use your child as a messenger or seek him as an ally against your ex.

The communication difference between coparenting and parallel parenting may make your arrangement seem carved in stone. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Hopefully, if you begin with a coparenting relationship, you will not only be able to maintain it, but even improve upon it.

If the initial period after your divorce necessitates parallel parenting, however, there is still hope for evolution. 

Releasing Your Anger

Keep in mind that one of the most prohibitive things to coparenting is unresolved, unrelinquished anger. The belief that your life will never be good again can keep you in a state of seething resentment toward your ex.

But, once you start to discover and live the good things about life post-divorce, the anger will begin to fall away. Dedicate yourself to your own growth and accountability, and you will eventually step into a non-blaming ownership of your life. 

With a renewed focus on what can (and should) be, it will become easier to see beyond yourself. And you will become able to shift your focus to the priority and lifelong well-being of your child.

If both you and your ex can bring this kind of self-development to the table, co-parenting can become your new normal.

Notes

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and often complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping with divorce or are already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and learn from others. Choose not to go it alone.

Cheap Divorce Lawyers

Why You Don’t Want to Search for Cheap Divorce Lawyers

Cheap can be costly. And, when it comes to divorce, cheap divorce lawyers can ultimately drain your accounts—financially and emotionally. The temptation to team up with touted cost-cutters is understandable. But learn the risks and costs before throwing your trust (and future) into the bargain basket.

Even in the most amicable situations, the divorce process can make you feel as if you’re hanging onto a cliff’s edge by your fingernails. There are so many details to consider, with so many time-sensitive must-do’s. And, there are so many things with future relevance for parting spouses and their children.

When you start adding it all up, it’s inevitable that you’ll ask: How much will my divorce cost me, financially and emotionally? 

So why wouldn’t you strive to save wherever and whenever you can? After all, if you don’t send a lawyer’s kids to college, you might be able to send your own kids to college.

Enter that internet know-it-all, Google. A quick search for “cheap divorce lawyers” ought to get this show on the road and save you bundles, right?

(You might even be lucky enough to know someone whose next-door neighbor has a friend whose cousin is a lawyer… kind of.)

Don’t get us wrong. Frugality has its place, especially when employed with conscientious research and self-discipline.It goes “deeper than cheaper” and assumes an underlying prudence in decision-making.

Cheap, however, carries an implied reference not only to price, but to quality.

And cheap divorce lawyers are no exception.

Let’s consider some of the most important qualities of a good lawyer… and how they differ from the cheap ones.

 

  • Good lawyers are respected within their profession, even by competitors.

They are respected for their knowledge and skill… and especially for their integrity. They would never disrespect the law, let alone encourage you to lie or withhold required information.

  • Good lawyers are transparent with their clients.

They don’t bury costs, fees, and terms beneath undisclosed jargon and code. Because they act with integrity, they want their clients to know “what and why” when it comes to actions taken and the costs associated.

  • Good lawyers advocate for you.

They give you the assurance, by their actions, that you are in good hands. They will go to bat for you and not cut corners when your future is at stake. Most importantly, they will also listen to you.

  • Good lawyers care about you and the outcome of your case.

They are vested in your case. They want you to succeed, not just as a source of their paycheck, but for your future well-being.

  • Good lawyers know how to handle complicated cases. 

They have a thorough understanding of the law and years of experience applying it. They know how to resource information that can resolve even the most intricate matters. In other words, they know how to get things done.

Cheap divorce lawyers, on the other hand, are cheap in part because they can handle only simple cases.

  • Good lawyers are accessible.

They respond to your phone calls and outreach in a clear and timely way. They also keep you abreast of any updates in your case.

Cheap lawyers take on a lot of clients to make as much money as possible. This means they don’t return your calls, they don’t remember your story when you are talking with them, and they’re not prepared when they speak with you… or the judge. And before getting to court, they often don’t educate you on what your choices really are, because they want to be finished with you as soon as possible. Next!

  • Good lawyers keep you on track and on time.

Divorce, in a very pragmatic sense, is a process of checking off a long list of requirements.

It’s also a process of meeting deadlines and staying on time.

A good lawyer will keep your case on time and you informed of all that is required of you.

Cheap divorce lawyers, on the other hand, aren’t always motivated to look after your timeline.

And what does that mean for you? You guessed it. Fees, penalties, and more money out of your pocket.

It also won’t make you fare well in the eyes of the court if you aren’t organized and punctual.

So where does this leave you when money is an issue, but quality is critical?

You actually have a number of options, most of which will depend on the ability of you and your soon-to-be-Ex to cooperate.

We always encourage our readers and clients to handle as much of their divorce as possible without litigation.

This means understanding, first and foremost, the difference between an uncontested and contested divorce. Every bit of contention in your divorce will come with a price tag and a protracted timeline.

If you and your soon-to-be-Ex are agreeable and amicable in your communication, you may be good candidates for mediation. But before choosing mediation or which method you’ll use to divorce, we strongly urge you to have a private, educational consultation with a reputable divorce attorney. We want you educated on what your rights are and what you are entitled to as a woman BEFORE you go to the mediation table and start making decisions dividing things up.

For this initial consult, here are the best questions to ask a divorce attorney to get you started.

After that meeting you can think about your husband’s personality and what model of divorce might be right for both of you (DIY, mediation, collaborative divorce, traditional approach, or litigation.)


Or get fully educated first.

Consider joining us for Annie’s Group, where it’s safe to learn what is possible for your life, legally, emotionally, financially, and practically, before you jump or make any big decisions.

 


Why is mediation often a good model after you’ve been educated privately as a woman?

Because it’s an “interest-based” approach to divorce as opposed to a retribution-based approach.

You are both coming to the table with your current and future needs and interests. And, if you have children, you are looking out for their well-being, both now and in the future.

Mediation is a favorable way to keep your divorce out of the courts. And the best part is that, instead of a judge deciding your settlement, you (and your STB ex) do.

But what if we agree on some things but not others? You may wonder. Believe it or not, you can actually use mediation for parts of your divorce and legal representation for the rest.

Even if you choose to use mediation for the entire process, you can still retain legal counsel for guidance before and review during. (And here is another distinction between good and cheap divorce lawyers: An attorney worth your consideration will not be threatened by your choice to use or incorporate mediation.)

Here is an essential guide for preparing for divorce mediation.

Another non-litigated approach is a collaborative divorce. Both mediation and collaboration have their pros and cons especially as relates to women advocating for themselves. So do your research and be honest about what is likely to be most workable for both of you and your circumstances.

You also have the choice to do a DIY divorce, utilizing resources online. If you choose to consider that approach, know that DIY is really best for short-term marriages, or marriages where there are not any children, little or no debt, and few if any assets.

What’s the big message here?

Your divorce, as awkward as this sounds, is an investment in your future. It’s also an investment in your children’s futures.

What you choose, how you choose, and why you choose what you do carries a lot of weight.

As difficult as it may be to lead with a business mind and not emotions, doing so is critical to your success.

Divorce cuts deeply into your life, emotions, and self-esteem, even when it’s not an “ugly divorce.” It unearths inevitable questions, doubts, regrets, and fears.

The way in which you navigate your divorce will be a statement of value that you make about yourself and your life. It will also forge a lasting memory and influence for your kids.

And no value statement is louder or clearer than the people you draw into your circle.

Money-conscious? Smart woman.

Cheap? Never.

Notes

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives on their own, healthiest terms. If you are recreating after divorce or separation, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation. Whether or not you work further with us, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown — with compassion, integrity, and excitement.