Facing a Divorce? Then Do Your Research!

There are many things in life that are emotionally, mentally and physically draining—and facing a potential divorce certainly qualifies.  Whether you have come to the realization that you no longer want to be married to your spouse or whether your spouse has made that decision for you, determining the correct “first step” in the divorce process is a daunting task.

As an initial matter, you cannot overlook the reality that you are experiencing grief during this time.  That grief can be overwhelming—and it can impact your ability to process information and make reasoned decisions.  That grief can cause anger and resentment—and it can lead you to make rash, uninformed decisions.  That grief can be disorienting—and it can lead you to “shut down”.  As such, I always recommend to my clients that they seek the help of a therapist in order to navigate the range of emotions that they are experiencing and in order to serve as a check on their decision making during this turbulent time. 

Beyond dealing with the emotional aspects of a divorce, you will have to deal with the legal realities of a divorce.  However, it is important to recognize that you have options.  Many people believe that there is only one way to get a divorce—i.e., through litigation.  They will find a divorce lawyer, whether it be from a referral or via a Google search, and that lawyer will explain to them how the “process” works—from filing a Complaint to engaging in discovery to negotiating a settlement before proceeding to trial.  Not all lawyers, however, will inform their clients of alternative dispute resolution options—or at least they will not thoroughly review these options with their clients—as they aim to get the Fee Agreement signed and retainer paid at the first consultation.  

The reality is that you do not have to proceed with filing a Complaint for Divorce as your “first step” in the process.  Rather, you can pursue Mediation or the Collaborative Divorce Process.  These options have tangible benefits for you, your spouse and your children, and they should not be dismissed cavalierly.  Instead, recognizing that divorce is personal and the decision on how to proceed can have long-lasting implications, you owe it to yourself to be mindful of all options available to you.

Divorce can be scary—but it does not have to be traumatic.  It has become a sad reality of our culture—but it does not have to be a negative experience.  So, please, I urge you, if you are faced with a potential divorce, don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed; instead, take a step back, do your research and make informed decisions. 

Briana Summers