If your spouse has told you that they want a divorce, there are a lot of emotions you might go through, including anger, sadness, and confusion. However, if you are completely blindsided by this proclamation, then a lack of communication is likely the cause, and clearly you and your spouse are on different pages. Going through a divorce is difficult enough when both parties are in agreement. However, when one is unaware, it is much worse to navigate through. Since many people find themselves dumbfounded about their spouse’s request for a divorce, here is some expert advice to help get through it wisely.
- seek advice from your church or spiritual leader, therapist, or yoga guru
- find out what the law of your state entitles you to
- find the right attorney
- ask for a recommendation from someone who successfully concluded their divorce
- consult with friends whose divorce was a war zone
- forget that both parents should tell the children together
- ask for advice from inexperienced friends and family
- sit back and wait for the next shoe to drop – be proactive
Many people from your life will come out of the woodwork to console you, shoving self-help books and tales of their friend’s divorce in your face. It is important to understand where they are coming from, but ask them to respect your privacy. You will want to talk to someone though and before you get into the nitty gritty with lawyers and court battles, it is a good idea to talk to someone unbiased who will help you find some clarity and talk through all your emotions, so when it does come time to discuss the legal aspects you are ready and not impaired by emotions.
You will be in no position to negotiate with your spouse until you know the answer to basic questions. Educate yourself on what you are entitled to in regards to assets, child support and custody if you have children, spousal support etc. That way you are prepared to argue for what you are legally entitled to. If not, you risk your spouse, who has probably already consulted with lawyer, walking all over you.
Your spouse has probably already sought legal representation, so you need to lawyer up as well. If you do not know any experienced family lawyers, do a quick Google search for divorce attorneys in your state. You may have to meet with a few before you find the right fit. It’s like getting different opinions on a medical matter, not everyone is going to have what you are looking for. The process might take a while, but you must be patient because finding the right counsel makes all the difference.
If you don’t trust the internet, then ask around to see if any friends or coworkers know someone who successfully got through their divorce, the collaborative process or mediation. The key word here is successfully, you don’t want to hire an attorney who misrepresented their client or caused them more headaches by dragging them through a lengthy court battle.
If you need to vent or talk about your process do so with a therapist or even your lawyer, we’re much better at listening than you think. Try not to ask for advice or even consulting with friends who went through a similar situation that did not end well, it will only confuse you more. They will tell you the wrong thing, usually about how to spite your spouse, and that will not lead you down the right path.
If this was a surprise to you, imagine how shocked your children will be. Inform them of what is happening only once you get a firm grasp on it. They will have questions and you need to provide answers, which you can only do when you have everything sorted out. There is no need to upset them and confuse them further with vague answers.
Your family and friends will reach out to you to help you during this time. This is great, a strong support system is necessary. However ask them to watch the kids during meetings with your attorney, or to help with dinner when you have had a stressful day. This is how they can best help you, not by giving you advice because unless it comes from a place of positive experience, you will be overwhelmed with their opinions.
Chances are if your spouse has dropped the divorce bomb on you, they have already acquired an attorney to represent them. You are already behind the ball, so you must be proactive. Hire yourself an attorney, decide what it is you want out of the divorce, money, assets, custody, child support etc. so that when you do have these discussions with your spouse you are prepared to ask for what you want.
Yes, this is very hard information to receive, but going into panic mode will only cloud your judgement and impair your ability to get through this wisely. As difficult as it may be you need to pull yourself up, get legal counsel and start to put your life back together.
Being surprised by something as big as a divorce is almost impossible to imagine if you have never been in that situation, and is something no one would wish on their worst enemy. However, if you find yourself in this situation you can have a good cry at your church or on your therapists couch but then you need to dust yourself off, collect your bearings, and prepare yourself. Hire an attorney, that has either come highly recommended or who you have met with after a screening process, educate yourself on your legal rights and plan out what you want from this divorce. All of this will help you protect your rights in your divorce proceedings and ensure that you get the best outcome for yourself and your children.