Bear in mind that a divorce truly is a means to an end. A person that I know who helps people to learn how to cope with divorce will tell people that divorce turns marriage into a business transaction. This may not be the most pleasant way to think about divorce, but I have to say that it rings true often. Marriage is and always will be about the two people involved in the relationship. You and your spouse have a history together and for better or worse that history is about to become a part of a legal case. Hopefully, that is something that you have thought of before beginning the case.
That is just the nature of the beast. It is unavoidable for you to encounter some degree of dirty laundry in a divorce. Yours, your spouse’s, or both of you will have personal information that is less than flattering made known to at least your attorneys and possibly a courtroom full of people. Don’t think of this as a reason to delay your divorce or to not get one at all. Rather, it is a wake-up call to anyone out there who is thinking that a divorce must go a certain way. Your destiny in a divorce is not the same as your neighbor’s. You can get divorced and have the experience be different than what you have been led to believe a divorce must be.
Above all else, you can minimize the amount of stress that you undergo because of the divorce by thinking ahead and being intentional about how to go about getting a divorce. In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, I am going to share with you some thoughts on this subject. From the beginning of a divorce until its end I am going to focus with you on what you can do to reduce stress and keep your eye on the prize of a successful divorce.
Be confident about needing the divorce
Do not rush into a divorce. It may feel good to rush headfirst into a divorce case, but I can tell you that it is not smart to do that. Divorces cannot be undone. Theoretically, yes, you can remarry a person that you get a divorce from. However, there is an emotional aspect that you cannot undo. You can’t un-ring that bell. Telling your husband or wife that you no longer want to be married to him or her is something life-changing. Those are words that you will always remember saying and he or she will always remember hearing.
Wondering if you should have gone through counseling before filing for divorce is probably a good sign that you should have gone through counseling before filing for divorce. Don’t ignore your instincts in this regard. Listen to that little voice inside your head. It isn’t necessarily self-doubt that is calling into question whether you need to get divorced. Sometimes it is the voice of reason trying to force you into slowing down rather than marching headlong into a difficult divorce case.
Talk to your spouse about the possibility of going to counseling or therapy. If you don’t think that traditional therapy or counseling will work for your family after talking to your spouse, then the two of you need to agree upon another avenue to be able to talk through your problems together. It could be that a priest or pastor is willing and capable of lending a hand. Whatever option you ultimately choose simply being able to talk through the issues in your marriage can go a long way towards helping you feel confident about needing to get a divorce in the first place.
If you do feel like a divorce is right for you and your family then you should consider what the next steps look like for you. For most people who go through a divorce that looks like hiring an experienced family law attorney to help guide you. Even if you have had friends or family members who have gotten divorced without an attorney, I still believe that it is important for you to at least consider hiring an attorney before you make the difficult decision to get divorced without representation.
Hire the right attorney for you and your case
No two divorce attorneys are created equal. However, no two divorce clients are created equal as well. What you are going to experience in divorce is different than what your best friend experienced in his divorce. Since the fact patterns of every divorce are different that means that you cannot entirely rely upon the advice and perspective of the people in your life who have gotten a divorce. By all means- ask them questions and get an idea about what their experience in divorce was like. However, to rely upon their advice fully would be a mistake.
This is especially true if you are being told that you do not need to hire an attorney for your divorce. There is indeed no requirement under the law in Texas that you hire a lawyer to file your divorce case. People get divorced every day in our state without attorneys ever getting involved. However, just because you can get divorced without an attorney does not mean that you should or that you gain any sort of advantage from doing so.
I get the impression that many people feel like they are getting away with something by not hiring an attorney to represent them. Almost like these folks are gaming the system by not hiring a lawyer. I think this is a mistake for most people going through a divorce. Here is my quick rule of thumb when it comes to hiring an attorney for a divorce case: if you do not have children in the divorce AND you do not have much or any property to divide then you may be ok to not hire an attorney to represent you in a divorce.
On the other hand, if you have minor children before the court then you should hire an attorney to represent you in the divorce. Or, even if you don’t have minor children before the court if you have a significant amount of community property to divide then you should hire an attorney. Even to answer this last question requires you to likely have an attorney. Determining what community property is and what community property doesn’t likely require some degree of legal knowledge that you do not possess. When in doubt: hire an attorney. Interview multiple attorneys, ask them questions, listen to their responses, and go with the attorney with who you feel comfortable.
Not every attorney is built to represent you in a divorce. Just like not every client feels comfortable with any attorney that they happen to meet with. Rather, you must take the time necessary to visit with an attorney before deciding to hire him or her. Once you give this subject some thought and then move forward with hiring an attorney you will have peace of mind. Simply having someone in your corner who is there to bounce ideas off and act as a sounding board is great.
The other important factor to consider here is that attorneys offer the ability to represent you in various ways in a divorce- or not at all. The traditional attorney-client relationship is one where he or she begins to represent you at the beginning of the divorce and will have their duties discharged once the divorce decree is signed by the judge. However, this does not mean that you must follow these methods. For instance, you could hire an attorney to represent you only in hearings or in a trial. Next, you could hire an attorney to just review the paperwork that you have drafted. Or, you may want to have an attorney present with you in mediation. Either way, have a plan created before the divorce when it comes to whether you will hire a lawyer. Having a clear-cut expression for your goals is a great way to move forward with confidence and be relatively stress-free in your divorce.
Follow the deadlines provided by the court
Family law cases proceed upon a timeline for all aspects of a case. Many of these timelines are regarding filing documents with the court. For example, if you are provided discovery questions then you will typically have thirty days to turn in responses. It would be a great benefit to you and your case for you to meet this deadline and file your responses and objections to the questions asked of you. This will not only keep your case on track but will not delay it any further.
Many courts also provide deadlines when it comes to having your case set for a temporary order hearing or trial. Asking for an extension on the trial date may be an option but it is not one that you should choose to take advantage of without a great deal of thought. Rather, you should spend time thinking about what you need to do to make sure that your case is not delayed unnecessarily. This means performing an analysis that has a focus on determining whether you will need to pause your case for any reason. If not, it is completely up to you how quickly you move your case along.
Be willing to communicate with your spouse
This piece of advice may sound ironic given that you are going through a divorce in no small part since you and your spouse have a hard time communicating. However, there is no better time to learn those communication skills once a divorce has been filed. Doing so will not guarantee a full-on reconciliation between the two of you but it will help to bridge the gap between the two of you. Remember that you will need to negotiate with this person toward the end of your divorce. Additionally, if you and he/she have a child, then this is more reason to learn the skills necessary to communicate with one another. Many people feel like a divorce is a road to nowhere. However, with the right attorney and the willingness to communicate difficult ideas, I think you and your spouse can work well together. This is not unnecessary optimism, either. This is based on my years of experience helping families go through a divorce here in southeast Texas.
Don’t let the small things in your divorce stress you out
This is easier said than done in many regards, but I cannot tell you how important it is for you to be able to focus on the big picture and block out the noise that comes along in a divorce. Petty squabbles with your ex-wife must be set to the side once the divorce starts. Instead, you need to focus on those parts of the divorce that is likely going to help you accomplish your main objectives in a case.
For example, if you want to make sure that you have primary conservatorship of your children then you should focus on that from the beginning of your case. Communicate this to your attorney. Ask him or her what kind of steps there are to help you accomplish these goals. Once you have established for yourself what kind of goals you have for a case the rest of this is just a matter of keeping your eye on the prize. For the most part, I recommend devoting your divorce to those areas that most impact your children and a division of your community estate.
It is when you lose track of what is most important to you in your case that you typically find that arguments and petty behavior will ensue. During long stretches of a divorce case, I am familiar with how husbands and wives can tend to get on each other’s nerves. There may even get to a point where you and your attorney start to get on one another’s nerves. Most of us are familiar with the phrase familiarity breeds contempt. That is extremely true in the context of a divorce. You and your spouse are already plenty familiar with one another and have enough contempt to go around. In a stressful situation, even those friendly with you can cause you stress.
My advice is to focus as much of your attention as possible on those areas of your case that are going to be the most important to you and to disregard anything owls. Let your attorney handle the day-to-day running of the case as far as interactions with the opposing attorney and responding to settlement offers. Maintain communication as you will be responsible for making the decisions in your case. However, the less you can fixate on issues that are not critical to your case the better.
Do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today
The major temptation in a divorce case is to delay doing what you must do because it is unpleasant or takes a great deal of work period, for example, when your spouse submits discovery requests upon you and your attorney your lawyer will likely ask you to look at the questions and answer as many as you can. He or she can further clarify the questions you don’t understand or offer objections to the questions where that is appropriate. However, he or she cannot answer the questions for you. As a result, most of the work when it comes to answering questions, providing documentation, or even physical evidence falls on your shoulders.
You do not want to delay in fulfilling your obligations in this case. Delaying responding to discovery requests or even providing information to prepare for mediation can cause delays. This costs time and money that can be if you can’t find them harmful to you and your family. Rather, complete assignments as soon as they are given to you will find that you are going to experience a much less stressful divorce.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. Thank you for your interest in our law practice and we hope that you will join us again tomorrow as we share more information on our blog about relevant topics in Texas family law.