Over the last fifteen years, it has become apparent to me that the most common misconception about divorce is that you can jump right into it without the proper planning.
I can’t even tell you how many individuals come into my office demanding that I file their divorce documents yesterday. Following the consultation I always explain to them that if they want to be successful in their divorce and get the best outcome possible they have to do a bit of planning first. Often times, the person just does not want to hear that and believes that they will do just fine simply running into court and demanding a divorce. I mean, they know that their spouse is a lying, cheating, no good, whatever expletive you wish to put in and of course, the judge will hear them out, agree with them and they will get whatever they want. The Judge will undoubtedly punish their spouse for all of the bad things they have done, right? No – Wrong! Most of the time it does not work that way.
I tell them, it takes about a year to plan a marriage. During a marriage you accumulate property, you accumulate money, you may have had children, you have your own interests and you cannot simply fail to plan for divorce. If you do not take my word for it, maybe you would take the word of Benjamin Franklin, who has a famous quote, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail”! This applies to everything you do in life. If you have a business you make a business plan, if you have children you do your best to plan for their future and for college, if you are taking a vacation or traveling for business you plan every detail. Getting divorced is no different.
Those clients that are impatient and decide to shop around for an attorney that will run them into court often times come back to me to fix the messes that the other attorney made. They tell me that the other attorney made them big promises, guaranteed much success and charged them upwards of $20,000 in the first few months with little results. Sadly, this happens all too often. Many attorneys will take advantage of any individuals sitting in their office in family crisis or desperate to get out of a bad marriage and talk them into filing right away, drafting motions that get you galloping out of the gate. While this may be appropriate for some divorces, especially where there is domestic violence, substance abuse issues, or other reasons making it in fact an emergence to act, most of the time there is no emergency other than the individual’s wish for instant gratification. However, divorces should be carefully planned for. Most people do not realize how much stress and needless litigation they can avoid and how much money they can save if they simply prepared themselves for divorce both emotionally and financially.
There are no guarantees in a divorce regardless of the experience and skills of your attorney. Most clients do not realize they have to plan because they believe that the Court will protect them. They believe that if their spouse makes a lot of money then of course the court will automatically grant them counsel fees and support right up front. They convince themselves that they will be able to afford to hit the ground running, which can cause them to spend all of their money upfront prior to even reaching the most complicated parts of the divorce process. This is the worst kind of misconception, because more often than not, if you have not planned in advance, if you are not aware of your finances, if you do not have the requisite proof and have not put yourself in a position to obtain such support, a judge will not award such to you until the end of litigation or until you can prove your need for it. As a result, it can take months or even years for you to get the requisite funds you imagined you would easily get from your spouse, in effect putting you at a real disadvantage that could have easily been avoided with proper planning.
My most successful clients have exercised a bit of patience and have heeded my advice and step-by- step directions and guidance through the divorce planning process. If there is no emergency or threat to your well being, or that of your children, seek counsel who makes it a priority to help you plan properly prior to divorce so that you go into court with the proper documents, requests, knowledge and confidence to succeed.