Written By Certified Divorce Coach Kate Anthony
Before starting mediation with my former husband, I consulted a divorce attorney to better understand my legal rights. I didn’t know much about the process, and needed to learn what to even ask in preparation for it. I had a lot to consider when diving into divorce proceedings, from division of assets to child support, so I thought seeking guidance from a lawyer would be critical as I navigated these choppy waters.
Don’t be manipulated by an attorney
In the U.S., there are two main factors that are considered when calculating child support: income differential, and percentage of custody.
I’d been a stay-at-home mom and had zero income, and I really wanted 50/50 custody because my husband was a great dad, and I never wanted to take my son away from him.
Looking at the numbers the online support calculator spit out, the attorney I met with quickly suggested that I go for more custody so I could get more child support. The best way to do this, he explained, was to accuse my husband of being an unfit parent.
I was deeply confused by his suggestion, until I realized how much money he stood to make off of taking my case to litigation.
I walked out of that attorney’s office with a basic understanding of what I was legally entitled to (which I probably could have just Googled), and a horrible taste in my mouth about where this man wanted to take my divorce.
I knew that had I been slightly more vulnerable, slightly more angry, and slightly more vindictive, I could have been easily persuaded to use my son as a pawn in the fabricated fight this litigator was after.
Go to couples therapy to prep for divorce
Because my ex and I had been in couples therapy for so long, we’d pretty much sorted through most of the emotional boxes that had piled up between us over the years. Those who haven’t done this initial groundwork are at risk of being led down the litigation super-highway by attorneys who profit off of their anger and resentment.
When a couple finally decides to divorce after years of struggle, there’s often a rush to get through it. But making the biggest legal and financial decisions of your life in the midst of the biggest emotional upheaval you’ve ever gone through is a recipe for legal, financial, and emotional disaster.
Before jumping into hiring a litigator, take the time to process your emotions with a therapist or divorce coach. This might take six months, it might take a year. That’s ok; you have time. This is not something you want to rush through. And the money you spend on this could save you tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees down the line.
An attorney is not a therapist
From using your attorney as a therapist (and at upwards of $500/hour that’s the most expensive, not to mention most unqualified, therapist you can find!), to being railroaded into a nasty litigation process, holding onto resentments puts you at risk of draining valuable assets that would be best invested in your children’s future.
Do the vital work of healing from your past with an appropriate professional now, and you’ll not only save money on your divorce, but you’ll lower your risk of becoming one of the 68% of those whose second marriage ends in divorce (and 74% of third marriages too!), because you’ll be far less likely to repeat patterns the next time around.
Kate Anthony, CPCC, is the host of The Divorce Survival Guide Podcast, and a certified divorce coach who also helps women decide if they should stay in or leave their marriages. Kate lives in Los Angeles with her teenage son (whom she collaboratively co-parents with her ex), two pups, and a handful of fish. You can find Kate at www.kateanthony.com, on Facebook, and Instagram.