Divorce is one of the most traumatic events in a person’s life. And it is a decision made by many people in our society. Despite the ever-present nature of it in our communities, there are still misconceptions that should be dispelled. Here are just a few:
Misconception #1: We’ve decided to divorce. We can do it ourselves using Internet forms.
Divorce is one of the most complicated, important events in a person’s life. Think about it. When most people marry, they take six months to a year to plan a wedding that will last one day (and spend a lot of money in the process). Now fast forward ten, or twenty, or thirty years. You have probably bought a house. You likely have retirement accounts. You may have investment accounts. Maybe you even have a successful small business. And for many couples, you have children. Uncoupling all of this is not a simple process. Did you know that the most commonly used printed version of the Texas Family Code is over 1,000 pages – of very small type? And that doesn’t even take into account the various other legal codes that may apply to your divorce. (I’ll spare you the list.) Allow me to leave you with this thought: If you broke your arm, would you watch online videos to learn how to set and cast it yourself, or would you seek the help of a trained professional?
Misconception #2: Divorce is War.
It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Why is it that so many enter a divorce lawyer’s office expecting a contentious, nasty divorce? Probably because it involves the most important parts of their lives: their children and their financial security. But fighting in a litigated divorce war results in one outcome – money out of your pocket and into the legal professionals’. The reality is that most divorces settle, whether early in the process or somewhere along the way to the courthouse steps. Knowing that, why not agree at the outset that you will both work to find a settlement that works best for both of you AND for your children. After all, their world is dramatically changing too. Enter Collaborative Divorce. With this process, you and your spouse sign an agreement that you will work together to reach a settlement without playing the games that come with a traditional litigated case. You each have your own attorney and the benefit of a jointly hired financial expert and parenting counselor to help you make decisions that are best for your family, and your family alone. And you do it without the “war” that is built into the courtroom litigation process.
Misconception #3: A Collaborative Divorce is only for uncontested divorces.
If your divorce is truly “uncontested,” you don’t need any kind of process to get divorced. But consider this: Most divorce decrees when children are involved are somewhere between 50 and 70 pages. Without children, it is not uncommon to have a decree with 20 to 30 pages. If you and your spouse do not agree on every aspect of what is to be included in that decree, then technically, you have a contested divorce. But that doesn’t mean you have to have a contentious divorce. The reality is that unless you are an attorney versed in family law, you don’t know what you don’t know when it comes to divorce. There are so many decisions to be made, in great detail. In addition, a Collaborative Divorce offers your family the ability to be far more creative than a traditional litigated case so that you can craft an agreement that best fits your family, rather than forcing your family to fit into a cookie-cutter outcome.
The bottom line
Don’t try to go it alone if you are considering divorce. Seek advice from an attorney who is trained in Collaborative Divorce and learn about the options available to you and your family.
Rhonda Cleaves is a Master Credentialed Collaborative Divorce Attorney with Cleaves Family Law in Plano, Texas. She is a past president of Collaborative Divorce Texas and an active member of her local Collaborative Divorce practice group.