This post consists of some random things that I have picked up from what I learned during our separation, things I have read, and listening to people who have been through the legal system.
Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and do not give you any legal advice. These are my own findings and opinions.
I understand many attorneys will give a free short consultation before they ask for a retainer.
If you go to the library or a bookstore there are various books about the legal process and about representing yourselves. Many of them are under the law section, some may be under the relationship/marriage section.
There tend to be a couple of types of attorneys: a. ones who are very aggressive as a default mode of operation, and b. those who try to negotiate their way through a situation with the least legal aggression possible.
Our court system is set up as an adversarial system – two sides going at it with each trying to win. Many secular people are even starting to realize that this is a disastrous way to work through marriage and children issues, so there has been much more of a push for alternative dispute resolutions such as mediation.
If you have children – I think it is correct that in some way you will be somewhat under the jurisdiction of the court until they are 18 years old – maybe longer, if there is an agreement for lifetime alimony. In other words, once you have an agreement in place regarding finances, kids, etc., if you want to modify it, because of circumstances changing such as a loss of job, loss of income, one spouse moves and upsets the balance on child visitation, etc. etc. you may have to go back to court to get things resolved again, especially if your ex-spouse doesn’t see things your way.
An attorney who spoke on the “Choosing Wisely Before You Divorce” DVD bluntly said something like – when you go to court you are going to war with your spouse and everything dear to you is at risk.
One thing to keep in mind if you believe your spouse is being unrealistic about your situation and does not seem to be listening at all to you, is the principle of natural consequences.
As parents, for example, we may tell a child to keep his hand off the stove, we may spank them, we may reason with them, and someday we may miss being there at just the right instant and they burn their hand, but we help them recover. Because they didn’t listen to us it can be a very painful way to go for both parent and child, but usually the message gets through when it happens.
Sometimes one spouse seems to think that being divorced is just going to be wonderful in spite of all the statistics, stories, and pastoral admonishments. Someday when the reality is they have all the kids, one is sick and they have no sick leave and their ex-spouse is off doing their own thing – or when all the bills of maintaining two residences and paying attorneys and having doubles of household items starts hitting home, and the creditors start calling, it may dawn on them that divorce isn’t Easy Street. Then they may want to work things out, but it’s too late. Sadly sometimes it never does get through to them.
Enough reality check for now. If you are in a stressed marriage/divorce situation I am sorry for your pain. There is hope and healing. Many resources and encouragement are available on this blog.