It’s always a good idea to manage your expectations around most things. What’s this? A scented candle? NO, I WANTED A PONY! Life has a way of broadsiding us.
This is especially true when it comes to divorce. Now, you would think I’m a cheerleader for divorce, given the tagline here — “Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life.” I’m constantly scribbling “SEE A LAWYER.” And yet, I concede the whole divorce process sucks.
Yes, even when it’s liberating you from someone who sucks.
It’s expensive, emotional, and involves notarizing things. No one does this on a whim. (“Casual divorce” is an oxymoron.) Of all things you should go in prepared for — it’s divorce.
I had an interesting chat on Monday night, recording for the next Chump Lady podcast, with Bethesda, Maryland family law attorney Regina DeMeo about managing expectations around divorce. What the law can do, (create settlement documents) and cannot do (mend your broken heart).
I met Regina when I wrote a story for Washington Lawyer magazine on difficult clients. Some of us were married to those freaks. The kind of crazy that litigates to punish their ex, who refuses to respond to discovery, who drags things on and on and on… And, as I was writing this for lawyers, the kind of client that drives the legal system bonkers. No one wants to clog the docket with wing nuts.
Regina had a great story and we sort of bonded over all things Divorce. She’s had one. It makes her more compassionate in her job, (BTDT, has to share her kid with her ex), but she’s also the first to tell you, she sucks at hand-holding. Please. Do. Not. Hire. A. Lawyer. For. Emotional. Support. Regina is a total sweetheart, but…
“I have a narrow skill set. It’s highly trained, and it’s expensive.” — She appears in court and she drafts documents.
Expectation #1. Lawyers aren’t therapists. Come prepared with as much documentation as you can muster, and be all business. Don’t waste a lot of 6-minute intervals on your sadness and inchoate rage at your ex. Get some real life (free! cheaper!) support and build another team for that. Your lawyer is there to kickass at settlements.
We discussed other expectations and strategies — and I won’t give them all away, (because hey, please support the blog and check out our next charming podcast!) — but here’s a couple more.
Expectation #2. There are many shit sandwiches of injustice. Dividing time with your children after you’ve been chumped? Shit sandwich. Paying alimony to a cheating ex? Shit sandwich. Losing half your 401K? Shit sandwich. Lawyers can do their best, but the law is the law on dividing assets and What Is Best For Children (a lot of states that’s 50/50). It’s pretty indifferent to your agony. Expect it.
But do know what you’re entitled to, that’s where a lawyer can really help you. Chumps are so used to making their needs small (Oh a scented candle? Why thank you. I’ll treasure it always.), you may be shocked to learn the law grants you half time with your kids, alimony, or half the 401K.
Expectation #3. Chumps are dead common. Regina said about half her clients are divorcing over infidelity. So multiply that one Maryland lawyer by a gazillion lawyers and their clients and you realize that the judges see a LOT of chumps and cheaters and Zzzzzzzz.
Your pain is not very interesting. Dissolution of marital assets? Credit card receipts for hookers? THAT is interesting. Document, document, DOCUMENT. Money spent — that can be demonstrated. Your PTSD? Not so much.
And we discuss other fun topics like how to afford divorce (did you know divorce financing is a THING? I did not), how to do some of the divorce work yourself, and how to build a new life.
That’s the big takeaway. Why are you going through this suckfest? TO GAIN A NEW LIFE.
Give me a D I V O R C E !
Hope you tune in. I’ll post when it goes live, next week. And you can check out more about Regina here — and read her blog for more tips.
As for me, remember, this is not legal advice, I’m not a lawyer, I’m a chump. Please hire the professionals. I’m just here for support. And snark. Always the snark.