When you’re going through a divorce, we understand that everything feels out of your control. It’s common for clients to experience a rollercoaster of emotions on a daily basis. As divorce attorneys with a combined 30 years of experience, however, we’ve learned that there are numerous things clients CAN control to make the entire process easier for themselves, their children and those around them. Here are our top 10 tips for people going through divorce:
- Know that the only person you can control is yourself. You cannot “make” your ex or their attorney do anything, much less a judge. You cannot change the law, even if it feels unfair. So please don’t make the mistake of putting your energy there. Instead, focus on keeping your emotions in check and handling your own responsibilities. Just like attorneys and judges, clients also have certain responsibilities throughout the divorce proceedings. These include being an active participant in your own case, showing up, meeting deadlines, providing and completing required documentation, answering questions truthfully under oath, and obeying court orders.
- Keep your goals in mind. Your divorce lawyer should work with you to identify what outcomes are most important to you–and state them in writing to refer to along the way. The process can be hurtful and feel deeply unfair–but try not to let it distract you from what you really want. Focusing instead on your progress and victories towards your stated goals goes a long way towards giving the ordeal meaning and purpose.
- Keep your children’s best interests in mind. That includes letting them have a relationship with their other parent, and acknowledging that in most cases, your issues are not your child’s issues. No matter how much you may hate the person you were married to, remember that clients whose overriding goal is to hurt their ex are not acting in their children’s best interests, nor their own. Decisions made purely for revenge can have painful consequences for you and your kids during and long after the divorce is final.
- Listen to your attorney, not to lay people with opinions. This would seem obvious, but we often see clients who are upset or confused because someone–a relative, a friend, a co-worker, maybe even their estranged spouse–gave them legal advice. Even if the advice-giver has been through a divorce themselves, their advice is likely irrelevant to your case. Every divorce is different, and their interests and goals are not the same as yours. They probably are not divorce lawyers, either!
- Court orders are orders, not suggestions. A court order that appears to be written in “legalese” can be confusing, we know. Your attorney should review court orders thoroughly, but it’s your responsibility to understand and follow them. Be sure to ask your attorney to explain any parts that aren’t clear, and follow up with any questions. Disregarding or violating a court order, whether knowingly or unknowingly, can have serious consequences for you and others.
- Until a judge has signed it, it’s not an order. Clients can shed a lot of needless worry and speculation by realizing that no matter what others say “has to happen” or “will happen”, it’s not a fact unless a judge has signed an order to that effect. Don’t get ahead of yourself.
- Please do not drive yourself crazy wondering “Why?” Sure, there could be a reason that your ex requested something in the divorce proceedings, but does it matter? Doubtful. Don’t waste an enormous amount of your time and energy agonizing, speculating, trying to find out from others, imagining the worst, ascribing motives or ill will based on conjecture, or second-guessing. It’s better to just shrug, shake your head, and refocus.
- Behave as if a judge will review your every deed. Because they probably will. Text messages, social media posts and recorded phone calls can all be brought into the courtroom, along with eye-witnesses to less-than-ideal behavior. Controlling your emotions throughout a divorce is very difficult, we know! But do try to keep in mind that especially where custody is involved, your behavior needs to be impeccable. Spying on your ex, snooping through their email or texts, or erupting in anger might seem like a smart idea or feel good in the short run, but these are all terribly unwise actions that can damage you, your kids, and your case. If someone else suggests you do something questionable, ask yourself “What will the judge think of this?” If in doubt, ask your attorney’s advice.
- Keep clear, detailed records. So much depends on being organized–we can’t stress this enough. It’s vital to have a “paper trail”. This includes electronic text messages and emails, receipts, documents, photographs, etc. Take time to collect documents your attorney tells you are relevant to the case. Make it part of your daily routine, and don’t entrust it to a parent or friend.
- Take care of yourself–and remember, there is life after divorce. It will get better. The process takes a long time and takes hard work, but eventually, you’ll have a new life of your own. So take time to smile, laugh, enjoy everyday small pleasures, and set new goals just for you. There is light at the end of the tunnel!
All of us here at Raza & Jones, LLC understand this is a challenging time for our clients. As a family law firm, under St. Louis County’s Order pertaining to COVID-19 we are considered an essential business, and we remain open and available to all our clients. Our entire firm is working remotely, using our Zoom account to meet with clients or speaking by telephone. We are committed to delivering the same high standard of compassionate, effective representation we’re known for, in the face of rapidly changing circumstances.
With a combined 30 years in family law, the attorneys at Raza & Jones, LLC, will provide the legal guidance you need. For questions, or to schedule a confidential consultation, call 314-449-8830.