From “I Do” to “I Do Not”

We’ve all seen it on TV… A spouse says, “I want a divorce” and suddenly the couple finds themselves in a courtroom duking it out, trying to claim their valuable family possessions. Seems real, right? Oddly enough, less than 2% of divorces are actually settled inside a courtroom. Instead, there are a variety of options available today to “consciously uncouple,” as the saying goes.

First, you have to ask yourselves the big question…“Do you really even WANT to get divorced?” Perhaps what you really need is to talk to a discernment coach to help you determine if you’re just going through a rough patch in your relationship or if this truly is the end of your marriage. A little different from a marriage counselor, a discernment coach can help the two of you work through the decision of proceeding with the divorce or not.

If divorce is the answer, an attorney doesn’t necessarily have to be your next stop. You should consider talking with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA). This is a professional who can help you discuss your assets and financials and shape each person’s expectations for what your financial future looks like post-divorce.  The CDFA will give you an idea of what maintenance or alimony may be, how your assets might be split, and what the child support picture might look like. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the CDFA can give you an idea of what you can expect to pay for your divorce using the different methods available at this early stage.

At this point, you will have the information you need to take the next step in the process. If you both decide that you can be strong advocates for yourselves, you may consider using a mediator for the negotiations and then an attorney for the actual legal documents. However, if you feel you need more support in the negotiations, you should consider a collaborative divorce. A collaborative divorce is where both parties have an attorney as their back-up support, but the divorce process is handled outside of a courtroom.

If you don’t feel these methods will work for your situation, litigation may be your best option. Just keep in mind the reality of the situation – it’s not like the shows you see on TV. Most people are genuinely surprised by what “going to court” really entails. The time, energy, and relatively quick depletion of assets can not only affect your financial health but your mental health as well. Make sure to explore all of your options so that you can avoid the misinformation and misconceptions about the divorce process.