by Anique Drouin, Attorney at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C.
Has the thought of divorce crossed your mind, but you're hesitant to seek legal counsel? So many clients have shared their reluctance to seek separation from their partner with these four aspects at the top of their list:
Fear: People don't want to acknowledge that their situation may warrant legal advice and action.
Misinformation: A spouse might say, "Let's just use one attorney for both of us." Legally that's not allowed in Illinois, so then only the spouse ends up with legal advice and representation.
Putting everyone's needs before your own: Waiting until children are grown and out of the house or staying with a spouse to please someone else is not a healthy choice for anyone. Setting your needs as a priority helps you be a healthier and whole person.
Cost concerns: While this is a legitimate consideration, not getting the correct information to make sound decisions can end up costing you far more money in the end.
Coming to see an attorney for advice about a divorce, or enforcement of a former divorce decree doesn't mean you have to move forward right away. Sometimes it's the best way to get informed and empowered about your options so that when the time comes you can make your moves appropriately.
Here are 10 things to know if you're considering divorce:
1. Seek expert advice. Get advice from an experienced attorney who handles mostly family law cases. They will give you the information you need to start feeling empowered and will leave you with a sense of direction.
2. There are options for how to proceed: Traditional litigation in court, Mediation, Collaborative Process — all with different pros and cons. Know your options!
3. Take advantage of resources. You have more resources now than you will after a divorce — use them. I’m not talking about a spending spree…if you have health insurance through a spouse, visit all of the doctors you see, get check-ups, new glasses, fill prescriptions, try to pay down credit card debts.
4. If you can, open a credit card in your name only. Don’t use it…but keep it for emergencies, in the event your spouse reacts badly to the divorce and wields financial control to harm you. A credit card can help while your attorney works to get you relief in the legal process.
5. The divorce process will likely take a lot longer than you expect…it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a big financial undertaking as well. Talk with your attorney about what the process entails and how long it may take so you can be prepared.
6. Gather all the financial information you can before you start the process (or before you let your spouse know you want to start the process). This means get 3 years of tax returns, at least a current statement from all accounts — bank, investment and retirement, and an end of year pay stub and a current pay stub from all income earners. If you or your spouse own a business, get copies of business tax returns, and business account statements if you have access to those as well. Scan these and keep them in a safe location.
7. Build a support network for yourself: family, friends, a therapist, if possible a financial adviser (especially if you and your spouse have significant assets and you don’t feel comfortable with understanding a budget or know the difference between a 401(k) from an IRA). At the same time, don’t tell everyone you meet, and definitely don’t post about your divorce on social media.
8. Every divorce is different. Everyone you know already knows someone who went through a divorce or they’ve done it themselves. They want to tell you how yours should go and what the result should be. Every case has a different set of facts that affect how the divorce is handled and the outcome, so consult a professional.
9. Get emotional support for your children. How you and your spouse handle the divorce will have a profound and lasting impact on your children. First, if possible, and if you and your spouse will have an amicable split, plan to tell the children together. Consider consulting a children’s therapist about the best way to tell your children. Also, let the school social worker and the child’s teacher know that your family is going through this change so that they can support your child at school. Consider a therapist for your child, especially if you see them struggling in any way that they did not before (socially, emotionally, academically).
10. You will get through this. Probably the biggest transition in your life, you will get through the divorce process with proper support and resources. This doesn’t have to destroy your life and for some families, it is the best option.
About the author: Anique Drouin, Attorney at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C.
Anique Drouin is an experienced family law attorney who uses extensive training in alternative dispute resolution (both in mediation and Collaborative Practice) to help her clients through the major transition that d