Featured

Welcome to FYI Divorce, real life divorce tips

Welcome to FYI Divorce, an unbiased resource that’s not tapping into the industry of divorce, but tapping into the heart of the matter; PEOPLE’s LIVES.

You’re reading this now, because you’re thinking about divorce, starting a divorce, going through a divorce or have already experienced the divorce process.  There are very few resources on divorce that are truly objective resources.   Almost every divorce online resource has the money strings attached, so the perspective of the article or website is skewed.  No longer, my friends!  Welcome to FYI Divorce, an unbiased resource that’s not tapping into the industry of divorce, but tapping into the heart of the matter; PEOPLE’s LIVES.  This is not a place to find legal advice.  This is a place to find the real deal; reveal what’s behind the divorce curtain for lack of a better analogy.

Hold onto your hats, because FYI Divorce will be taking you on a wild ride.  There will be insight garnered from personal experience (a perspective outside of family law), there will be interviews of divorcées, there will be interviews of industry workers and most of all there will be NO SUGARCOATING.  It’s time there is some real talk about what goes on in the courthouse and the courtroom and how the individuals’ experience can be drastically different depending on what state and county the divorce is filed.

There are many different types of divorce.  There are online divorces, uncontested divorces, contested divorces, only custody cases in non-marital situations, domestic violence divorces, irreconcilable differences divorces (which covers up the true reason for divorce), short term marriage divorces, long-term marriage divorces and the list goes on.  It’s time someone talks about the experience that unravels once you enter this tangled web of family law.  DO NOT ENTER the divorce lane without reading FYI Divorce first.

If divorce was simple, there would be no need for FYI Divorce.  Divorce is complicated.  The state government and attorneys make it even more complicated.  It’s not like you can file all the necessary paperwork with or without an attorney and go on your merry way as a singleton.  Once you go down this expensive path of family law there is no U-turn.  Do I have your attention?  Your life matters.  Family law does not consider your life.  Family law does not care about you, your family or even your kids.  Family law is there to accept your dollars, shuffle paperwork and do it all over again the next day.  There are those rare few in family law that do want to have a positive impact in the industry, but those people are extremely scarce and busy; good word travels fast.  Stay tuned for more real talk on divorce tips and family law.

What do you do about parental alienation?

Parental alienation is an unfortunate outcome of divorce.  If at first your divorce is amicable and then suddenly turns sour due to attorney involvement (attorneys can plant the seed of alienation even if it is not happening) or the jungle of emotions that naturally occur with divorce can inadvertently make the children pawns.  Sourness can happen, no divorce is immune.

Parental alienation will not happen if both parents are invested in seeing their children persevere through their divorce.

In some situations, one parent can be the extremist and abduct the children or constantly miss visits and taint the children’s ears with lies and/or truths that negatively impact the other parent in the children’s eyes (this occurs on both sides: custodial and non-custodial).  This emotional abuse, will lead to the child or children externalizing or internalizing problems.  The most bitter and vengeful parent will use anything in their arsenal to punish the other parent (this could be the same behavior that existed before the divorce – poor married behaviors become exaggerated in divorce).

No matter what, your children need both of you.  They need to know you are listening.  They need to know that you care.  Constant conflict between divorced parents hurts the relationship on both sides.  Once your children are in college, you don’t want to be the parents that only get phone calls for money.  Know what to do when you are the custodial parent and when you are the non-custodial parent if a form of alienation is happening.

If you are invested in seeing your children persevere through your divorce YOU NEED TO DO the following if you are the custodial parent:

  1. Follow the court order. The courts are flawed on many levels and mistakes can happen in the courtroom without a doubt; however, if you are the custodial parent it is your JOB to be the RESPONSIBLE one.  No excuses.  If the order is wrong you must get it corrected before you change anything in the schedule and you MUST get the other parent’s permission if it is a one-off change.
  2. Do not engage when the non-custodial parent is mudslinging. It is your JOB to be the RESPONSIBLE one.  No excuses.  Children can pick up on this right away.  Remember children are the smartest in the room.
  3. Be unbelievably consistent. It is your JOB to be the RESPONSIBLE parent since you have physical custody.  If the other parent misses a visit, act as though it was planned or turn it into a better situation by doing something special with the children.  If the non-custodial parent has trouble remembering the schedule, remind them constantly with traceable documentation (email, text and/or mobile divorce app) – so there are no surprises.  That way if it is the day before your vacation they can’t say, how come you didn’t tell me sooner or I didn’t agree to that.
  4. Silent coyote when the children are present. Remember, it is your JOB to be the RESPONSIBLE parent.  That means no specifics on the other parent while your children are present.  Schedule time to get together with friends while the children are in school or make sure the children are occupied in another room out of earshot if you are discussing your feelings about the divorce situation (this goes for family too while you are not present).
  5. Reverse the damage. If the non-custodial parent is alienating the children from you, address it right away.  Do not wait for a better time.  Do not rationalize.  Do not make excuses for them.  Tell it as it is and then move on.  Reinforce your love. You are the custodial parent, it is your JOB to be RESPONSIBLE and that includes safeguarding your relationship with the children without engaging in the same scheming tactics as the other parent.

If you are invested in seeing your children persevere through your divorce YOU NEED TO DO the following if you are the non-custodial parent:

  1. Follow the court order. If it is wrong or you feel there has been an injustice, fight to get it changed, but DO NOT disrespect authority by terrorizing the custodial parent.  If the custodial parent is being irresponsible it is your JOB to be the RESPONSIBLE one.  No excuses.  Custodial is skipping your visitation days, be gracious and then GO TO COURT (get legal advice to steer you in the right direction).
  2. Do not engage when the custodial parent is mudslinging. Your children need you to be the RESPONSIBLE one, it is your JOB especially since the custodial is stooping to low levels to gain control or punish you.  They are not punishing you; they are unknowingly punishing the very people they should be protecting, the children.  Take the high road, because your children will notice and when they are old enough they will request to live with you or it could be sooner if you present a strong enough case before the judge (DO NOT manipulate the children to request anything, be kind only and hope for the best).
  3. Be unbelievably consistent. If the custodial is missing visits, find a way to have constant contact with your children.  If your children are in school, do something special for them each week and visit them there.  If your children see their grandparents and you still have a relationship with them, try to see them then.  It is imperative that you be RESPONSIBLE by maintaining contact.  It is your JOB to undo everything the alienating parent is doing and you MUST be relentless.
  4. Silent coyote when the children are present. If you can’t say something nice do not say anything at all.  Children will replay everything that is mentioned in front of them in their heads.  Even if the custodial parent has said horrible things, be silent.  If the children ask about the things that are said, explain them, refute them, fill their ears with good things and your love and leave it at that.  By setting the example you are doing your JOB and being RESPONSIBLE. Document everything.
  5. Reverse the damage. Since you have less time with them, it is more difficult for this to occur.  You must keep fighting to get a court order that gives you time with them.  Every time you are with them it MUST be more POSITIVE than negative especially since you see them less.  You have less time, so there is no room for stupid mistakes like checking your phone constantly while you are with them.  Be grateful for the time you have and show your children you will persevere in adversity.  Your strength will encourage them, because you are showing you are RESPONSIBLE and putting your parent JOB as top priority.

Whether you are the custodial or non-custodial experiencing parental alienation, follow the court order, do not engage in mudslinging, be unbelievably consistent, silent coyote when the children are present and reverse as much damage as possible.  Coparenting and even parallel parenting requires BOTH parents be RESPONSIBLE.  Being a good parent is hard work and being a divorced parent is twice as hard, so take it seriously.  Being a parent is as important if not more important than any JOB or career that exists.  Being a parent is a privilege.  Do not squander the role and most of all DO NOT alienate the very person that your children love the most and DO NOT claim alienation when it is not happening.

No-Fault Divorce vs. Fault Divorce – Which is Better?

It is understandable why people say “stay together for the kids.”  Staying together seems like common sense, especially if the reason for divorcing is “I’m just not happy,” also known as no-fault divorce.  All states are now “no-fault” states, meaning you can file for divorce under the reason “irreconcilable differences” or something similar.  There are some states that still allow you to file for a specific reason otherwise known as “fault divorce”; however, a specific reason is not required.  Some more conservative states do give more weight to the spouse that files a fault divorce when dividing assets; however, it really depends on the judge.  Family law is a system that capitalizes on people’s misery and it is very questionable how attorneys and judges can maintain their sense of humanity while practicing family law under 21st Century conditions (one very good reason to avoid divorce if you do not have a good reason for filing a divorce).  If there is truly no-fault on the other party, file no-fault and follow through during divorce proceedings.  File online if you have a short marriage, no assets and no children.

A no-fault divorce was created for several reasons (this is opinion, not fact).

#1 Money making engine – Divorcing without cause increases earning potential for everyone in the divorce industry.  Couples who are parents have more stress on their relationship than other couples, so divorcing without a real reason is more common.  There is no such thing as a fast divorce when children and assets are involved, because emotions run high concerning loved ones and money – attorneys do not put on the brakes especially if they know your income.  Couples that are empty nesters lack the glue of the family unit and are more likely to become discontent without a real reason as well.  Empty nesters are a goldmine because they have accumulated more wealth than the young families.  Attorneys gotta know what they are working with.  You are their livelihood and they want to get paid $$$.

#2 Keep things private – Divorce information is available to the public.  First, anyone can attend a divorce hearing and second, anyone can request anything on a specific divorce.  By filing “irreconcilable differences” the run of the mill person cannot access the details unless you disclose them through the process (remember emotions run hot in divorce especially if the attorneys add fuel to the fire to guarantee a good payout).  You may want to keep things private; however, if you lack self-control through the process or ruffle the feathers of your spouse, privacy and frivolous motions or request for orders or even declarations can and will ruin your life at least temporarily.  Going to court is worse than going to the DMV.

#3 Increase the number of people divorcing – Less people are marrying and less people are divorcing.  In any business if the number of your customers decrease, the business owner must downsize or create demand.  Having a no-fault divorce makes it easy for people to call it quits.  In fact, if you have any enemies and you are married, better guard your marriage and run your business wisely; because you could be a target for the money hungry hippo.  The unknowing spouse may even become a target which is outside your control.

A fault divorce or grounds for a divorce means there is a defined reason for the divorce.

The reasons for divorce vary by state and are not strictly governed by a moral code.  It is uncertain how each item makes the list.  A common reason is adultery (some others include: imprisonment, domestic violence, disability, alcoholism, etc.)

If one of these is occurring it is best to disclose it, especially if there are children in the household.  If one of these is not occurring, any decent human being should file a “no-fault” divorce, because divorce is extremely painful.  You add insult to injury if you falsely claim anything and you are hurting those divorce cases that really have a legitimate reason like domestic violence.  Family law is not criminal law, it should be called creative family law, often cases that have real problems get overlooked, because so many people have taken advantage of the system (a system that is run by people and paperwork).  A system run by people means mistakes happen, bias does occur and poor judgements can be made.

Family law was only conceived in roughly the last 100 years and the moral standard varies by state and county and practicing judicial procedure is only enforced when there is accountability.  There is less accountability when there is less money available for the courts to run which enables corruption.  Some attorneys and/or judges are not corrupted, but choose to deal with the system without changing it because it could negatively impact their practice (family law is a closed network and the people divorcing are only passing through).  Others actively leverage the corruption to further their career or increase their standard of living and others use it as a tool for dominance, control, revenge or payback.  It should be unlawful for any mediation divorce to go to court and there should be a cap on expenditures for those who have a somewhat amicable divorce or make under $100k (value of assets excluded from determination), family law is the Wild West. If there is truly no-fault on the other party, file no-fault and follow through during divorce proceedings.

10 Questions to Ask Before Marriage

Divorce is looming for anyone that jumps into marriage without asking the right questions. Know thyself and know thy future spouse.

I’m compelled to write in the first person this time around.  Divorce emotions are coming out in full force and what needs to be written needs to be personal.  A drawn out contested divorce such as mine is difficult.  My responsibility has tripled since separation (my youngest was one month old).  It is too bad my younger self was not given a heads-up on marriage complications once children come along.  Now that my youngest is almost a toddler and teething; my patience has reached an all time low.  The drool, incessant cries and elevated temperatures come at nightfall and make me want to scream, because I never wanted to face parenting alone and I am so dead tired.  I never thought I could have such negative feelings as I do for the father of my children, not in a million years.  Oh wait, it was even worse when we were under the same roof after my first was born, because of the abuse that ensued once we both went back to work.   (Both parents working is another topic for another blog.)  I stayed quiet about the abuse in all areas of my life, because I thought every relationship has its peaks and valleys – the thoughts of an optimist.  By acknowledging how bad it was then, I already feel better in the present.  I only wish I had been more of a realist than an optimist.  My naïve nature during it all kind of disgusts me now.  If I had been more of a realist and faced the music I probably would not have had a second child from the seed of Jekyll & Hyde.  It hurts my heart severely to reflect on that notion.  I love my children and I wanted four children before the tides changed.

Oh, there is so much advice I have for my younger self.  No one was giving the advice I needed and I knew several newlywed blended families at the time our camouflaged frayed knot was tied.  Do people hold onto their past stories in secret, because they want to maintain a happy image to bury the hatchet or do people temporarily forget the divorce turmoil amid new bliss and love?  I hope it is the latter and not the former.  I also want to be the person that boldly remembers, so that I can help people make good decisions and minimize repeating a history full of mistakes (sometimes mistakes are inevitable and in a strong relationship mistakes make the relationship even stronger instead of destroying it).  FYIDivorce.com aligns with that goal.  If I could write a letter to my younger self, it would go something like this:

Dear Optimist,

You have no idea what you’re doing when it comes to marrying someone, especially if you have known them for less than a decade or even less, only two years.  You should wait and develop your career and goals before jumping into anything.  YOU HAVE TIME.   You have lasted this long without a committed relationship, what is a few more years?  Please try to answer the following questions before you say “I do,” acquire a marriage license and decide to make all your life decisions with someone else steering the ship.

  1. Does the person make you uncomfortable in public situations?  If the answer is “yes.” Please move on and kick this one to the curb before there is a proposal.
  2. Does the person isolate you from others in a group? If the answer is “yes,” please move on immediately.  This is learned behavior from a dysfunctional family.
  3. Does the person talk about themselves most of the time? If the answer is “yes,” this does not mean they’re a good conversationalist, it means they’re self-centered and prideful.  Take a hint, the person won’t change once your relationship is more serious.
  4. Does the person push your physical boundaries?  If the answer is “yes,” they’re indirectly disrespecting you and they will do the same thing in different contexts later.  Do not rationalize the behavior by saying “By doing this it makes things more fun or this is an indicator there will never be a dull moment.”  This is the biggest red flag, do not stay.  End it.
  5. Is the person critical of anyone in your family?  If the answer is “yes,”  stay clear of danger!
  6. Have you asked every question you can think of about their past?  If the answer is “no,”  make a list and start checking them off.  Write down the answers, so you have a record.  The history of a person determines how they will react in the future; it’s in their (nature) and in their learned behavior from childhood (nurture).  Make no mistake, familial ties run deep.  Any questions avoided, run like the wind and do not look back.
  7. Does the person have a busy schedule or are they spending most of their time on you?  If they are spending most of their time on you; they don’t have a real job, they are not living on their own nor do they know how to manage a relationship when real life hits them in the face.  They are only making you feel special, because they don’t have anything else better to do.  Do not be a fool.  Take it for what it is and say goodbye.
  8. Do you get along with the person’s family and do they feel like family?  If the answer is “no,” and all the previous answers direct you to move on, what are you waiting for?
  9. Has the person done illegal things in front of you?  If the answer is “yes,” you should no longer look to the last item on this list!  That qualifies as corrupting.  There is no way this person should even be dating you much less become your spouse.
  10. Do you often yield to that person’s desire?  If you say “yes,” you should know this person is controlling and has no interest in sharing a world, but wants to monopolize your life to feel validated and secure.  Once you show you have a voice, they will turn on you. Get out while you still can!

Please do not take this advice lightly.  You have a life ahead and every decision you make impacts your life.  Granted, even the bad decisions can make you a better person, but please avoid some turmoil by really understanding what it means to marry the wrong person.  Being with the wrong person is worse than being single and truthfully being single can sometimes be better than having a relationship.

With enduring love from your older wiser self ,

Realist

I wish I considered the 10 questions above before marriage.  Do not avoid these questions.  I read so many relationship books it makes my mind spin and I wonder if someone gave me this advice whether it would have fallen on def ears.  It is very possible it could have.  I drank from the love cup, it happens to the best of us.  All the questions above contributed to the demise of my marriage, because they all impact parenting.  When there are only two people in a relationship there is less conflict, especially if one person is always agreeable. I was the agreeable one.

Co-parenting with Jekyll & Hyde

Divorce is not pretty.  The more time goes on the more terrible the other person’s character becomes.  It’s scary.  What’s even more terrifying is that you are faced with this new person every time the court forces you to exchange the children.  This ache starts to happen in the pit of your stomach, you get a bad taste in your mouth and slowly you can feel your facial expression change from happiness while being with your children to utter disgust and contempt (See the blog: Divorce? Beware, it’s an Emotional Jungle)  as your feet take you closer to Jekyll & Hyde.  This response is totally natural after any type of abuse has occurred.  Luckily the disgust and contempt does not get plastered on your face as a permanent mask, at least this has not happened yet.  Faith and forgiveness are the only practices that quickly wash these negative emotions away inside and out.

It would be nice if everything could be washed away immediately, but that is not real life.  Imagine having someone verbally assault you every day and then having to face them?  Or even worse, that same person comes back the next day and says, “I just want peace and whatever is best for the children.  Why won’t you work with me?”  The following day the insults come whizzing by your head once again.  Every fiber in your body wants to scream out in agony at the pain those words cause.  Silence; however, is the only loyal friend in this situation.  This silence and limiting communication with the other parent is more accurately called parallel parenting not co-parenting.  Without any vocal words, somehow the other person maintains their cool on the outside and the world for a moment feels safe to the one verbally assaulted at least half the time.  There is absolutely no one to help in this situation, especially after supervised visitation is dissolved.  Side note: qualifications are not required to be a supervisor of visitation other than a simple completion certificate, but the service still costs an arm and a leg to maintain.  Supervised visitation is a story for another day.

Co-parenting with a Jekyll & Hyde type is rough.  When days seem to get better this type of person wheels you back to their shadowy world with very little effort.  Could be like quicksand; although, once quicksand consumes you, there is no coming up for air after.  It is more like a turbulent ocean. On some days the serenity and calmness take you back to a place of peace; however, once the tide changes and the weather shifts things can get quite dangerous and you wonder if you can survive another day of chaos.  Is this the happy co-parenting image that people are preaching about in the divorce industry?  This is what really happens in a high conflict divorce, but I do not hear the courts or anyone else talking about it.  Attorneys and the courts put fuel on the fire.  Be extremely thankful you are not in a divorce with a Jekyll & Hyde person, it’s really difficult. Faith and forgiveness are the only practices that help co-parenting or parallel parenting in this type of relationship.

Should you have a Marital Settlement Conference?  5 Reasons it’s a bomb.

The language in family law is so deceiving.  A marital settlement conference (MSC) is not a conference and it is not even a pleasant meeting.  The MSC is just as deceiving as the phrase family law itself.  It sounds friendly, but it really is one of the worst industries that developed in the 19th century and a MSC is no different.  It is not family oriented and there is no mediation involved in a MSC.  Family law’s mission statement should be something like this, “Judicial process to rip families apart physically, emotionally, mentally and financially.  Diminish all dignity of parties involved, especially if it’s a contested divorce.  If there are children, ignore them as much as possible and focus all attention on what the parents want versus what is best for the children’s upbringing, best interest of the children doctrine is only used to be politically correct.”  Family law courts truly do not care about anyone, everyone is a number.  Knowing what family law truly is, try to avoid a marital settlement conference bomb and agree to settlement outside of court, see an attorney for legal language and get it notarized.

There are valid reasons why the marital settlement conference is a bomb.  It is costly.  It is inconsequential. It is long.  It is unstructured.  It is surprisingly legal.  However, there are many things that occur in family law that are shockingly legal, so the MSC is no different.

Take note of the 5 reasons the MSC is a bomb:

#1 It is costly: If both the petitioner and respondent have legal representation it is going to be a hefty bill.  Attorney fees can cost anywhere between $150 – $450 per hour.  That’s $3,600 in one day (an MSA can take 2-4 hours) and there’s no guarantee an accurate decision will be reached.  Attorneys ARE NOT mediators, I REPEAT, attorneys ARE NOT mediators.  Very few attorneys will be conscientious with how they are spending your dollars – yes, every time you are with them they are spending your money.  Once a tentative decision has been reached during the discussion period or attorney manipulation fest, the judge will go along with whatever the attorneys say whether it is accurate or not.  Emotions are intense during this period so neither the petitioner or respondent are thinking clearly – the attorneys take advantage of the situation.  Remember that’s why attorneys are in family law to begin with, they are good at manipulation, they like competition and they have a real knack for confusion especially if it benefits them (disguised as a benefit for their client of course).

#2 It is inconsequential: No final decision is reached.  The MSC does not mean an automatic marital settlement agreement or final divorce decree.  Even the hearing itself cannot be used to finalize asset division with any organization or bank.  The MSC does put negotiations on the record; however, without a signature NOTHING is final, especially if the information is inaccurate.

#3 It is long:  The discussion period happens right before the hearing.  At the hearing, everyone goes before the judge and the attorney(s) will read what was agreed to during the discussion period.  Remember the discussion period is a session of back and forth of no real resolution so near the end both parties are pressured to decide on some aspects of the case whether the decision is in both parties’ best interest or not.  Attention fatigue occurs quickly after 18 minutes to an hour of intense discussion, so neither party is in a state of verifying all the information that is being tossed back and forth after 2-3 hours of discussion.

#4 It is unstructured: Every attorney goes about this their own way.  Each party is supposed to submit an MSA brief which outlines what is supposed to be reviewed and decided on; however, this brief is purely procedural rather than followed.  Asset division should have a template division for common assets and there should be zero confusion as to where and what should be divided in a community property state, but that is not the case.  There is in fact, no structure which allows the attorneys more leeway to do their own thing inevitably adding to the stress of the situation instead of making it better.

#5 It is surprisingly legal:  This is the biggest bomb indicator of them all.  It is legal; however it shouldn’t be legal to have a MSC without a final divorce decree attached or at least some neutral party mediating the discussion and verifying all information.  If the MSC is filled with inaccurate information, the MSC becomes useless and those inaccuracies must be addressed later which takes more time and more money.

It is uncertain how family law exists as it does.  There are many unhappy divorcées from the process; however, everyone complains, but nothing seems to be done.  Many complain about the outcome of their divorce and very few take the time to dissect why the outcome came about and even less go to their senators to get laws changed or to put laws in place.  Whatever you do, AVOID the marital settlement conference.  If you can convince your broken half to go through mediation to get EVERYTHING decided, do it.   The MSC is a costly inconsequential long unstructured process that’s unfortunately legal; stay clear of the bomb.

Divorce Agony – The Wild Horse

If your divorce has lasted longer than a year, you will eventually stumble upon divorce agony.  There are so many emotions that are wrapped up in divorce.  I have described them as an emotional jungle and the 5 stages of grief, but once your divorce hits the long-term divorce mark such as over a year you will eventually reach divorce agony.  When you have been in a period of prolonged pain that twists your insides into new shapes, this feeling is agony.  The pain is intensified if the estranged spouse is an abuser (neglectful, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, etc.).

Divorce agony is like a wild horse confined to a cage and looking out to see a beautiful green pasture beyond its reach; the longing to be free is a desire that goes unsatisfied.  Confinement creates a sense of claustrophobia.  Things are cramped.  Space is closing in.  Turning around and around, but there is nowhere to go, but to stand in the same place looking out from the same viewpoint.  Sweet scents come in on the breeze which provide some minor relief; however, no real resolution to the situation.  There are moments when freedom seems obtainable; maybe someone from the outside looking in gives a glimmer of hope, however the moments are short lived and quenched quickly with reality.

Divorce with children is that reality in a contested divorce.  Divorce with children are those steel bars that do not seem to go away.  Children themselves do not create the steel bars that pin in the wild horse that longs to be free, the courts do.  The divorce industry calls these steel bars coparenting.  These steel bars are the constant reminder of the divorce state of your life.  The issues that caused the divorce in the first place are still active and relived through coparenting and regular interaction with the person that caged you in the first place which creates agony.  Coparenting itself is not the problem; however, the system does not customize coparenting according to relationship challenges.  Happy coparenting cannot and will not exist in a contested divorce, do not be fooled.  Also, it is common for a divorce to morph from an amicable divorce to a contested divorce very quickly when emotions run hot, be very careful there is no way to predict the outcome or plan for this switch.

Everyone will respond to divorce agony in their own way.  If you are susceptible to substance abuse, stay clear of any situation that will expose you or tempt you.  Do not let divorce agony impact your relationship with your child or children.  If you can afford counseling consider it and schedule it.  If you cannot afford counseling find an outlet, so that you are not facing this dreadful emotion alone.  By joining a divorce group, talking with friends, starting a new hobby, writing or journaling you can better cope with divorce agony and tame the wild horse.

Going Pro Se in an Attorney’s World – 5 Things to Remember at Settlement

Going pro se or representing yourself in a divorce is not for everyone.  Family law is a division of the Judicial Branch that is not governed like criminal law.  In fact, there is very little information online that clearly explains how and when family law started in the first place and why it is structured the way it is.  The American Bar Association, only talks about how family law has changed since the 1930’s; however, there is nothing from an average search on a search engine that talks about family law in the 18th or 19th century.  Family law is in fact the Wild West for anyone that has not gone to law school.  This is not a family friendly system as the name implies.  It is ruthless.  It is cunning.  It is one of the greatest money-making schemes of America that somehow slipped through the regulatory cracks.  Certainly there are attorneys that graduated from law school expecting to make a difference in the lives of broken families; however, the reality and ambiguity of the actual job probably hit half of them in the face like a ton of bricks once they started practicing law for a law firm.  Too much ambiguity fosters lying and corruption.  If you are going pro se or decide to represent yourself, you need to know what you are up against when your divorce is happening in an attorney’s world.

#1 The more liberal the state the more grey area and the more liberty the attorney has to stretch the truth. You must over prepare for everything when you divorce in a liberal state (if you divorced in a conservative state, please share your experience); because attorneys are not held accountable to the truth.  Even with preliminary and final declarations of disclosure which list all your assets, the opposing side’s attorney can play dumb when negotiations are on the table.

#2 Know at least some laws that support your proposal in settlement.  Know the laws of your state.  According to, The No-Fault Divorce Toolkit by Daniel Sitarz published in 2009, the following applies to property distribution (please validate all information before making decisions, laws change everyday and below is a summary for each no-fault state).

What really matters is how each state defines the factors for property division.

You will notice identifying distribution as community, equitable or title is not the same across the United States, community distribution in one state is different than community distribution in another state. What really matters is how each state defines the factors for property division.

Alabama  –  “equitable” state – the judge can decide what happens to property and it does not have to be split 50/50.

Alaska  –  “equitable” state – the judge can decide more than just property

Arizona  –  “community” state and separate property is retained by the owner of the property

Arkansas  –  “equitable” state – if the judge sees one spouse has been unfair, the judge can divide things unequally

California  –  “community” state – if one spouse does not declare all property the judge has liberty to divide property unequally; there’s provision for the spouse that sacrificed for the spouse that received education allowing hire earnings; and each spouse is responsible for their own debt. Additionally, separate property must be in writing, if not it is quasi-community property or community property. Code; Sections 2502, 2581, 2601, 2602, 2620, 2621, 2623, 2625 and 2641

Colorado  –  “equitable” state and separate property is retained by the owner of the property

Connecticut  –  “equitable” state and takes everything into account when dividing property

Delaware  –  “equitable” state with separate property defined and there are custodial provisions

District of Columbia (WA DC) – “equitable” state and all separate property retained

Florida – “equitable” state and separate property is called non-marital property, any property acquired before marriage, lots of factors go into equally dividing property and there are guidelines for setoffs and credits

Georgia – “equitable” state and no rules regarding separate property or other considerations

Hawaii – “equitable” state and no rules for separate property and some factors

Idaho – “community” state and defines separate property and marital misconduct is a factor in dividing property

Illinois – “equitable” state and separate property before marriage is retained and other factors are considered

Indiana – “equitable” state and all property is divided justly (no specific rules) and marital misconduct is not considered

Iowa – “equitable” state and all property is divided – even property owned before marriage and lots of factors are considered

Kansas – “equitable” state and all property is divided – even property owned before marriage and other factors considered

Kentucky – “equitable” state and any property acquired before marriage is separate property and some other factors considered

Louisiana – “community” state and separate property before marriage and gifts/inheritance during marriage remain separate and other factors considered.  The spouse filing for divorce gets a material possessions advantage.

Maine – “equitable” state and separate property is defined with some factors also considered

Maryland – “equitable” state and spouse retains separate property before and during marriage and some other factors considered

Massachusetts – “equitable” state and all property is divided and some other factors considered

Michigan – “equitable” state and all property is divided with some factors

Minnesota – “equitable” state and the best provision for separate property includes 4 factors; all other property is divided without fault and some factors are considered

Mississippi – “title” state with no other property division rules; however leans equitable in court

Missouri – “equitable” state and separate property remains separate and there are exceptions to marital property after marriage and other factors

Montana – “equitable” state and all property is divided and other factors considered

Nebraska – “equitable” state and separate property retained and some factors considered

Nevada – “community” state and all separate property retained and no factors listed

New Hampshire – “equitable” state and divides all property with lots of factors

New Jersey – “equitable” state and separate property is retained and there are lots of factors

New Mexico – “community” state and separate property retained if acquired before marriage, all other separate property requires written agreement and no factors

North Carolina – “equitable” state and includes 4 factors for separate property like Minnesota and lots of other factors

North Dakota – “equitable” state all property is divided and no factors

Ohio – “equitable” state and separate property retained, plus any money from lawsuit/personal injury

Oklahoma – “equitable” state and separate property is anything owned before marriage and/or gifts/inheritances and a few other factors considered

Oregon – “equitable” state and all property is divided and some factors considered

Pennsylvania – “equitable” state and separate property retained and lots of factors considered

Rhode Island – “equitable” state and separate property retained except earnings from separate property during marriage and lots of factors considered

South Carolina – “equitable” state and separate property retained and lots of factors considered

South Dakota – “equitable” state and everything is considered equitably (no specific rules for separate property) and some factors considered

Tennessee – “equitable” state and separate property retained (4 factors like MN & NC), marital home is seen as better for parent with physical custody and lots of factors considered

Texas – “community” state and separate property is retained (3 factors) and community property is everything else including property acquired during marriage and few other factors

Utah – “equitable” state and all property is divided equitably and no factors

Vermont – “equitable” state and all property is divided equitably and factors defined

Virgina – “equitable” state and factors listed for separate property and other factors listed

Washington – “community” state and factors listed for separate property

West Virgina (is not listed in Sitarz book; however is now a no-fault state) – “equitable” state divides property equally between parties (HG.org)

Wisconsin – “community” state and gifts/inheritance considered separate property with factors and marital misconduct counts

Wyoming – “equitable” state and all property divided and some factors considered

#3 Sometimes the court will provide a mediator if the opposing side orders a Marital Settlement Conference (MSC).  This mediator can be a practicing attorney or a retired attorney, either way they are there to convince you what the other side is saying should be done.  They are not there to mediate.  You cannot contact them after the mediation.  They do not take notes.  They are strictly there to speed up the decision and they typically side with the opposing attorney’s view point.

#4 After every hearing, be sure to go to the clerk and request the minutes for the hearing.  The opposing side is not obligated to be courteous in any way.

#5 If you see something on the court minutes that does not represent what happened or you understand it differently. File a motion with the court to correct the issue and do not wait.

It is not easy going pro se.  Judges and attorneys alike engage in mudslinging, belittling and intimidation to put the pressure on and indirectly convince you the only way to proceed is with an attorney by your side.  Let the antics roll off your back and keep your eye on the goal.  Defend your rights.  If you have questions ask the court facilitators or setup consults with attorneys.  Whatever you do, do not attempt to represent yourself without putting forth the effort it requires, you will get run over. Remember these 5 things before settlement: over prepare, know the laws that support your position, do not depend on the court mediator, always retain your own court minutes after a hearing and file a motion with the court to correct any issues from the hearing.