By it’s very nature, the legal process for getting divorced seems to put couples on opposing sides. You know what disagreements with your spouse are like and that will give you some idea of what to expect negotiating your divorce settlement. Sometimes the anticipated conflict is just one reason people delay filing for divorce. It’s also a reason why some people decide the fight’s not worth it.
My current guest, Missy decided to file for divorce after discovering her husband had been unfaithful again. She’d been a stay-at-home mom but after the first separation a few years earlier, she’d gone back to work. That meant some of the things she could have pursued in divorce were not important to her. Here’s Missy:
Surprisingly, he was not intensely high conflict through the divorce process.
Part of that was because right upfront I decided that I would not seek alimony even though we had been married for more than ten years and I had actually put him through his Master’s Degree and then given up my career to move for his.
I just decided I didn’t want to be dependent on that aspect of things from him; only for child support. Also, I decided right upfront that I would fight for no material possessions. They just weren’t worth it.
Once that battle was taken away from him, he didn’t really care about them either. Through the process of therapy I learned, part of his issue was winning. If there wasn’t something to win, he didn’t create an issue of it. We were able to come to an agreement on our terms of divorce ourselves. We had lawyers to review and make recommendations, but we did it ourselves over the kitchen table actually. It was horrible, but we did it. We saved up a lot of money.
My attorney gave us what they call a sample parenting plan. I also had a friend who had been through a divorce several years prior and she gave me a copy of her divorce decree and parenting plan. It would not have worked in our situation, but it helped to have an idea of other things to look for and that sounding board of a friend.
She also helped in little things like when you’re talking about claiming dependence on your taxes, if you are dividing the dependents, take the younger ones for yourself, because you’ll be able to claim them for longer years and you can justify it in different ways… Just having some practical, real world, “been there, done that” advice was very helpful and to be able to talk to somebody else that walked the path a few years prior and was just a few steps ahead of us on the journey.
Your whole world has been designed around being with this person for the rest of your life or at least mine was and so, to sit and say, “You’ll get this and you’ll have that,” and to whittle it down to paper and possessions and then the children and the time we would each have with the children, that just felt so diametrically opposed to what I had ever hoped for and thought I would ever experience. It was just a very difficult thing for me emotionally.
I’ll just never forget that. I’ve had to get up and walk away several times just to catch my breath. Like, “I can’t believe I’m sitting here deciding when my children will not be allowed to be with me. They’ll be with their father. And what influence I will and will not have.” Just whittling it down to paper and that was a very difficult process for me.
I think we both recognized that at the end of the day we didn’t want the courts to determine what was best for our children. It hasn’t always been easy and he hasn’t always followed the plan. Initially, in fact, shortly after the plan was established, he would try to do things differently and try to control. There were some very high conflict moments.
There was twice when I had to call the police because, again he gets very angry and when he’s angry, he, in my opinion, gets out of control and I didn’t trust the situation.
We still have flare-ups of those types of scenarios, although they are fewer the farther we get out. For so many years I just did whatever he said, I think partially he wasn’t confident that I would actually enforce or be resolute on what we decided. I think partially, he may have thought, “I can say this now and just do what I want later,” type of situation. But it hasn’t been that way.
The Divorce Coach Says
Missy’s decision not to pursue alimony or spousal support as it’s called in some states, was made with full consciousness and that’s the only way such a decision should be made.
Even if you are the most conflict averse person and the thought of fighting for alimony is making you physically sick, you need to understand your legal rights. That means having at least an initial legal consultation to find out the likely monthly payments and duration of alimony and also understand what would be a realistic expectation for a settlement amount.
Next you have to figure out what you would have to go through to reach a settlement. Your attorney should be able to give you an estimate of the range of their fees if you end up having to go to trial as opposed to coming to an agreement earlier.
The third piece of the puzzle that you need to consider is even if you are awarded alimony, how likely is it that your STBX will pay it on a regular, consistent basis. You probably have a good feel for this based on your STBX’s work history and financial ethics.
Assuming you have a budget for your household expenses, this will give you a clearer understanding of what life with spousal support would be like, and on the flip side, what life without spousal support would be like.
Now you can make a conscious decision about pursuing spousal support. And, btw, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision either. This information gives you everything you need to negotiate for a different amount or different terms.
Don’t let your fear of divorce stop you from finding out the information you need.
Missy blogs at Far From Flawless where she writes about leading a Christian life with a blended family hoping that sharing her journey will empower others to shun the mask of imperfection and open themselves to authentic living.