Julia has already shared what life with her husband was like – all the impossible little rules she tried so hard to meet but inevitably couldn’t, the emotional control that made the idea of being a single parent more appealing than marriage. Having made the decision to end the marriage, Julia still had to go through the divorce process, a process that rarely seems easy and a process that requires communication with your spouse. Julia so desperately wanted it to be over that she agreed to waive alimony, a decision she now regrets. Here’s Julia:
We did our own divorce and I waived all alimony. At the time I was making $37,000. He was making $170,000. He convinced me that he wouldn’t be able to live in a nice house, he’d have to move out into an apartment, which doesn’t make sense but I believed it, and I wanted out.
We went to the judge and she was not going to let us do this, she was yelling at me. We didn’t have any attorneys or anything and she kept saying,
“Have you seen what he makes? Are you not thinking? This is ridiculous.”
“I just want to be done, I just want to be done, I just want this to be over,” I said.
I wish I would have known at the time that had I asked for a dollar, I could always change it. I could have gone back and changed it. But I didn’t know that and I didn’t ask. I just wanted out. I wanted the kids to be happy.
I felt I could maybe hold that over him a little bit when it came to parenting time but that was not to be. A couple of years later, he wanted more custody because he was trying to get more child support and we ended up doing it all again going through a horrible, horrible custody fight with lawyers.
The Divorce Coach Says
I suspect that many of us can empathize with that feeling of just wanting the divorce to be over, of having everything settled so you can start moving forward. But readers, this is a cautionary tale. If Julia had known to ask even for one dollar of alimony she would have kept her options open.
So the moral of this is, when you’re heading into divorce always. always. always. find out what your legal rights are. Many attorneys are willing to offer an initial consultation free of charge. Knowing what you’d be entitled to or responsible for, means you can start figuring out what you’re going to have to do to make post-divorce life work.
And just because an attorney says you may be entitled to something doesn’t mean that you have to be insistent on getting everything you possibly can – remember, at this stage you are building your future co-parenting relationship so some give and take and compromise is essential. But again, knowing what you’re entitled to means knowing when you are compromising and knowing when you’re asking your spouse to compromise.
Be very wary if your spouse is pushing for a DIY divorce, especially if there is an imbalance of earning power or wealth. I can understand why you’d want to save on legal expenses but it should be a joint decision made with a good understanding of what your respective positions are. If you’re feeling intimidated, all the more reason to have a professional on your side.
And if someone in a position of knowledge tells you’re being crazy, listen!