I’ve been practicing as a family law attorney for 12 years and have worked in the family law field for more than 20 years. My practice primarily focuses on the areas of custody, visitation, adoption, separation and divorce. Over the past 20 years, I have been routinely met with several of the same misconceptions about the divorce process. One of the biggest hurdles in practicing family law is overcoming these misconceptions. A divorce is hard enough; thus, understanding the reality of the process will hopefully make it a tad easier.
Misconception 1: “Divorce is quick! I’ll be divorced in six months or one year tops.” Actually, it’s much faster to get married than divorced. In Virginia, a divorce cannot be awarded unless parties have been separated for one year or more. There is an exception if the parties have executed an agreement AND there are no minor children; then you can file for divorce after six months. The six-month/one-year date of separation is only when you are permitted to file the first paperwork with the court. Rarely will the judge sign the final divorce order that day. If you have a divorce that is contested, which they are nine times out of 10, it can add at least one year or more to the process. A contested divorce adds many other layers to the process.
Misconception 2: “This divorce will be easy.” A reasonable person makes the divorce process “easy.” However, there are two parties involved in a divorce, and chances are you’re seeking a divorce because your spouse isn’t reasonable. With that said, prepare yourself emotionally and mentally. I routinely tell my clients that it’s going to get harder before it gets easier. Divorces are invasive, but at the end, there’s usually a cathartic release.
Misconception 3: “I didn’t do anything wrong; my spouse did. I’m going to get it all.” Sadly, this is not entirely true. There may be factors that tip in your favor but “getting it all” is unrealistic. Understanding that there will be give-and-take and the need to be reasonable and compromise will make the divorce process quicker and easier.
Misconception 4. “My attorney will do it all, I won’t have to do a thing.” Nope. More times than not, I’ve had to say, “Help me, help you.” Without your cooperation, my hands are often tied, especially during the discovery (exchange of information) part of the divorce. Working with your attorney, being timely and keeping your attorney in the loop are critical to your case! Most importantly, listening to your attorney and assisting when asked can save you substantial legal fees. Save that money for your future!
Misconception 5. “My divorce is uncontested.” An uncontested divorce is when both sides agree to the divorce without going to trial. They agree on asset divisions, custody arrangements, support payments and any other significant details. Both parties are committed to concluding their marriage quickly without any dispute. Not all uncontested divorces are the same, and not every uncontested divorce runs smoothly. Uncontested divorces can become a contested divorce quickly, so to be a true “uncontested divorce,” be sure you and your spouse have reached an agreement on all issues in your divorce.
Having a better understanding of the reality of the divorce process will not only save you heartache but will also save you money. A divorce should never be a choice that comes lightly. Every divorce is different, so find an attorney you can trust to explain the different options of the process.