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The One Thing People Never Realize About Divorce

Six divorce lawyers explain what people never see coming in the divorce process.

Divorce has a way of sneaking up on people — both in the request for it and in the process that follows. While we all have a generalized idea of how divorce works because, we’ve all watched movies and movies teach us that there are lawyers and paperwork that needs to be signed, it can be — and often is —  far more complicated than people realize. So, what are some parts of the divorce process that many don’t see coming? For that, we turned to those who sit on the front lines: divorce lawyers. We spoke to six seasoned attorneys about the parts of the divorce process that always shock their clients so, if the time does come, you won’t be caught off guard. Here’s what they said. 

The Process Is Long. Very Long.

“Most people are surprised about how long it takes to get divorced. Since in most states, it’s a fairly simple process to get married, couples think divorce is the same. First, most states have a ‘cooling off period’ during which time you cannot be divorced. In California, its six months. So, the soonest you could possibly be divorced is six months assuming you agree on everything. If you don’t, and court hearings are required the time frame is easily doubled or tripled. Court and attorney calendars are busy so hearings could be months out and multi day hearing separated by weeks between sessions. Trials are set on separate calendars and can be months away from the initial requests. The point is there’s no such thing as a “quickie divorce” so take a seat, it’s going to be a minute.” – Benjamin Valencia II, Partner and certified family law specialist at Meyer, Olson, Lowy and Meyers  

There Is Much More Paperwork Than You Think

“People going through a divorce are often caught off guard with the amount of information and documentation they need to gather and provide to their divorce attorney. Many people understand their own finances but did not anticipate the amount of documentation that is required to be disclosed in a divorce case. A standard divorce case could include multiple reams of documents being disclosed by both sides. All of that documentation needs to be reviewed by the divorce attorney to ensure he or she fully comprehends and catalogs all of the important information contained within those documents. – Chris Hildebrand, Attorney, Founder of Hildebrand Law

The Rules Can Be Slippery

“There are rules, but often it takes a lawyer — a good lawyer — to enforce them. For instance, when people remove children from the state, or fraudulently transfer assets out of the marriage, I often hear ‘Can they do that?’ They are not supposed to, but unless and until we file a motion with the court, we cannot control that behavior other than by being strong and persuading the other side they will be forced to comply, and we will seek to have them pay the cost of such ‘forcing.’ – Randall M.. Kessler, Esq., Founding Partner of Kessler & Solomiany, LLC

Your Responsibilities Are Going to Change

“When you’re married and you’re kind of just trudging through it, you might just think, ‘Okay, the kids are going to do these extracurricular activities.’ But now you actually have more of a say. You have to ask, ‘How much does it cost? What do I have to do? When is it? Is it on my days or on your days? How do we arrange the pickups and the drop-offs?’ And they see how hard it sometimes can be when a non-scheduling parent suddenly becomes involved in everything. And you see how much longer everything takes and how involved things are. Just getting into the process of when you’re going to get to see your kids. It’s just not as simple as getting to see them on a Tuesday because you came home from work ten minutes early. Your life has to change because now you have specific responsibilities, and you can’t see your kids every day. You can see them when it’s your time to see them.”

The Conflict Often Rages On

“People think because they have separated the stuff and have moved into separate household that life is automatically going to be roses. Divorce leaves carnage, even if both wanted it. The pattern of toxic communication can transfer into post-divorce life too. Both people truly have the power to stop feeding the negativity. You sometimes have to train your ex spouse to be an ex spouse in what you allow and reinforce.” – Esse T.  Tuke, Owner of The Tuke Firm, PLLC.

You’re Not In It to Win It

“I think people expect that they are somehow going to be vindicated and they are going to be able to ‘win’ a divorce case. And the reality is pretty different than that. I think judges are trying to make fair decisions that allow both parties to move on with their lives and keep families as whole as possible from an economic standpoint, without really caring so much about what happened in the past or who’s right and who’s wrong. And so, I think that a lot of times people think that if they hire the most aggressive lawyer they can hire, they’re somehow going to ‘win’ their case. And the reality is that aggressive lawyers cost a lot because they aren’t necessarily solution-oriented and, at the end of the day, what the court wants is solutions. Solutions mean that both parties are somewhat dissatisfied, but that’s actually a good outcome. – Rebecca Alexander, Family Law Attorney at Sherman & Howard