I’ve been listening to some Internet radio shows and reading some books about divorce recently, just to keep current with what’s out there. And I have to say that, with all due respect to the authors and guests on these radio shows, there is some very bad information being given out there.
One of the hardest things I’ve dealt with in my career as a family law paralegal has been explaining to clients why they probably shouldn’t listen to the well-meaning advice that they may have received from other people – friends, other family members, friends of friends, etc.
Here’s what I always tell them.
First, everyone’s divorce is different. The facts in your case might be similar to someone else’s, but they’re never going to be identical. Ever. So what happened in one person’s case may have nothing to do with what will happen in your case.
That leads to the second thing. Just like everyone’s case is different, everyone’s settlement is also going to be different.
State By State
The laws are different in every single state in the United States. So what happens in a divorce in New York will be completely different than what happens in a divorce in California. If Aunt Sally was divorced in Texas and tells you what you should do during your divorce and what you should ask for in your settlement – and you live in Wisconsin – well, there’s a problem there. Of course Aunt Sally only has your best interests at heart. But because the laws vary so widely from state to state, you cannot rely on what happened to someone in another state.
The same thing is true if someone was divorced even a few years ago and they’re telling you that you should do this or ask for that. For example, Georgia completely revamped its child support laws in 2007. So if someone was divorced in 2006 and received child support, it was calculated in a totally different manner than it is today. Laws change. What was true for your neighbor in her divorce may no longer be the law even in your own state.
There are some general guidelines that will apply to all divorces. Don’t get me wrong – there is some good information out there. But divorce is such an emotional time, and it appears that some of the advice out there is designed to take advantage of people’s highly emotional state during this time. Some of it is clearly designed to do nothing more than play the blame game. And some of it is just downright cutthroat – and mean – in what it suggests. Follow some of it, and you may be violating a court order or a law in your state.
Here’s one example. In one chapter of a book I just read the author tells women to hide money. Then in another chapter, the same book tells women that men always hide money so don’t settle anything until you’ve found all the hidden money. Seriously? This author apparently lives by the belief that two wrongs do make a right. I completely disagree.
I can assure you that in most cases, there is no hidden money. People like to think there is, but 99% of the time, there just isn’t. There are some pretty simple ways to determine if there may be missing money. An attorney knows how to do this.
If you hired an attorney (and you better have an attorney that specializes in family law!), listen to your attorney. I mean really, if you aren’t going to listen to them, why did you hire them and pay them money??
Bottom line: Interview two or three attorneys that specialize in family law. Hire the one you feel most fits your particular needs. Pay that attorney. Listen to that attorney.
Divorce is never easy. Bad things can happen that cause more pain than you ever imaged. You have to be very selective about who and what you listen to because it can cause you even more grief than you need at this time in your life.
Just because someone has been through a divorce does not necessarily make them an expert, especially with respect to the legal aspect of divorce. It only makes them an expert in their own divorce!
Did you get any bad advice during your divorce? Or did you do something based on what someone told you and you later regretted it? Please leave me a comment below and let me know!