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Divorce Truths - The Decision to Divorce
Telling Your Spouse
Few people decide to divorce without a considerable amount of soul searching. It is not unusual to spend many months or years before there is a comfort and confidence level to consult with an attorney. In fact, making the decision to divorce is the biggest of all your early decisions, but only the first of many yet to follow.
It may take your spouse months to adjust to the idea of an unwanted or unplanned divorce. The uncertainty to them can be overwhelming. They may need time to comprehend this life-altering change. Their acceptance is crucial for any expedited conclusion.
When clients first inquire about obtaining a divorce, I always ask if they have told their spouse. The most prevalent answer is "Yes, but they don't believe me because I have threatened to divorce them so many times before". Until your spouse is at the same emotional point you are, don't expect their cooperation, and certainly don't expect any support. Unfortunately, they may never be at the same emotional point you are. Their behavior throughout the divorce will influence the speed of the process and the outcome. The stress of a divorce can make an irrational personality even more irrational. It can even make a rational personality at times act irrational. Personalities don't change for the better in divorces.
In the beginning, assuming you are in no physical or financial danger, there is nothing wrong with allowing your spouse time to adjust to the idea of divorce. It is not a sign of weakness not to rush to the courthouse. Would you want a sheriff to be your first notice of a divorce filed against you? Most couples who have just grown apart still have enough respect to be fair with each other. As long as parties can cooperate, there is a minimum amount of court interference. The court only decides when parties cannot agree. As long as your spouse will discuss the divorce rationally, keep the lines of communication open. You want to be able to control what happens as much as possible as early as you can. Why not start with the person who has as much to lose as you do in terms of stress, time and money? Divorces can drag on for years with substantial attorney fees and expenses. Don't embrace the belief to spend every dime fighting rather than give your spouse a nickel. In a protracted fight to the finish there are usually no winners, only frustration and considerable expense and no guarantee of the outcome.
You will become emotionally drained very quickly. Try to minimize the confrontation and keep the conversations focused on your goal - getting out with the best deal possible. At this point, it is smarter to discuss sensible generalizations. Try and stay away from constant fights that solve nothing but elevating the stress level. Let your attorney fill in the tedious details, as your attorney will prepare all agreements to protect you. It is not going to be easy. You know your spouse better than anyone. You need to pick the best time and place to explore the possibility of some common ground leading to even a partial resolution.
Can We Go To Counseling?
Upon first hearing the word "divorce", many spouses want to go to counseling. Many beg to go to counseling. Even though you are committed to a divorce, you should discuss with your attorney whether counseling sessions could help a reluctant spouse through the acceptance period. People need to understand why something is happening to them, especially something they perceive as bad. Counseling may be a means through which your spouse concedes there is going to be a divorce, and remaining friends is preferable to becoming enemies. If you have children, a character assault against your spouse will never be forgiven. Time spent in counseling may help your spouse through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, hopefully, acceptance. This is a judgment call for you and your attorney.
You Can Always Be Nasty Later
The best opportunity to control the speed and character of how your divorce will proceed is in the beginning before lines are drawn in the sand and things are said that you can never take back. Even though you may not be comfortable talking to your spouse, it may save you months of litigation. Aside from the financial cost, there is the emotional cost. Your life is in limbo until your divorce is concluded. If you simply cannot stand to be in the same room with your spouse, tell your attorney and they will handle even the smallest negotiations. Just remember when you get your attorney's bill that minutes turn into hours.
It is not unusual for conflicting emotions to raise your own doubts. Do I really want this? Some of your confusion may be about the process, or your inability to control it. You are on an emotional roller coaster and you aren't sure where it is going. You need as much information as possible about what is going to happen. The more involved you are in helping your attorney, the more in control you will feel. The more in control you feel, the more powerful you will feel which should also reduce feelings of stress.
If you can afford it or if your insurance covers counseling, it is a good idea for you to think about whether a counselor can help you. You don't want your emotions to cloud your judgment. Courts adopt the "rational person" approach. Regardless of your emotional stress, judges still expect everyone to be reasonable. They are not receptive to individuals who vent their frustrations through the court. Clients do not fare well who repeatedly request multiple hearings over every issue. Although judges hear hundreds of cases, they remember parties who require much of their time. This ultimately may affect your credibility, particularly if the Judge doesn't view your side of the issue as you thought they would.
A counselor or psychologist can identify damaging emotions, and help you understand your frustration. Be realistic: If your spouse was not a responsible party during all the years of your marriage, it's not realistic to expect them to be a responsible party during or after a divorce. You could not change them during your marriage, and neither a judge nor their attorney or your attorney can change them in a few months. No matter how many demands you make on them, they may still fall upon the same deaf ears. Raw emotions are not a good influence on anyone's decisions.
Georgia recognizes a common law marriage if the couple was united before Jan. 1, 1997.
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