So, your loved one (or you) has been Ashley Madisonized. And now you are splitting up. What should you do next for divorce or custody? A brief guide for the perplexed.
1. Get calm: Do not make any decisions out of anger or guilt. Your best bet is to get into a state of mind where you can make considered and smart decisions. Act in haste -> repent at leisure.
2, Contact a local attorney: Find someone who
- Practices in your local county
- Solely or largely does family law
- Is experienced. Family law differs from state to state and even county to county
Get somebody local who knows the lay of the land. And get somebody who does divorce, custody and support all day long. Nobody can be an expert on multiple ares of the law. Becoming a good attorney takes experience. Law school teaches an attorney next to nothing about how to actually handle a divorce.
Even if you are not sure about getting divorced, meeting with an attorney can let you know your options, obstacles and opportunities.
3. If you have kids: Put your kids first but never in the middle. Do NOT put them in the middle. Do not disparage their other parent to them. This is likely to permanently damage your children - even if everything you say is true. Also, you will be a part of each other's lives for the rest of your lives. 15 years from now, you don't want to poison your child's wedding with bitterness between parents. Separate the spouse from the co-parent. Feel free to hate the first, but respect the second.
4. Stay liquid. You might be tempted to splurge out of sadness. Don't. Staying liquid is about the best thing you can do for your case. Getting divorced is like moving. Everybody knows it costs a lot but it is still more expensive then you expect. Being liquid increases your range of options, insulates you from leverage and allows you to benefit fully from legal counsel. Feel free to splurge if you maintain significant liquid funds after the divorce. And you should not have splurged in the first place if you don't have funds afterwards.
5. Keep your head up. Millions of people have gone through what you are experiencing now and made it to the other side. Consider working out regularly to help with the stress and anxiety. Don't hesitate to get counseling. The court will not hold that against you. And keep connected to family and friends. They can give you perspective, strength and resources.
6. Don't be stupid. The Internet is full of ha-ha slide shows showing creative and destructive ways of getting "revenge" on a cheating ex. Or who boast of "getting one over" their spouse. Those people are not clever. They are stupid.
By engaging in such behavior, you will anger the judge. And you will lose the higher ground. And you will likely pay for every scratch you put in your ex's car. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
7. Collect documentation. Pay stubs, tax returns, 401(k) statements, appraisals etc. can all help your attorney help you, and without the cost of discovery. Your attorney, or the other side, will probably ask you to provide certain documentation. You can help yourself by doing so promptly and thoroughly.
8. Fairness. In family court, formula for a fair resolution is based on what you are likely to get if you go to trial. A resolution is generally "fair" if it is as good, or better, as the expected outcome. Most cases do not go to trial, but any case could go to trial and so this remains the standard. The family court will not give you "justice" in the religious, moral or philosophical sense. It is not even a "justice system", though justice always remains a goal. It is a means of reaching either the best interests of the child or the statutory divorce goals. My local court sees thousands of cases a year and literally lacks the resources to care about every case. This is why it is so important that your attorney care about your case.
9. Your Attorney. This blog is general advice. Good advice depends on the facts of a case, personalities of the litigants, local rules and local judges. So, in case of conflict, listen to your attorney. If you have chosen well, your counsel will know your particular case, rules and judge.