How Church Divorce Recovery Groups and The Law May Differ

Yesterday, a friend going through divorce told me the Pastor at his church running the Divorce Recovery Program has been telling the current group they must “always be trying to reconcile.”

While there is certainly a time for reconciliation, once the parties have retained attorneys, a divorce has been filed and is proceeding through the court system you will actually be hurting your legal case by seeking reconciliation with your soon to be X-spouse.

I told my friend to “kindly” ask the Pastor “Are you giving me legal advice Pastor? Because if you are my attorney has told me in no uncertain terms this will actually hurt me legally!”

That being said, it is also important to think about the timing of things:

  1. You tried or didn’t to reconcile BEFORE filing for or your spouse filed for divorce
  2. If reconciliation FAILED then you either sit in separation anxiety sometimes in the same home or you proceed with a divorce
  3. Depending on whether you’re a member of a religious faith you will have certain views about finalizing a divorce and what that means for your life and your soul. If you’re not involved with a faith or denomination, then you should proceed with a divorce because you are legally married with all the consequences of debt, assets, etc. until you’re not married
  4. Even if you are involved in a faith / denomination there comes a point where there is no more hope for reconciliation. A dear friend of mine who is older actually saw his Rabbi on my behalf and the Rabbi advised correctly in my case to get divorced as quickly as possible. See the final paragraph here to understand why that was good advice
  5. Depending on what STAGE you’re in, your faith and your lawyer you will either proceed with the divorce or reconcile

Confused? Go to many different support groups, talk to people at all these different stages, talk to your lawyer if you have one and make a decision.

The only thing I would say you should NOT do is nothing. Like having a medical condition that is progressive your marriage either works and you stay together to make it work or you sit in dysfunction. See posts on this blog from Michelle Weiner-Davis the divorce buster in Boulder, Colorado who I very much admire. If your marriage doesn’t work you or your spouse might begin going out with others while you’re still married (never a good idea even with “no fault” divorce states of which are the majority. See posts to that effect on this blog. Or you lead lives of quiet separate desperation leading to anxiety disorders and depression (also not a great idea).

DO SOMETHING… Don’t just sit in it. If you can reconcile DO IT. In my case my lovely wife of 18 years was actively involved in an affair with a married man in another state and not only was there no chance of reconciliation (I tried and was laughed at), but my now x wife was un- repetent, arrogant and dismissive and actually told me, her family and our daughters there was nothing wrong with her affair because “she filed for divorce.” Really?! And if that wasn’t crazy enough she also told me “we can always get re-married.”

NO THANK YOU!!!

Why is My Divorce Legal Bill so High?!

The answer often depends… Here are a few reasons:

  • Like hiring a realtor to sell your house your lawyer must be:
  • You must have real trust in your attorney after carefully reviewing the above and then actually “listen and do” what he/she says or you will be fool that gets yourself in trouble by:
    • Continuing to reveal too much to your X once the divorce has been filed
    • Threatening your X in any way
    • Not protecting your confidential discussions, documents, financial records, email, texts, computer access, files and other important information your X can and will use against you even if there is no wrong doing!
    • Be prepared to not create a blizzard of non-essential documents, emails, and phone calls to your attorney!
    • Work your counseling and other resources to “vent emotionally.” Venting emotionally to your attorney at $250 or $350/hour is not smart on ANY level. He/she is your attorney and while they may understand this is a very emotionally taxing time for you, they are your legal advisor and certainly NOT your Psychotherapist!

A few true stories:

A northern Chicago based attorney charging $450/hr meets his client at night at the Barnes & Noble bookstore to listen to her “vent.” At $450/hr you just go ahead and talk…

A woman given all bank account information and records from her X husband’s business just can’t believe there isn’t more money in the business because BEFORE the recession her X was very successful. Paranoia setting in this woman fired her attorney who she believed would get her everything she wanted in 3 months. Now the second attorney tells her “Oh don’t you worry…we’ll simply subpoena all the banks he does business with and get the TRUTH!” So another $5,000 for the subpoenas to several financial institutions along with all the charges for thousands of copies of statements, courier services and duplicate copies for her client and for the X husband’s attorney reveals the EXACT SAME DOCUMENTS the X husband had already given her in discovery! Shortly thereafter this attorney tried to use unethical pre-court tactics by asking for the parties and their attorneys to meet for 15 or 20 minutes BEFORE court, then when in front of the Judge this attorney lied by telling the Judge “your honor the parties have come to an agreement on….” when nothing of the sort had happened!

A man hired a high powered aggressive attorney that told him “no problem! We’ll take care of this! I know how to handle this and get you where you want to go! I just need a $5,000 retainer to start.” The aggressive attorney wound up insulting the Judge and lost his client’s case. Of course, there was no money left for hours billed in the initial retainer.

A man took the Honda Ridgeline new truck for himself when he left the marital home. He was not a contractor and did not need the truck, but it was new and left his X wife during the divorce with an old broken down mini-van which he refused to pay for repairs including brakes even though his X was a housewife with no career and little money. The X wife successfully had her attorney argue in court along the following lines. “Your honor my client has no way to pay for the repairs on her minivan which she uses to take the kids to and from school and their activities and has repeatedly asked her X to fix the van. He refuses.” X husband’s attorney argues “Your honor there is NOTHING wrong with the minivan, it’s a fine vehicle and my client is being asked for repairs that are not needed!” Judge “Well since there is nothing wrong with van, I’m ruling that you are to switch vehicles with your X wife pending final asset settlement.”

Finally, consider this. The attorneys on BOTH sides yours and his/hers has access in discovery to ALL THE FINANCIAL RECORDS of both your and your X. The attorneys on both sides can and do talk to each other on the phone without you being present! After many years of practice both attorneys have often “encountered each other with many other previous cases.” Think about it. Both attorneys MAKE THEIR LIVING off fees and they know what you and your X are able to pay because they have all the financial records. Will they recommend motions in court, tactics and strategies that lead to the least expense for you?

Source: https://family-law.lawyers.com/divorce/divorce-lawyers.html  Average attorney fees for divorce were $10,000, typically ranging from $9,000 to $14,000.  Nationwide, the typical fee that people paid their divorce attorneys was $250 per hour, but in metro areas, fees ran closer to $400 or $500 per hour.

The lowest hourly rate reported in our survey was $50 per hour, reported in Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The highest rates were $500 per hour in California and D.C. and a whopping $650 hourly fee in New York.

Children in Divorce Have and Need Both Parents

This is an extreme example from this evening’s ABC National News, but it is illustrative of what the judge in the video states “Both parents get a say.” In my case the Joint Parenting Agreement (JPA) is very important in avoiding disputes and my attorney did a masterful job of developing it over decades of family law practice, but when disputes happen and are serious you can wind up right back in court.

In order to avoid post decree litigation it was very important for me to participate in healthy divorce recovery groups from church, 12 step groups such as Codependents Anonymous See: http://coda.org/ , seeing a good therapist and it was very important to forgive my x and myself. That took years of work and it’s still far from perfect, but then again when you’re married you don’t agree on everything either!

Marriage is Not to be Undertaken Lightly

Depending on whether you believe in God or practice a faith based religion your views will differ on this subject. There is definitely a negative interaction between marriage in a church and civil marriage laws. I say this because in so called “no fault” divorce states of which are the majority. See sources below. Either party can run into court and say “no fault” and take half the marital assets going their separate way. 

Of course, many of us have had our awareness to this sharpened and realize that without a good prenuptial agreement (even if there are few assets at the beginning of the marriage) either party can be “taken to the cleaners,” with little effort and no fault.

Think carefully. How long have you known this person before you marry? Does this person have a career, job and is he/she capable of supporting themselves if the marriage dissolves? If not, then the party that is making the money will be on the hook for “maintenance” (previously known as alimony) and if there are children, child support.

Couples often make sure they have a Will and Estate Plan that takes into account who will raise their children and get their assets if they die, but so many of us failed to see the looming danger of marriage dissolution in the majority of U.S. states where either party can simply dissolve the marriage for any reason with no fault and take half the marital assets.

Years ago I was asked by a business colleague about getting married and as the conversation evolved toward the business end of marriage I simply said, “If you love her, you don’t have to be married to prove it. You are just as capable of being faithful and loving whether you enter into the civil laws in the state you’re married in or not, but you will be better protected by having your own civil law (contract or prenuptial agreement) because so many states are ‘no fault’.” If you decide to risk it, then ask yourself ‘am I OK with giving half of all my assets to this person if the marriage should end for ANY reason?’ If the answer is yes, then marry her.” My friend did not marry and I believe he made the right choice.

“All states offer some version of no-fault divorce. California was the first to pass no-fault legislation in 1970, while New York brought up the rear by finally passing a no-fault law in 2010. As a result, no matter where you live, you can get a divorce by simply telling the court that your marriage is over. You no longer have to prove that your spouse caused the breakup. The similarity ends there, however. Individual states put their own spin on no-fault rules.” Source: www.info.legalzoom.com/states-nofault-divorce-states-20400.html

“States with No-Fault Divorce and No Waiting Period

The states that offer no-fault divorce without requiring a period of separation are: Alaska Arizona California Colorado Florida Georgia Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Maine Massachusetts Michigan Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska New Hampshire New Mexico North Dakota Oklahoma Oregon South Dakota Washington Wisconsin Wyoming

In these states, a couple may obtain a no-fault divorce without first meeting any separation requirement. Some of these states also offer legal separation instead of divorce.

 

No-Fault Divorce With Separation Requirement

Some states require the parties to live apart for a minimum length of time before seeking a no-fault divorce. The length of time required varies by state and ranges from 180 days to five years. The states that require a period of separation, and the minimum length of separation, are:

Alabama – 2 years, Connecticut – 18 months, Hawaii – 2 years, Idaho – 5 years, Illinois – 2 years, Louisiana – 180 days, Minnesota – 180 days, Nevada – 1 year, Ohio – 1 year, Pennsylvania – 2 years, Rhode Island – 3 years, Tennessee – 2 years, Texas – 3 years, Utah – 3 years, West Virginia – 1 year

No-Fault or Fault Divorce

Some U.S. states offer both a no-fault and a fault divorce option. Couples who do not want to observe the waiting period requirement are allowed to file for fault divorce. Some common grounds for fault include cruelty, adultery, desertion, confinement in prison or a similar institution, and inability to perform sexual intercourse, if this was not disclosed prior to the marriage. States that offer both no-fault and fault divorce include:

Alabama Alaska Connecticut Delaware Georgia Idaho Illinois Maine Massachusetts Mississippi New Hampshire New Mexico North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah West Virginia” Source: www.livestrong.com/article/100998-states-fault-divorce/