My lawyer is currently out of town, so I feel this is the perfect opportunity to mention how I feel like a complete idiot whenever I talk to her.
Literally, ever time I’m on the phone, or in her office, I start to zone out about halfway through the conversation. It’s like Charlie Brown’s teacher suddenly joined in and all I hear is, “Wah wah wah, wah wah wah”. And then, “Okay, does that sound good?” I just nod agreeably and pretend like I didn’t just miss the last 5 minutes of what she said. I mean, she could have been speaking Japanese and I probably wouldn’t have noticed. And that was an expensive 5 minutes I just missed.
It’s not that I’m not an intelligent person. In fact, I pride myself on my intelligence and common sense. But when you are emotionally exhausted, overwhelmed, and anxious, it’s hard to focus. It’s like my brain only has the mental capacity to deal with so much in a given day. Between my son, work, and my ex, I have a threshold of information that can be processed for the day. And sometimes that limit has already been reached by the time I speak to my lawyer. Even as I write this, I’ve just remembered I completely forgot I owe my lawyer documents. So, I’m giving myself a little grace and blaming it on “divorce brain”. Just like “pregnancy brain”, divorce brain is REAL thing.
Did you just drive 15 minutes in the wrong direction? No worries, it’s just divorce brain. Forgot your best friend’s anniversary? It’s okay, just a little case of divorce brain. Put orange juice in your son’s cereal? Divorce brain strikes again!
And I’m not sure if I’m alone on my island, but for me, there was no learning curve. No one hands you a helpful “Divorce for Dummies” book with every legal term you will encounter through this process and the meaning of each term.
There isn’t a guide for this process. No one tells you whether or not you should hire a lawyer, or go to mediation. What assets you should claim, or what to include in your list of household items. Do I have to file an RFO (request for orders)? How many times will I go to court? What are my chances of getting what I want? I even asked my lawyer if such a guideline document existed. She said because every situation is different, divorce is fluid, and constantly changing.
Well, that’s just perfect.
So, an emotionally exhausting and overwhelming situation is compounded by the lack of a routine legal structure? Cool.
So here’s my hopefully helpful list of to-dos when meeting with your lawyer.
- If you don’t understand, ask them to repeat it. Yes, you will feel like an idiot and your pride will take a hit, but that’s better than the alternative.
- Write a down a list of questions to ask your lawyer before you get on the phone, or visit their office.
- Here’s the big one for me, create a log. Print out every final document and put it in a binder by date. As an electronically dependent generation, we dismiss the power of the old school three ring binder.
- Make a list of your priorities. Although I’m only 5 months in, I’ve realized the importance of priorities. When you’re hurt, it’s easy to be petty. To fight for the extra TV you don’t really need, or the BBQ you never use, just because your ex wants it. But I would suggest writing down what your priorities REALY are and let everything else go.
- FIND A SUPPORT GROUP. I’m going to write a whole other post on the power of fellowship in the next couple of days, but I can’t emphasize this point enough. Being around people who have gone through what you’re going through, and have felt the pain you feel, will make all the difference. Talking with others about the process, will help you understand what’s to come. It might also bring up options to include in your orders that have worked for others, and could work in your case. Divorce Care is an excellent program used at my church. Although the material is a little outdated, the group discussions is where the magic happens.