Happy New Year Friends,
We are not just in a New Year, but a new decade. And, it’s always a perfect time for some reflection about where you’ve been and some thought about where you’re going? The psalmist reminds us to “Teach me to number my days, O Lord, so that I might present to you a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
If you don’t like where you are, it’s time for you to make a revised map for the future. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself. How do I want to live MY life? Describe it in as much detail as you can. For example, what would be different about your health? Your relationships? Your leisure time? What would you pursue? What would you let go of? What would you focus on? What would distract you from the way you want to live your life?
Todays’ Question: My husband filed for divorce and hired a lawyer. I have been trying everything I can to save my marriage unsuccessfully – he is set on divorcing and there is nothing or no one that will stop him. My question is this. Is it okay for a Christian (myself) to hire a lawyer as well to help with an equal division of property and funds and childcare responsibilities? It seems like hiring a lawyer means “fighting.” What are your thoughts on this?
Answer: Divorce is not only a relational issue, but it is also a legal one and God has put the government and laws in place for our protection. Your husband has decided he no longer wants to be married to you. That is his decision and you’re right, you can’t stop him. However, there are legal consequences to his decision. Marital assets must be divided and children must be provided for and taken care of. The law spells out how that happens and it usually tries to be fair to both parties.
These days most states have no-fault divorce laws meaning one spouse can leave a marriage for any reason. Second, the law usually says joint marital assets are split equally after the dissolution of a marriage. Third, if both parents want custody, the courts usually award joint custody, sometimes requiring children to split their time between both households. Other times, there may be joint legal custody, but one parent has primary physical custody with the other having generous visitation rights. When there has been any history of abuse towards the children, there may be supervised visitation for the children. But most courts try to allow parents their right to parent their children, even when the marriage dissolves.
If your husband and his lawyer are proposing a settlement in line with your state legal guidelines, then there is no fight to be had. He wants out of the marriage and is willing to experience the legal, financial, and custodial consequences of his decision. However, that does not mean you do not need your own legal counsel or representation. Sadly, I have talked with women who thought things were being divided fairly but weren’t. They trusted their husband’s attorney to be fair and divide things equally. That was not the case. They didn’t realize that legal documents are hard to understand and ended up agreeing to things they had no idea they were agreeing to. It was not smart.
Therefore, at the very least, get your own attorney to review what your husband’s attorney proposes. Do not use your husband’s attorney because his attorney only has his interests in mind, not yours. When he balks, you can simply say, “I have no desire to fight with you about things, but I do want to have my lawyer check out this agreement to make sure that my interests are represented fairly here.”
Make it clear with your attorney that you do not wish to fight, but you do want things to be fair and want to make sure you have in writing the custody, visitation, child support, and asset division clearly negotiated as you are legally entitled to.
Sadly many husbands, especially if they have been the primary breadwinner resent splitting their retirement account, paying child support, or giving you half the assets from bank accounts or sale of the family home. In their minds, their money is theirs. But that’s not what the law says.
Standing up for yourself and protecting yourself legally is not fighting, it’s being wise and a good steward of your resources, responsibilities, and assets. Click To Tweet
Sometimes divorce attorneys recommend mediation as a less expensive way of working towards a more agreeable solution when there is an impasse. Don’t see that as fighting, see that as working toward a solution, even if you disagree with what that solution might look like at first. As long as you stay in CORE, are respectful, yet responsible for yourself and what you need to move forward from this broken marriage, you don’t have to worry. Even if he fights, you don’t have to fight as he does. But that doesn’t mean you should stay passive and allow him to mistreat you or rob you of all you are legally entitled to.
Also, there may be ways to compromise that work for both of you. For example, if money is more important to him, and having custody of the children is more important to you, perhaps he can get more on the money side, and you get more on the child custody side. However, you negotiate, make sure you do it with good legal help.
Romans 13 is where Paul writes about God providing people with legal protection against those who might seek to harm us. Your husband has already harmed you by leaving your marriage. You don’t have to allow him to harm you financially by staying passive during this process. Get good advice from someone who understands the law and what you are entitled to. Only then can you be wise on how to move through this unwanted phase of your life as a good steward of the assets God has given you.
Friends, when you faced divorce, did you use an attorney? Pros? Cons? Did you struggle to see it as fighting?