When you go through a divorce you experience a range of emotions. Frustration at the state of your marriage. Anger at things that you or your spouse have done, or not done, that could have helped save the marriage. Sadness at the end of your relationship and what it could mean for your children and your long term. These are normal emotions to experience as you begin a journey towards getting a divorce. Divorces are one of those life events that you can't wait to get to the end not because the end is great but because the experience itself is so unpleasant. That being said, for many of your reading this blog post it is essential for you to begin considering what a divorce will look like for you and your family.
With so many considerations that are reasonable to be concerned with, you may be left wondering where you should even start from Do you start by talking to your spouse first? What if she doesn’t take it well? Should you talk to the kids about it before you file for divorce or should you wait until the case is underway. These are the considerations for you to look into now that a divorce is on the horizon. What works best for you may not work best for another person, and vice versa. The trouble is- you may not know what is best until the case has already begun.
That’s ok. Nobody makes every right decision in a divorce. Sometimes you will be under such stress during a particular stage in your case that it feels like everything you do is wrong. Other times you will have family or job issues outside of your case that will cause you to divert your attention, deservedly so, and can make a mistake that way with your decision making. Life continues during your divorce. It would be nice if you could pause the rest of your life and pick it back up when things were a little calmer, but that's not how these cases work, unfortunately. Being able to balance family, work, other obligations, and your divorce case is essential to having success in any of these areas.
Finding some degree of balance in your life during a divorce
One of the biggest things that many of us are seeking in our lives these days is balance. It’s a very en vogue term that we hear about quite a bit in the culture. With so much of our lives scattered as a result of the pandemic, we can feel like parts of our lives bleed over onto other parts. We work from home. We live at home. Some of us are even continuing to educate our kids at home. While we all hope that this period will come to an end sooner rather than later, I think that the disjointed nature of many of our lives will continue for some time.
If we want to discover some balance, some sense of equilibrium in our lives we need to focus on it. It’s not as if any other person is going to stop our current trajectory and help us to be more mindful of finding a balance in performing our daily tasks. That responsibility falls squarely on our shoulders even in the best of times. Needless to say, a divorce is not the best of times. During a divorce case, you need to be on guard constantly, not just against things that your spouse can do during the case but on your schedule.
What does a lawyer know about balance? Aren't lawyers notoriously devoted to their work to the detriment of most other areas of their lives? Well, that may be true to one extent or another. Attorneys are known for pouring a lot of effort into our jobs and sometimes the rest of our lives can suffer as a result. Lawyers (most of us) do work 1 hard for our clients. That is something that we take extremely seriously. However, what I would tell you about work-life balance is something that may come as a surprise.
The reality is that work-life balance is a myth. You or anyone else can't have a one hundred percent perfect balance between work commitments and life commitments. I just can't happen. There are too many things to do in life- professionally, personally, relationally, and regarding your divorce, for you to be able to take a pie cutter and cut that pie perfectly down the middle. I think it goes without saying that while we would all like to be able to have the perfect balance between all these elements the reality is that you can't control these variables one hundred percent.
Rather, you need to be able to handle life as it comes to you at various stages and at various times. There will be seasons of your life where you will need to focus on work. Your job will take up some amount of time- perhaps even outside normal work hours. No matter what you do for a living there are time commitments for work. You may be among those people who are venturing back into the office or whatever your workspace is after a year or two of being out due to the pandemic. I think there are many benefits to going back to work physically. However, one of the downsides is that your commute time adds to the overall commitment that you need to give your job. It is easier to log on to your computer from your couch than it is to jump into your car and go to work.
Other times, you will have to focus more energy on your personal life- such as in a divorce. I think a lot of times we think that the idea of personal life is one on auto-pilot where we do not have to focus much attention on it. Our marriages, your children, and our extended family would simply hum along without much in the way of intervention needed from us. We could then devote more of our attention to things like our jobs, our hobbies, or whatever else that season of life throws at us. Our families would be there to offer consolation or celebration where need be. They're like the toy that we play with when we want to and then drop and leave to the side when other interests pop up.
Well, I can tell you with some confidence that this isn’t how families operate. If you think about relationships like any other organism on planet Earth, your relationships are either getting healthier or decaying. There is no middle ground or stasis when it comes to marriages. Rather, when we think about our marriages these are complex relationships that must be nurtured to persevere through difficult times. We can think about our marriages this way in that they are probably the most complex relationship that we will ever have with another person. The thing that throws us off about marriage is that we become satisfied with them because we see our spouses every day. That our marriage will be there for us, like that toy we like to play with whenever it suits us, is an easy trap to fall into. Some of you may be realizing this the hard way as you face down a divorce.
When you go through a busy season in one area of your life, the other areas are not going to receive as much attention. That’s just a fact. You may as well accept this and then do what you need to do in your life to compensate for that fact. Worried about losing touch with your kids during the divorce? Well, just because you’re worrying does not mean that your divorce is going to go any easier on you. Also, worrying about your children is not the same as actually parenting your children. It’s tempting to think that just because you are putting forth effort into worrying that this translates into actual parenting effort. Thinking about parenting and parenting are two completely different things. Take it from a dad of three kids five and under.
Instead, I would recommend that you should be concerned about your divorce when it is time to do that and be concerned about your kids when it is time to do that. It is up to you to discern when each of those times is. I guess when it comes right down to it, that is the key to this entire discussion: you need to learn how to sniff out those times when you need to be concerned about the divorce on a minute-by-minute basis. All other times you should appropriately order the divorce into your life. I think that if you ask your attorney you will find that there are relatively few times that you need to be up to the minute-by-minute blows of your case.
Some simple parenting tips involve making the kids the center of your attention when you are with them. Do not parent with one hand on the remote and one eye on your phone. We've all been there or at least have been tempting to approach parenting like this. Instead, when you are with your kids put your phone away and turn off the TV. Make the time all about them. It can be difficult sometimes to do this with the world swirling around your head like a tornado. However, you and your kids will be better off for you having done so.
Choosing a divorce lawyer if you are a doctor (or are married to one)
Doctors are used to taking command of a situation and then doing their best to bend those situations to their will and knowledge of the human body. Sometimes circumstances turn out in your favor as a lawyer and other times they do not. However, the idea that a doctor like yourself could take recommendations from another person may come as a difficult concept for many people. Doctors are the worst patients just like attorneys are workaholics, right?
For starters, every doctor is different. Every person is different. We know that from elementary school lessons. No two people are the same. That's what makes life exciting. However, what we can say is that we can learn patterns from people about how they function and what you may need to be given your circumstances. First, finding an attorney does not have to be something complicated. I'm sure that much of your life as a doctor is complicated. Finding a lawyer does not have to be and probably won't be.
Here are some tips for you to follow when looking for a lawyer. Whether you are a doctor or are married to one, it would make a ton of sense for you to learn a little bit about the process before you jump into it. For instance, do you know what sort of attorney handles divorce cases? The general field of the law is known as family law. Family law attorneys practice in child custody and divorce cases primarily. Divorces encompass both elements of child custody and community property division. It is recommended that you hire an experienced family law attorney for your case. Many attorneys in southeast Texas would be happy to take your divorce case. However, consider hiring a cardiologist to perform an ACL repair on your knee. Or going to a psychiatrist to remove your gallbladder. Just doesn't make sense. Work with an attorney who knows family law and the ins and outs of divorce.
Next, I want to mention that you can represent yourself in a divorce. There is nothing in the Texas Family Code that bars you from doing so. However, there are some words of warning that I want to provide you with before you consider doing so. First, remember a few paragraphs ago when we were talking about how time is at a premium when you get involved in a divorce? This is important if you think that you can also handle representing yourself in the case. While a divorce is not rocket science it is a commitment from a time perspective. This means that you would have to balance handling a legal matter like a divorce onto your medical practice, family, and social lives. This is a tall order even for someone as accomplished as you. It is not recommended that you represent yourself in this divorce.
Ask the attorney questions when you meet with him or her. Listen to their responses. It is tempting to want to spend the entirety of your meeting with the lawyer telling him or her every detail about your life and why your spouse deserves to get what’s coming to them. However, as much as you spend the time telling the attorney about circumstances from your life, you should also spend time listening to him or her. I can tell you that the result of the case will be better if you have a good understanding of what makes the attorney tick and how he or she would handle your particular case.
If you feel comfortable with the attorney and believe that he or she has the requisite level of experience to handle your case then you are off to a good start. Do not underestimate the need to have a good working relationship with your lawyer. You don't need to be their best friend but you do need to trust him or her with your well-being to an extent. If the attorney is experienced, professional, answers your questions, and most importantly listens to you then I believe that the attorney is worthy of consideration to hiring.
Finally, if you are the spouse of an attorney then all of the aforementioned applies to you as well. Nobody wants to feel like they are receiving second billing in a divorce. Certainly, doctors are used to receiving a great deal of attention and respect. As the spouse of a doctor, you are due just as much respect. You have made sacrifices both large and small to help your family. Ask the attorney you are meeting with what their experience is representing the spouses of doctors. If he or she lacks experience then you are better off moving on to a lawyer who has done this previously. There is nothing wrong with a lawyer getting a start, but it doesn't mean that their first case of this sort should be with you. Hiring a lawyer is a lot like hiring a doctor- perform basic due diligence, ask questions and be patient to listen as much as you speak.
Questions about the material in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.