Over the past two decades, there is one common regret that resonates with most of my divorce clients: they should not have delayed in calling it quits. Many wait too long and put up with way too much mostly out of fear– either (1) fear of being alone, (2) fear of losing time with their children, (3) fear of social backlash, or (4) fear of the financial hit and change in lifestyle the divorce will inevitably cause. All of these consequences are both scary and real, there is no way I can sugar coat that for anyone, however, if the conclusion is “it’s cheaper to keep her (or him)” you are not seeing the full picture.
To appreciate the full view, you need to see it from my perspective, as someone that has lived through the experience and helped thousands as a divorce attorney face these fears head on in order to find a better life on the other side. The reality is the longer you stay in an unhappy situation, the greater the risk to your mental and physical health, and perhaps your children’s wellbeing if they are being exposed to a toxic situation at home. You also run the risk of being more on the hook for spousal support based on the standard of living and length of the marriage if there’s a discrepancy in incomes. Furthermore, as your assets continue to grow, so does your exposure of having to potentially forfeit half if things end in divorce. And, most importantly there is the opportunity cost that cannot be quantified– the longer you stay, the less time you will have later to find someone more suitable.
Once the full cost/benefit analysis is completed, and an individual can acknowledge that the pain of staying is too great while all hope of remedying the situation at home is lost, that first critical step towards making a change has been accomplished. The next step is usually to get professional advice and understand the tasks that will be required to un-tie the knot. Having both a guide and a clear roadmap will make the journey substantially less daunting, but it will still take time and effort to work through the fears that surface when working through the details of a split. Let’s tackle them here, together:
Fear of being alone: While you may be alone for a little while until you heal and the dust settles, or at least until the ink is dry on your divorce papers, chances are in your favor that you will find love again. Over two-thirds of divorced men and women remarry, and the opportunities for meeting other singles of all ages has never been greater than in the past two decades with the rise of online dating.
Fear of lost time with kids: It is a hard adjustment to not see your kids everyday, but you know this is bound to happen anyway usually by the time they turn 18. Thankfully, most courts promote shared custody as being in the child’s best interest, and parental access is only rarely eliminated in extreme circumstances. Most divorced parents learn to enjoy some “me time” on their days off– you can take up a sport, learn a new skill, make some new friends, travel or just catch your breath. Then when it is your time with your child, you can really be on.
Fear of social backlash: Thankfully, this is is the 21st century and divorce is no longer some scarlet letter you must wear publicly for the rest of your life. Your true friends and family will always have your back, and those that don’t were just dead weight you needed to shed. Ultimately, if the environment you are in truly makes you uncomfortable, consider moving and finding a new venue where you can start fresh.
Fear of financial loss: Moving into separate homes while paying legal fees and possibly having to pay support to your ex will take a momentary toll on your finances, but usually divorce is often a wake-up call for those that have been completely oblivious or sloppy with their finances. The process inevitably forces people to focus of maintaining a balanced budget. Most either adjust quickly to the necessary budget cuts, or become highly incentivized and creative in finding opportunities to quickly increase their income. Undoubtedly, the younger you are when this set back occurs, the easier it is typically to recover and regain your lifestyle.
All things considered, the legal process is generally quick and easy. Navigating the emotional and financial losses during a legal separation, however, are much more challenging and require patience. Knowing that this will be a stressful process is probably what causes so many to delay, but know that you don’t have to go through it alone– you can build a strong team to help you get to the other side, where you should never again wonder if it would have been cheaper to have stayed.
By Regina A. DeMeo