The Danger of Amateur Divorce Advice


Divorce is a whole new world for the majority of people who decide to end a marriage. And with the all-too-familiar statistic of roughly 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce, everyone likely knows someone (or many someones) who have been through the process. As soon as it spreads to your family, friends, co-workers, and Facebook acquaintances that you will be starting the divorce process, you can expect an overload of advice to be thrown your way.

While (usually) coming with the best intentions, it is important that you go with your gut, be very selective about what seems like good advice and always seek a professional opinion before you act on anything. It’s good to have such a motivated support group, but moving forward with the wrong advice can leave you in a much worse position than not doing anything at all.

Separating good and bad advice

While many of your friends and family have likely gone through divorce before, there is no such thing as a one-trick fix. The landscape of every single divorce is a totally different world, and the circumstances surrounding and underlying your own divorce are going to be vastly different from those of your buddy. Not to mention, some of the “tricks” could end up getting you in trouble with the court, potentially earning punishments like paying your spouse’s attorney fees, fines or even jail time.

Perhaps your friend confides that during his divorce, he got away with siphoning money from a marital account and offer to pass on his method for getting away with it. In case you didn’t already know, hiding assets is illegal. With the heightened emotions of divorce, it might be tempting to “stick it” to your ex. However, realize that just because dishonesty worked for him, doesn’t mean it will for you — and you will be the one with everything to lose.

There are also a lot of people out there who seem to put seeking a divorce the same level as human trafficking. Don’t be surprised if you get a lot of, “you really should seek to reconcile instead of divorce,” with some very aggressive argument why divorce is so wrong. It’s best just to take this sort of tirade in stride. Most people getting divorced have had marital issues for a very long time, have already tried to fix the marriage, have often gone through marriage counseling and have finally come to the conclusion that there is no way to salvage it. Don’t let others make you second guess yourself; divorce is already a stressful enough process.

Why you shouldn’t always listen to your friends

Most people going into divorce cannot truly comprehend the complexity of family court. With laws, statutes, timelines, requirements, estate division, custody battles, procedural steps and more — all varying by state and jurisdiction — no one can give you accurate advice without totally understanding all circumstances surrounding your case, as well as your local laws.

If one of your friends had a relatively simple and amicable divorce, they might suggest to you that a do-it-yourself divorce or pro se representation is perfectly fine and will save you a ton of money. However, your divorce might be much more complicated. Perhaps they didn’t have kids and you do, or they still got along with their wife and you don’t, but either of these — and a plethora of other factors — can severely complicate the proceedings and require professional legal guidance. If you move forward without seeking an attorney, you could end up losing out on much more than you deserve.

The two experts with advice you can trust

An attorney will greatly reduce the stress of receiving an excessive amount of advice and stories. You will be able to bounce the things that you “heard” or read on the Internet off of their expertise, and will definitively receive an answer as to whether it is relevant to your case or not. They can also help you avoid the horror stories that permeate blogs around the web. While costly at the time, hiring an experienced attorney is the best advice anyone can give.

Finally, you should trust yourself. You have access to all of the details of the marriage, your spouse’s temperaments, your financial situation — pretty much everything. Go with your gut over what anyone else suggests, except for your attorney (and if you don’t trust your attorney, you should probably look into getting a new one). With your own knowledge of the case’s background and your attorney’s knowledge of the laws, the two of you can combine to come up with the right course of action for pretty much any situation.

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