Yesterday, I just spent a half hour or an hour in the bookstore and pulled some divorce legal books off the shelf.
First off, I am so thankful that Sharon and I didn't get into the court system.
My purpose in looking at all of this is so I have a good overview of what people I know who are involved in legal proceedings are going through. I also want to be prepared, if I meet people who have found themselves in an unwanted separation or legal proceedings, to help them calm down and sort out the forest from the trees, because they may be as clueless as I was about legal issues.
The other issue with which I am wrestling is how to articulate to people that they really don't want to go the divorce route if at all possible.
Several things I have learned that I don't think most people contemplating divorce have really considered:
If you have minor children and get divorced, things are not permanently settled legally as long as the kids are minors, and sometimes even until they are through college. People can lose jobs and have to reapply for reduction of support payments; sometimes you may want to move and need to check with the court. If you just up and quit a good paying job because you don't like it, your support doesn't automatically change, and if you can't get an equal paying job you may have some explaining to do. If schedules change and you can't agree with your spouse about changes in visitation, or even if you do agree in some circumstances, back to court you go.
Basically, because you haven't been able to work out your marriage with your spouse, you now have the court as your ultimate judge.
I think lots of people think that getting a divorce will finish off the relationship with their ex-spouse and they don't have to learn how to get along. In reality, if you have kids, you have a choice - learn somehow to communicate and make decisions with your ex-spouse in a civilized manner - or be prepared to spend alot of time, money and effort to let someone else - a judge -make those decisions for you.
What I realized in my mediation with Sharon was that we either had to agree on issues concerning finances, children's education, children's visitation, where the kids would go to church, who would make medical decisions, etc. etc. or the court would make them for us.
I realized these were all the kinds of issues we struggled so much to agree upon during our marriage. I thought to myself, if we truly get to where we can agree on these issues we will have solved a high percentage of our marital struggles. It actually gave me hope for our marriage, in that we were going to be getting help one way or the other resolving issues, either with a mediator, attorneys or a judge.