Divorce isn’t like other kinds of law. In most trials there is a winner and a loser. But when its your family or your home on the line, divorce always feels like a loss.
Most lawyers don’t like to admit when their clients feel like they lose. You won’t see many blog posts about an auto accident attorney whose case is dismissed or a probate lawyer whose request for guardianship is denied. But family law and divorce is a little bit different. When a family is facing divorce, it always feels like a loss.
Divorce Means a Loss of Family
The very nature of a divorce action means something has been lost. When couples separate, they lose the sense of family that they have spent years building. Sometimes that loss is a long time in the making — some couples have been living separately for years. But in other cases, the loss of a life companion is fresh.
The feeling of a loss of family is especially hard when there are children involved. In many families, parents define their roles as caregiver and financial provider. Neither feels less like a parent. But when a court has to decide issues of custody and parenting time, the provider may be faced with the idea that their contributions are somehow not as valuable. At the same time, the separation of the couple comes with increased living expenses, which make it harder to give as much to the children as they may be used to.
There is no way around the divorce feeling like a loss of family. But it doesn’t have to mean you lose connection with your children. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you work through the Best Interest Factors and develop a plan that protects your relationship with your children.
Divorce means a loss of assets
When the Complaint for Divorce comes quickly on the heels of separation (or even while the parties are still living together), it means divorce will feel like a loss financially as well as in the family. Think about it this way: look around your house and identify what is “mine” “theirs” and “ours”. The furniture, the decor, and even the collections of movies or games often don’t feel like they belong to just one person. Much of what is in your home will feel like it is “ours.” Now think about the bigger ticket items. Is it “your house” or “our house”? What about the bank accounts or the 401k?
Divorce means you will have to take all those items that are “ours” and sort them out as either “mine” and “theirs”. Both parties identify those assets as belonging to them, so breaking up the “ours” pile feels like a loss. And it is a loss on paper too. Michigan divorce law treats everything brought into a household by either party during the marriage as part of the “marital estate”. Then it divides those assets “equitably”, usually (but not always) close to a 50/50 split. That means half of what you considered “ours” will become “theirs”.
Sometimes, even items you considered “mine” will get wrapped up into the mix. This most often happens in cases where the primary wage has been investing in a 401k or other retirement account. Because the money going into the account is out of his or her wages, it feels like “mine”, but Michigan law treats it as “ours” and divides it appropriately. That’s because the law assumes that while you have been working, earning money, and investing, your spouse has been doing other things to support the household and family.
Divorce feels like a loss because it requires change
Divorce also feels like a loss for less concrete reasons. Divorce can cause you to make changes in all areas of your life. You may have to move out of the marital home, change your lifestyle to match your new family income, or just change the way you file taxes. In any case, all those changes can make it feel like you are losing the life you have built. And you are. But you are also shedding the weight of a relationship that for whatever reason no longer serves you. Yes, it may come with a financial hit or a change in lifestyle, but it also opens you up to move forward into new experiences and new relationships.
family lawyers help you face the loss and protect your future needs
At some point in every divorce case, I have to encourage my client to focus on the future. Yes, divorce feels like a loss. But it’s not an end, it is a transition. The important thing is to make sure your divorce settlement or judgment protects your future needs. Whether that need is an ongoing relationship with your children, assets to invest in a new home, or savings for the future, you need to know what a divorce win looks like for you. You’re not going to get to keep everything that is “mine” and “ours”. Knowing where your personal priorities lie is the best way to be happy with what you have when the divorce is done.
Lisa J. Schmidt is a divorce lawyer at Schmidt & Long, PLLC, in Ferndale, Michigan. She helps divorcing spouses identify and protect their financial and family needs. If you are going through a divorce, contact Schmidt & Long, PLLC, to schedule a consultation.