- Jacqueline Newman is a managing partner at a top New York City divorce law firm.
- Settling a divorce through mediation or collaborative law is often easier and less expensive than litigation.
- Don’t involve kids in divorce proceedings.
- Be as financially informed as possible so that you can follow along.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A marriage can still be considered successful even if it ends in divorce. But that doesn’t make separating from a spouse easy.
Insider spoke to Jacqueline Newman, a managing partner at a top New York City divorce law firm, about how to make divorce proceedings as painless as possible. Here are her four pieces of advice.
Explore alternatives to litigation
Instead of jumping into litigation right away, Newman recommends alternative options for settling a divorce out of court.
In litigation, “you draft motion papers and you basically have to show why your other spouse is a terrible person,” she said. “That doesn’t bode well for any future parenting relationship, not to mention litigation is slow and very expensive.”
Mediation, one alternative, involves working with a neutral mediator. Each spouse can have an attorney of their own, but they’re less involved in the process. Mediators can also be used to settle specific issues within divorce proceedings, such as child custody.
“I tell clients if they come to me and have already settled custody, you just saved yourself hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and therapy bills,” said Newman.
Another option is collaborative law, where the couple agrees not to go to court and works with collaboratively trained attorneys. It’s also more interdisciplinary, involving divorce coaches and child specialists if applicable. The catch is that if either party says they don’t want to continue the process anymore, they can’t use those same attorneys in litigation.
“If people knew that there are ways to do this without seeing the inside of a courtroom, I think it would make divorce a whole lot easier,” she said.
Don’t seek revenge – courts don’t care
Newman says people often enter divorce proceedings hoping to have their “day in court” or get some sort of “justice.” They will present photos or screenshots of texts as proof that the spouse cheated, or even go so far as to hire a private investigator to compile evidence.
But even if you’re the wronged party, courts don’t care. Unless they were physically abusive or spent exorbitant amounts of money on an affair that severely damaged the couple’s finances, the details of a spouse’s every misdeed aren’t relevant.
“At the end of the day, there’s a lot of reasons why marriages break down,” she said. “Courts just aren’t going to get involved in the nitty gritty of why certain people did certain things. I always say to clients, revenge is very expensive and it’s never going to be as satisfying as you think.”
Keep kids out of it
“Conceptually, people realise that it’s bad to involve your kids in a divorce, but they do it in subtle ways that really can backfire on so many different levels,” said Newman. “A lot of times kids will get very protective of the spouse that’s being bashed as opposed to aligning with the basher, and that can totally backfire. That can be a very hard thing for the parent who feels wronged and feels the need to voice why they’re wrong.”
Newman says that parents should be careful when talking about the spouse they’re divorcing around their children. Even if they don’t say anything nasty, kids can pick up on a negative tone.
“Let kids be kids,” she said. “Don’t involve them in adult problems. It’s hard enough.”
Be as financially informed as possible
Newman says that a lack of financial literacy can cause unnecessary tension and aggression.
“When you have someone who doesn’t understand what’s going on, a natural reaction to not understanding and being confused is anger,” she said. “Sometimes it’s not even targeted at the spouse, but it comes out that way.”
She recommends seeing a financial adviser to gain a basic understanding of what is being discussed.
“Become educated enough to participate in the conversation so you don’t feel like everyone is talking about things you don’t know when it has to do with your life,” she said.
- Read more:
- The biggest sign your marriage won’t last, according to a couples therapist
- 12 ways to save your marriage from the brink of divorce, according to marriage counselors
- The 26 shortest celebrity marriages of all time
- A divorce lawyer says manipulating your partner isn’t dishonest – and it can even make your relationship better
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