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4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Filing for Divorce
Leh Meriwether: Welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. We're your co-host for Divorce Team Radio, sponsored by Meriwether and Tharp. Here you learn about divorce, family law, tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis, and from time to time, even tips on how to take your marriage to the next level. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com.
Todd Orston: Great job. You only took 14 takes but great job.
Leh Meriwether: Well, would you change up the intros?
Todd Orston: All right. All right. All right. It's your excuse. Go with it.
Leh Meriwether: Well, today is one of those shows that you probably have no idea what we even talk about.
Todd Orston: Oh, stop.
Leh Meriwether: No, we're going to do something, we're going back to the beginning.
Todd Orston: I'm blank. How far are we, like oh, it's a show on dinosaurs?
Leh Meriwether: No, I mean sort of the beginning of the process.
Todd Orston: Okay, because I do a mean T-Rex.
Leh Meriwether: Don't want to encourage.
Todd Orston: All right, I'm just telling you.
Leh Meriwether: All right.
Todd Orston: What's show about?
Leh Meriwether: So, we're going to talk about the four questions you should ask yourself before filing for a divorce. So, since it's the beginning of the year, we often have people thinking about, should I be filing for divorce? Is this marriage over? Those kind of questions are running through the folks' mind at the beginning of the year often. So, we want to take a show, breakdown four core questions because a lot of times when people really dig into these questions, they actually realize that their marriage is worth saving or at least making an effort to save.
Todd Orston: Yeah, I mean when you break down a decision like that, there's of course the emotional side and anger and fear and you name the emotion that can drive someone to make a decision, and sometimes it's the right decision oftentimes, but sometimes there's maybe if you can put the emotion aside, really think about some core questions. If you can analyze from a non-emotional point of view, yeah to your point, maybe you can salvage the relationship and you can work on the marriage and start to heal. So, actually I am very excited about the show.
Leh Meriwether: All right. So, the first question is, have I tried everything to save this marriage? Now, I do want to give a caveat here because it's hard for me to have someone ask that question if they're in the middle of some sort of physical abuse or their spouse is suffering from a substance abuse problem that's wreaking havoc on the rest of the family. Perhaps putting them in danger, whether that be economic or some sort of physical danger because they get involved with maybe dealers and don't pay them and the dealers are showing up to the house.
Leh Meriwether: I'm going to carve that out because of that sort of things going on, you really do need to talk to a lawyer, but this is for those situations where the parties feel like they've drifted apart, they just don't ... whether they don't feel happy anymore or whatever, maybe they're yelling and screaming at each other. There's no physical violence, but there's a lot of arguing because that's the bulk of the cases of those sort of situations.
Todd Orston: Also the quick answer might be yes. It might be that you have in your mind tried everything.
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: So, what we're not saying is that you haven't tried everything.
Leh Meriwether: Yes.
Todd Orston: What we're saying is, this is sort of the structure, a structure that you can use to determine whether or not it's a relationship that can be saved to stave off a divorce.
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: All right. So, have I tried everything to save this marriage?
Leh Meriwether: What I usually say in these situations is for you to focus on yourself first, and when I say focus on yourself, when you say, have I tried everything to save this marriage? Well, they haven't done anything. They've done nothing. Why should I try? Well, I'm going to answer that question because a lot of people say, why should I try so hard if we're ultimately going to get a divorce anyways?
Leh Meriwether: My answer is based on not only personal observation, but studies that I've read that have shown that couples that focused on their marriage for a period of five years ended up not only saving their marriage, but the vast majority, by the end of the five years reported being in a happy marriage, none of them regretted making the effort and a lot of them said, I can't imagine what my life would be like had I not tried so hard.
Leh Meriwether: Now often you've got to work on yourself first and you can't worry about the other side. You just have to focus on yourself. So, going back to the question, why should I try so hard? He or she isn't going to do their part. Well, here's the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario when you focus on yourself and we're going to get some tips in a minute on how to focus on yourself, is you actually become a better person in the process even though you get a divorce.
Leh Meriwether: I have seen on many occasion where the person did exactly this. They focused on themselves. They made themselves a better person than they ever were before and the divorce still went forward, but at the end of the divorce, they came out being a more attractive potential spouse for someone else, and a lot of them, they change careers or they start a new job and now they are making more money than ever. But part of the issue of their personality that may have caused a problem in their marriage was also holding them back at work. Sometimes it was a mindset issue. Sometimes it was someone was just always angry, and so the same thing that trouble in the marriage also prevented them from getting any promotions at work.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Well, I mean, we've talked about this and it's a stat that's out there and is commonly seen, but divorce is one of the most stressful life events that somebody could suffer, and so, absolutely, believing that the stress in your personal life and at home that, that could bleed into your work life and your social life. To me, it's sort of a no brainer. It's sort of obvious. So I agree. Focusing on yourself, focusing on just improving yourself if for no reason other than to get yourself into a better mindset so that you can approach every day in a positive way rather than a negative way, that's a huge win if you can get there.
Leh Meriwether: So, still staying on the best, the worst case scenario that you spent all this energy and you still got a divorce. Most of the people that I've ever followed along that did this, they wound up developing great co-parenting relationships with their ex-spouse so that while the divorce was still painful, the children didn't suffer long-term them fighting constantly because they became a better person and they learned how to co-parent with the other parent to the benefit of their children.
Todd Orston: We have seen when that doesn't happen, can't happen, I understand it's easy to just point the finger, but if all you're doing is pointing the finger and you're not trying to better the situation, we've seen what happens. We've seen the post-divorce conflict. We've seen the modification actions, the contempt actions, the strife within the family. Now, when I say family, your ex is still family because they are related to your kids. So, the effect on the children, the continued effect on yourself. So being able to work on yourself allows you hopefully to approach that relationship with your ex in a much more positive way, which hopefully will impact your kids positively.
Leh Meriwether: So, let's talk about the best case scenario. You do start to change. You keep focusing on you, not worrying about your spouse and your spouse starts to see those changes. You don't talk about them, you just act on them, and then what happens is you become more attractive because now you're becoming the best possible version of you, you can and now you're more attracted to your spouse and it may cause them to lean in. "Wow, Todd is so much happier now. I wonder what's going on."
Todd Orston: I mean, look, after every show when you leave, I'm so much happier.
Leh Meriwether: But it could cause them to lean in, figure out what's going on. They're like, "Hey, what's going ... Hey, I've been reading this book about how to speak your love language." "Oh, I'd like to read that book." I mean that doesn't happen all the time, but every once in a while does. Then sometimes what happens is, and it takes months. So, this is not something that happens, hey, you do it for a month and things turn around. No. Most of the experiences I've witnessed or I've read about in books, it's usually at least a six-month process.
Leh Meriwether: Sometimes it's a yearlong process, but in some cases all of a sudden because you become the best version of yourself, your spouse starts to become happy where maybe they were unhappy before and then they want to reciprocate that happiness, and so they start leaning in to you and like saying here, you start working on whatever was the problem before.
Leh Meriwether: One of the things we learned from a counselor a few years ago, it was two years ago, was a lot of times people don't want to use the divorce word, and maybe you do. Maybe they said, this counselor said, if you use the divorce word, that may spur someone to action. So, don't be afraid to use that word.
Todd Orston: Not as a weapon.
Leh Meriwether: Exactly.
Todd Orston: So, you're not throwing the D word at someone in the middle of an argument or whatever. It should be an eye-opener that your relationship is approaching point where that may unfortunately be the reality, and you may have to start changing the direction of your conversations from how can we fix what's broken, to is this even fixable and maybe we need to talk about divorce, and that could open that other party's eyes.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Another thing I would strongly recommend is you start with individual counseling, not necessarily marriage counseling because that allows you to focus on becoming the best version of you, identifying potential problems that may be going on involving your communication style. So, focus on you. Hey, up next we're going to continue to give some quick tips on how to make you the best version of you.
Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB. So, you can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than like counting sheep I guess, right.
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back. This is Leh and Todd on Divorce Team Radio. If you missed the first segment, you can definitely go back and listen to it at divorceteamradio.com. There you can also find a transcript of this show in case you'd like to read.
Todd Orston: Oh, I'm going as soon as we're done.
Leh Meriwether: We won't be up that fast. I have to have it transcribed first.
Todd Orston: All right, fine.
Leh Meriwether: All right. So, today we're talking about the four questions to ask before filing for divorce. The first question was, have I tried everything to save the marriage? Now, I want to just wrap up with a few quick tips so we can get to the next question. But we left off talking about how individual counseling, you may want to start with that because this doing everything to save the marriage, it's focusing only on you and the worst case scenario you become a ... even if you get a divorce, you become a better version of yourself, probably become a good co-parent. Best case scenario, you save your marriage. So, the other thing to do is we had a whole show about this seeking out wise counsel, surround yourself with those that are in the place that you want to be.
Todd Orston: Again, wise counsel and I remember when we talked about this. We unfortunately see and speak with a lot of people who have sought out counsel. Maybe the wise word wasn't included. No, but jokes aside, just because you have found someone that is willing to listen and offer advice doesn't mean that they constitute what we would call wise counsel. You need someone who's not going to get caught up in the same emotion. You need somebody who is going to basically communicate with you in a very honest and open way. Listen to you of course, but be willing to be honest with you because only by having that person there for you, are you going to be able to put the emotion aside and really focus on fixing the things that need to be fixed?
Leh Meriwether: Yup. So, the other one is read marriage books. Three that I'll throw out there really quick are, The Five Love Languages, Love and Respect, that's the second book and then The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman. So, three of the top books out there, those two, especially The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman and then The Seven Principles, both those are bestseller books. So, read those books, listen to podcasts, like maybe not this one per se, but we do have shows like this one where we talk about how to save your marriage.
Leh Meriwether: Self-help books, especially if you're talking about focusing on you. Marriage intensives is another one people may not know about. They're usually three day events. They're highly intensive, there's counselors there and you're focusing on your marriage for three days. They're often like four hours the first day, 10 hours the second day and six hours the third day. Most of the ones I know about have about an 80% success rate of saving the marriage. So, just Google marriage intensives near me and it'll bring up some that are close to you. Then of course there's different religious organizations that have their own version of those, so check out the possibilities there.
Todd Orston: Options like that of course, require both parties to want the same result.
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: Meaning they want to both ... you both want to jump in and try and fix what, for lack of a better way of putting it, is broken. Obviously, some of these self-help book or a marriage tip book or something like that or your own personal counseling or wise counsel, that's something you can do on your own, it's a counsel. If you find wise counsel and it's somebody who is willing to speak to both of you, great, fantastic. But those are things you can do individually. Some of the other ones, it's you and your spouse and of course, just both parties need to be sincerely wanting to fix things.
Leh Meriwether: If your other spouse doesn't, that doesn't keep you from, you can still focus on you.
Todd Orston: That's right.
Leh Meriwether: But the other option out there is discernment counseling, and that was something we addressed with ... there's a previous show, I wish I can remember the number, but Matt Driggers, so it's not marriage counseling, so it's an option. All right, next question. Do I understand the alternative really? So when I say that, like do I understand what does it mean to be divorced? And I'm not saying that means, I don't have a husband or a wife anymore. No, that's not what I'm talking about.
Leh Meriwether: A lot of times people think that, and this mostly applies when you have children, there may be a financial component to this too, but with kids, a lot of times people say, I just can't get along with anymore, all we do is argue about the kids. Well, divorce doesn't fix that. The marriage, the divorce doesn't end the relationship. Like you said earlier, you have a relationship with that person for as long as your kids are alive and so that's not going away. That won't fix the problem.
Leh Meriwether: If there's a problem communicating, you're going to have that problem after the divorce, and if anything, it may be worse because now you have two separate households, because even if you're the primary custodian, now there's some states that have, it starts out a 50/50 custody. But let's say you're the primary custodian. Every state I know of says that you have to communicate with the other side when it comes to financial decisions or any decision about the children. There are four core areas regarding the children, their religious upbringing, the school, extracurricular activities, medical. You still have to communicate with your spouse or ex-spouse.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Divorce does not mean the end of all contact with the other spouse when there are children involved. Okay? Even when there are no children, but there were some complex financial issues. If there is continuing alimony or a division of property issues that might take some time to resolve. It means you're still going to have to have contact and especially also businesses. We'll deal with situations where there was a family business and yes we deal with that in terms of day to day operations and who basically gets control of the business. But basically divorcing yourself in terms of that partnership not your marriage can sometimes take some time. That means there's a lot of additional work, continuing work that needs to be done. So, a divorce doesn't mean you're completely finished with all of that extra work.
Leh Meriwether: Right. So, when we say, ask this question, I'm not suggesting that you sit down and really think about, okay. It's now January of the next year and I am now in a separate household. I still have to communicate about these things. Is my life really going to be that different? So, another example might be, "Well, I feel like my spouse is controlling me and the only way I can get away from that is with a divorce." There may be an element of truth to that, but I can tell you if there truly is a controlling issue, meaning the person on the other end really does have a control issue and it's not a miscommunication issue. It's a true controlling issue. That doesn't go away with the divorce either, unless there's no children. That's another exception. But if there's children, then that controlling person will still try to control you through the children or through your support payments.
Todd Orston: Once again, I'm just going to repeat one point. Have I tried everything? Going back to point number one. If that's the person you're dealing with, you may have, I get calls all the time, Leh, I know you do as well, of people who are like, "I tried therapy, I tried friends, I tried family, I tried clergy, I've tried everything that I can try to try and get the other party to just at least understand where I'm coming from and if that's the case, fine." You've thought about those things. You've thought about the future and unfortunately you feel like you're left with no option. Okay. Purpose of the show is just to make sure you are thinking about these things and you understand that a divorce doesn't mean you have closure and you no longer have to be involved or interact with the other party.
Leh Meriwether: But odds are you'll need ... So, if that is the person you are dealing with, you will need a form of individual counseling or therapy because you're going to have to learn how to break yourself free of that control because at end of the day, or perhaps you need to go to counseling to understand, okay, this is how I deal with a controlling person when it comes to drafting a parenting plan or laying out what the elements of our settlement agreement are going to look like. So, if you're deciding to go forward by thinking of the alternative, what ways may he or she may try to control me in the future? You can start laying out a path to truly break away from the control as much as you can, but at the end of the day, it's still dependent on you because I see so many people that enabled the other side to control them. So again, we're trying to help you work through this process.
Leh Meriwether: All right, another one. So let's see, I actually have two more examples here. Let's hit the unhappy one first and we'll save the next one for the next segment. A lot of times when people say, well, I'm just not happy anymore. Often that can be a result of perhaps someone doesn't speak the other person's love language, like in the book, that's highlighted in the book, The Five Love Languages, but it could be you're suffering from a level of clinical depression and I've seen that happen before. I've seen people get a divorce thinking the cause of their unhappiness was their marriage only to find out that they're still unhappy after the divorce.
Leh Meriwether: So again, going back to working on you first, get into counseling. Find out there's something clinical going on. Perhaps it is situational. Perhaps this person is a controlling jerk and-
Todd Orston: You can be depressed and that depression is caused by the relationship and the other party or I understand what you're saying. You could be suffering some kind of clinical depression and you say, "Well, it's because of the other party." You get out of the relationship, you move on with your life and then you're like, well, but that's strange. I'm still depressed.
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: So, trying to figure out what the root cause is before you just jump into a divorce might be the best plan of action.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, so going back to start with individual counseling, you may need to see a psychiatrist. There's nothing wrong with that and there's some fantastic medicine out there that can truly help a clinical issue and we've talked about that. There should be no shame in that. Hey, and up next we're going to talk about money problems. Will divorce solve your money problems?
Todd Orston: Hey everyone. You're listening to our podcast, but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also at 1:00 AM on Monday morning on WSB.
Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us in iTunes or wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five-star rating and tell us why you like the show.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back. This is Leh and Todd on Divorce Team Radio sponsored by Meriwether and Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online, atlantadivorceteam.com. Well, today we're talking about the four questions that you should ask yourself before filing for divorce. I'll be real clear here before we go any further because I want to make sure that nobody takes this as there's no judgment here with these questions because you may have tried a lot of different things to try to save your marriage. So, like the first question was, have you really tried everything to save your marriage? Maybe you haven't tried focusing on you because a lot of times you focus on the marriage when maybe you need to focus on you.
Leh Meriwether: So, maybe just taking a different view. Again, we've excluded from this discussion cases of physical abuse, cases of substance abuse, we've excluded that from this discussion. The second one was, this question is, do I understand the alternative to saving the marriage? Do I really understand that alternative? Because maybe somebody says, you know what, I just don't have it in me to fight for this, but when they think about the alternative, maybe they're like, okay, well that doesn't sound like much fun either, so maybe I do need to focus on this relationship.
Leh Meriwether: So, that's why we're going through these questions too. Again, no judgment but I have seen people that they were sure about their divorce. They decide, well, maybe I'll just give it one last try, and then I run into them years later and they say, "Gosh, I cannot imagine if I had actually gone through with the divorce, I would have been miserable because I can't imagine myself being any happier than I am today because we both focused on our marriage, we have a better marriage today than even before when we got married. This is better than even when we had our honeymoon."
Todd Orston: Yeah. Now, I will say building on that. I have also seen many people who are like, the divorce was the best thing that ever could have happened, and they have moved on with their life. They've gotten out of a bad relationship, whatever that is defined as. Okay? Meaning, if there's violence or even if there's not violence, but a lack of emotion, a lack of connection, a lack of whatever.
Leh Meriwether: Or maybe a personality disorder.
Todd Orston: Right. But obviously we have seen people, many people where they truly have given thought to it and they are moving on. They get the divorce and then we see them one, two, three, four, five years later, and it's like they moved on with their lives. They're happy, they found happiness. So, this show is not about talking you out of doing what needs to be done. It's about making sure your eyes are open and you're considering everything before you pull the proverbial trigger.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. You're making an educated decision.
Todd Orston: That's right.
Leh Meriwether: All right. So, a lot of times people will think that divorce will solve their money problems. Perhaps you have, let's say the husband is a serial gambler, or they just can't stop buying toys. They just blow money left and right and you're financially dependent on your husband and you just think, "Well, if I get a divorce, things are going to be much better." Not necessarily because when you get a divorce, let's say you were the stay at home mom and you are, now have an order, it says you get alimony and child support, but if this person hasn't really changed, then you will be chasing them for the alimony and child support.
Leh Meriwether: We've seen that before where they never change and that check that was supposed to cover the child support, they blew it at a poker game and the mom never got their money, and now they're looking at a potential eviction. So, if there's an issue in the marriage that's causing you to want to get a divorce, that issue doesn't necessarily go away just because you got a divorce.
Todd Orston: But that issue also, I mean, and I understand, but the analysis, if somebody has that deep of a problem and you've tried to get them the help that they need, you're right, the problem will probably translate into a different problem post-divorce, but that's not going to keep you together, right? I mean, if that person won't fix what is broken and help resolve the issue that drove you apart in the first place, then obviously you're not going to stay together simply because you expect nonpayment of support or whatever the case is.
Leh Meriwether: No, the point of this is, hey, divorce isn't going to fix it. It's going to break this relationship from a legal standpoint, but you need to think about this while you're going through the divorce process that I can't really depend on them to pay. I have a court order, but they're already doing something illegal gambling. Let's say in Georgia, gambling is illegal. They're already doing something illegal. So, you need to set yourself up for success rather than failure, and if you believing the divorce is the answer to your money problems, if you haven't really analyzed this, you're in for a shock. That's what I'm trying to say.
Todd Orston: I forgot gambling is illegal in Georgia because Andrew and I bet every show you're going to flub the intro. I usually win. I'm not going to say what side I'm betting on.
Leh Meriwether: Let's flip this for a second. What if you're the husband, your wife is a serial spender and maybe she has an addictive personality and she's addicted to shopping. We've seen that before, and you're like, "Well, if I get a divorce, I'll be able to save up money." Okay, well hang on a minute. You can't control where they spend their money. So, you may pay them child support and alimony, but then they could go blow it on stuff for themselves, and then all of a sudden your son is calling you saying, "Hey dad, mom doesn't have the money to pay for travel baseball. Can you come up with a couple thousand dollars?" And are you really going to tell him, "No, because well, your mom just blew it all so you're not doing it."
Leh Meriwether: You're not going to do that. You're still going to spend the money odds are to support your son, or it could be your daughter for competition cheerleading or something like that. But the point is the divorce itself may not save that problem and so you just need to be aware of that going in, and I have seen that before. I've seen where literally the wives, I mean went through like $1 million in two years. It was insane. Our client's salary had been cut two thirds.
Leh Meriwether: So literally, so the year after his divorce, he got a massive pay cut. He was making two thirds less than he did the year before. So one third in two years, his net worth was higher than back when he made over $1 million because she really did have a spending problem. Now he paid her a lot of money and he still had to support his son because she still spent the child support and the alimony on herself. So, the point is divorce may not fix that, so just keep that in mind.
Leh Meriwether: All right, next question. Do I have my finances in order? Or in other words, do I fully understand the financial condition of my marriage? So there's two elements to this, there's the assets and the budget. Let's talk about the assets first. Sometimes people think, well, if we get a divorce, I'll be able to sell the house and I could take that money and get a new home. Well, maybe not. Maybe you haven't been paying attention and you knew there was a HELOC on your house, but you had no idea your husband had maxed it out and now there's next to no equity in the house because he maxed out the HELOC. Now, he didn't max it out because he was blowing it on stupid stuff. It's just the two of you were busy spending money, you didn't have a budget and I'm not trying to be accusatory, you've got to step back.
Todd Orston: Why are you looking at me? I'm not a bad spender.
Leh Meriwether: I'm just trying to say you've that you got to pull back and make sure you have a firm grip on your finances. You need to know what are all your assets and your liabilities. You need to understand how much you owe in the mortgage. Is there a HELOC? Is there anything else out there? Because we've had cases where the person didn't even know that there was a lien on the house, actually two liens on the house from the IRS.
Todd Orston: Yeah, I mean, I'm going to build on that just a little bit and say don't wait until the relationship is struggling to make sure you understand the finances. What we see all the time is people step into a divorce or preparing for a divorce and the initial conversations are, I don't know what our finances are. I don't know what our debts are. I don't know what assets we have. I don't control the income. I don't control the accounts. Do not allow that to happen.
Todd Orston: A, it's a relationship, you should have every right to access that information and just as part of the marital team, you both should be aware of where you are financially. So, if you have to go forward with a divorce, absolutely, I agree. If you haven't already, educate yourself, understand what your financial situation looks like and not only that you should then step back and go, what will my situation look like because it may be vastly different if you get a divorce. Once you separate instead of one home, it's two homes, two electric bills, two plumbing bills, two everything.
Leh Meriwether: Mortgages, rent payments.
Todd Orston: Right. Everything now doubles basically, and you have to understand, okay, if you're not working and that's where a lot of people, they'll call and they'll be like, "Oh I'm dependent on my spouse. My spouse makes $55,000 and I'm a stay at home mom." One of the most important things to talk about at that moment is look 55,000, that's a great salary, but that's not going to carry two households plus expenses for the kids. You need to make yourself aware and educate yourself.
Leh Meriwether: So, here's another way to look at it. Even if you weren't getting a divorce, if your spouse died tomorrow, what would you do? So, if your spouse are paying all the bills said, "Well, I've got a life insurance policy." Okay, great. Where is it? Because I mean, that's just good estate planning. If you don't know where that life insurance policy is, you can't collect on it, you're not going to be able to pay for the funeral. I mean, I've seen people go into massive credit card debt paying for something like that because they didn't understand where everything was. So, it just makes, going back to your point, just makes good marriage sense. But if you're getting divorced, it also makes good divorce sense, and up next we're going to talk about the last question.
Leh Meriwether: I just want to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than like counting sheep, I guess, right? You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back. This is Leh and Todd on Divorce Team Radio sponsored by Meriwether and Tharp. Today we're talking about the four questions to ask before filing for divorce. Now, like I said before, these questions are really to help you not only make sure you make ... they're really to make sure you're making the right decision because sometimes people they'll make the decision to get a divorce. Maybe they haven't really tried everything because they weren't aware of everything.
Leh Meriwether: Maybe they think that divorce gives them the alternative to their marriage, puts them in a better place and because they don't ask all the right questions, they get a shock and they have to make some really hard life decisions after the divorce because they hadn't fully thought through things. Again, this is to help everyone. This isn't meant to be judgmental. So, if I come across that way, I'll apologize up front. We just want to help everyone because we've seen these things happen before, and where we left off, we were talking about, do I really have my finances in order?
Leh Meriwether: We talked about the assets and liabilities and Todd, you started to touch on the budget, making sure you understand your budget because I mean if you only make $55,000 and then now you're going to double your household expenses-
Todd Orston: It just doesn't ... people, we have that conversation. It's a painful conversation, but it's reality of people who are going through a divorce and they're like, "Well, I need to be supported." I get it. I absolutely understand and yes, you are a stay at home mom, let's say, and yes you did a ton for the family and you kept the family afloat and took care of the kids. But the proverbial pot is only so deep. The pie is only so big, however you want to describe it.
Todd Orston: So 55,000 will only get you so far after you pay taxes and then just some basic expenses, there's not much left over. So, a lot of these things ... this show, yes, our focus is have you tried everything and can you save the marriage? But a lot of this analysis is the same analysis that we would tell people to do just if they're like, I am deter ... I know I need a divorce. Okay. Is the timing right?
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: Have you prepared yourself for a divorce? You may emotionally, mentally you're ready, but you don't want to act on emotion and do something before you are prepared. Okay?
Leh Meriwether: Right. Next show we're actually going to get some very specific steps to go through. You've made ... All right, divorce. I've asked all these questions, I know the answers and then we're going to go through the practical steps to truly get ready. So, leaving it here on the budget issue, I've seen people where one spouse earns the money, the other spouse is a stay at home spouse. In this case it was a husband and wife. The wife was spending the money and the husband was screaming at the wife about it and it didn't help the problem.
Leh Meriwether: So, they were about to get a divorce and thankfully they wound up ... in this case they went to Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. He learned how to better communicate about the budgetary issues. She understood the budget because he wasn't yelling at her anymore and all of a sudden she realized he wasn't being controlling, he was sincerely worried about the financial future of the family, and that conversation was in 2006 or seven. It's 2021 and they're getting ready to retire and they are happily married, so.
Todd Orston: Apparently, this one is 2020.
Leh Meriwether: 2020. Did I say 2021? I meant 2020.
Todd Orston: I was about to say-
Leh Meriwether: 2020. I'm already like-
Todd Orston: It would make for a great show if we came into this studio today and it's a year later. My wife is going to be very worried.
Leh Meriwether: I don't know why I said 2021. Anyways, so I mean that's the point. Like they did that analysis and it wound up saving their marriage. All right, last question to ask. What will the children's life look like if I go through with this? Now, I want to give this caveat. Don't say, "Well, I don't want to put them through the divorce while they're kids? I want to wait till they ... I can put up with this for another few years and wait for them to go to college because it'll minimize the stress."
Leh Meriwether: No, it won't. We've seen it in the great divorces. I've seen adult children get more upset with their parents than when they were little. So, don't make that decision. Don't put off a divorce just because you're trying to save the kids. Don't make that part of the analysis. So, we're talking about maybe you're thinking. "Okay, well I'm ready for divorce, but I want to move back home." All right? Let's say the kids are in high school and middle school and they absolutely love their school. They have great friends. Their extended family is there. In Georgia, they can elect to stay here in Georgia. So you may decide, I want to move back to Ohio, but they may elect to stay here, and it's nothing about you, but it's just because their whole rest of their life has been here in Georgia.
Todd Orston: Even if they elect, depending on their age, even if they elect to stay with you and maybe go to Ohio, it doesn't mean that the court will do it and then it becomes a relocation issue, and if the court feels that it would be better for them to stay in Georgia, family is here, friends are here, other things are here. You may still lose that argument, the court might say, "You can go wherever you want, but the children are going to continue to be raised in Georgia," which means maybe the other party gets primary custody. But look, the point is you have to find a balance.
Todd Orston: I agree with you Leh. Too many times we've seen people and they're like, "Well, I'm just going to stick it out." Is it possible? Sure. Does it often work? No, it doesn't. Many times I've had people call or I've met with them and that's their strategy and sooner or later, usually sooner, they're knocking on our door saying, I tried but things have just gotten worse. So, maintaining status quo without trying to fix things, at least to just stop the bleeding, you know what I mean?
Todd Orston: Just the emotional bleeding of, "We can't communicate." It's a poison. It's just, things are going to get worse, and you will end up, unfortunately going down the path of a divorce. So you need to think of when it comes to the kids, you need to think of them and yourself. That's the balance I'm talking about. What's good for you and how are the kids going to react, what's their life going to look like and all of that.
Leh Meriwether: Don't make the assumption that there may be going with you because in some states like I said before, it's the presumption is 50/50 custody. In Georgia, it's not. I've heard there's some assertion, some people were trying to put in some legislation and maybe this year to try to push a 50/50 presumption. I don't know the status of that I've just heard rumors, but I know other states have that like Florida. So, don't make the assumption that, "Hey, look, if I get a divorce and I can move over here, the kids are going to go with me."
Leh Meriwether: Here's another one where I've seen people kind of be in shock is, so there wasn't a full analysis of the finances. They didn't fully understand the budget, and so they're in the middle of the divorce and they realize, I can't afford ... Now, that we have two households, I can't afford to live in the school district. I'm going to have to move to another school district that's not as good as the one I'm in, but unfortunately, my spouse can actually stay here and I have the feeling the kids are going to want to stay with my spouse primarily because it's in that school district and I can't move way.
Leh Meriwether: So, that's why we kind of put these in the order that we did too, because when you make that financial analysis and then you start doing the analysis of the kids, it's both an emotional analysis and a financial analysis when it comes to the kids. How can I afford ... Hey, if I want to stay in this school district and okay, all these other ones I've gone through, still want to go through the divorce and I want to stay in the school district. Now, I have to do a whole new analysis. How do I make that happen? How do I make more money so that I can stay here? What do I need to negotiate? What do I need to think about? Or you may realize, "Man, this is not going to be like I wanted it to be. Maybe I do need to try. Maybe I do need to go into individual counseling to see if I can make myself so attractive my spouse falls back in love with."
Todd Orston: Yeah. Tie it into the theme of the show. I would say, the grass isn't always greener kind of thought process. Because there's some people who are like, I need out. I have these frustrations and my life will be so much better once I'm out of this marriage and at that point they're not working on fixing what is broken, what needs to be fixed. Going through this analysis, asking yourself these questions, hopefully it's going to make you understand that the grass may be greener but maybe not.
Todd Orston: All right? You're still going to struggle if you are co-parenting, you're still going to have children that are struggling to cope with the divorce, and that's not saying that to guilt anyone to stay because of the children. I'm the first person to usually say the kids will be fine. I mean, there are therapists if the kids are struggling, but otherwise, I mean, Leh, how many times do we see people go through a divorce and the kids end up being fine as long as the parents can behave.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, that's the key.
Todd Orston: That's what's hurts them, yeah.
Leh Meriwether: If the parents can co-parent well together, then the kids wind up being okay, they'll adjust well.
Todd Orston: Yeah, but the analysis is you have to jump in. You have to start thinking about not just your emotional need in the moment, but okay, what are the consequences of a divorce? What's the impact on me, on the children, on anyone involved? By engaging in that practice and that exercise rather, hopefully you're going to make a better decision.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. So I guess to wrap it up, go through this exercise and usually one of two things will come out. One, you'll discover that it's worthwhile trying to fight for your marriage and turning it into something amazing, or you'll be better prepared for your divorce. Perhaps you'll also be in a better position to understand your spouses' position and concerns, which will enable you to settle your case and have an amicable divorce. Hey everyone, that about wraps up this show. Thanks so much for listening.