The Shocked Spouse

A recent blog from a well-respected Virginia attorney was about how stunned one can be when your spouse asks for a divorce. In virtually every sentence he used the phrase “shocked spouse” and it resonates. Primarily because it’s easy (albeit painful) to imagine sitting across from your partner and feeling devastated as he/she says goodbye to the life you’ve both worked hard to build. What was the point of the blog other than describing all too well the thought process one might go through at that moment of no return? In a few words – get a lawyer.

When your spouse/partner comes to you with the heartbreaking news (or in some cases the most welcome news) that the marriage is over, it is likely that there will be a separation agreement presented to you. The agreement would have been drafted by that spouse’s attorney, who he/she had already consulted prior to telling you the news, and will seem to make sense to you at first read. There will be included in it a discussion of sharing the work and expenses of the children, calculating and equitably distributing the marital assets, and it will all seem like a neat and tidy way to dispose of your relationship. Stop right there – while it may seem logical and fair on its face, don’t be fooled.

One reason you need to seek counsel from your own advocate is just that – you need your own advocate! Have you ever found it easy to get two people to agree to anything without discussion and negotiation? When was the last time it was easy to get two people to agree on a restaurant for dinner or a movie to watch? It isn’t easy, and now imagine the subject is money (assets) and work (children)? Again, get a lawyer.

Of course, there are many other reasons to retain your own counsel, and some are obvious such as the lawyer is experienced in the workings and demands of the courts and legal system. But clearly, the more important reason is to have someone else in your corner who believes you have an absolute right to an equitable settlement. Yes, you may be the “shocked spouse” but that doesn’t mean you lost your good sense, too.


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