Coaching For Divorced Women: What is the first thing a woman should do when she decides to ask for a divorce?
Karen Covy: Actually, the better question is what should a woman do even before she decides to ask for a divorce? She should educate herself so that she can make an informed decision about what will be best for her. She should educate herself about her own financial situation, about the divorce process, and about the legal system. Gathering information and educating herself before she decides to divorce will help a woman make the right decision for her situation and her life.
What is the biggest mistake a woman makes when choosing a divorce attorney?
The biggest mistake a woman can make when choosing a divorce attorney is to allow herself to select someone who does not really share her approach to divorce. If she wants to try to settle her case amicably, she should find a divorce attorney who is also a mediator. She does not want one who is an ace litigator! If a woman knows that her case is going to involve an epic battle, she should hire an aggressive litigator. She will not want a peaceful mediator.
How should a divorced woman go about finding an attorney who practices collaborative law?
If a woman wants to use collaborative divorce, she should make sure that the divorce attorney she chooses really practices collaborative law! (Since the collaborative law movement has started to gain traction, many lawyers are claiming that they practice collaborative law, even though they have never been trained in collaborative law.) If someone wants to know more about collaborative versus “cooperative” law, they can check out the blog post I wrote about at http://karencovy.com/collaborative-law-versus-cooperative-law-beware-the-bait-and-switch/.
Who should consider a collaborative divorce?
Collaborative law works best for couples who want to divorce amicably and privately. Even if the couple has trouble communicating with each other, if they are open to trying to work together to resolve their case, collaborative law can work for them. Collaborative law is fabulous for anyone who wants to keep the details of their case out of the public eye. Since both people in a collaborative divorce will be sitting at a table and talking about their divorce issues themselves, and with their attorneys and other divorce professionals, it is important that both parties are comfortable with that. Both parties also have to be willing to commit to voluntarily providing complete financial information to each other.
Collaborative law is probably not the best choice in cases which involve domestic violence. Also, while collaborative law costs less than full-blown litigation, it is not always the cheapest option, so a couple who is seriously strapped for cash may not find collaborative law appropriate for them.
How do you handle couples that are involved in a high-conflict divorce?
Lawyers do not handle conflict particularly well. Lawyers handle conflict by fighting about whatever is at issue in court. That only escalates the conflict. If both parties in a high conflict case have reasonable lawyers, those lawyers will try to handle the conflict by talking to each other and resolving the conflict outside of court whenever possible. That doesn’t always work.
The best thing that couples involved in a high-conflict divorce can do is to work with certified divorce coaches or other qualified mental health professionals so they can develop the skills they need to both de-escalate and handle the conflict themselves. That’s even more important for couples who have children; they will be parents together forever, so finding a productive way to deal with their conflicts will really help them in the long run.
What would you say to a woman that is insisting on having her day in court?
Are you sure? I mean, are you really sure that you want someone you have never met before, who doesn’t know you, doesn’t know your children, and may not share your values or your opinion, decide what will happen to you and your family? That’s like playing Russian roulette with your family and your future … and paying tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege. Maybe that is what you want to do, but, unless you have no choice, think long and hard about going down that road.
What advice would you give clients to get a divorce with the least possible conflict and pain for all of those involved?
Settle your case yourself. Sit down and talk to your spouse and settle your case yourself. I’m not saying not to get legal or financial advice. But, after you know what your legal options are, talk to your spouse and work things out on your own. It is the cheapest, easiest, and best way to go.
What type of proof does a woman need if her husband is lying about her?
That depends on what he is lying about. I can’t really answer this question without more detail. Sorry.
How often do you see cases of “Manimony”?
More often than you would think. Remember, when it comes to alimony, most states’ laws are gender-neutral. Whether one spouse pays alimony to the other depends on a lot of different factors. Some of these factors include the length of the marriage, each party’s present earnings and future earning capacity, the lifestyle established during the marriage, and a variety of other factors. Gender is not a factor. So if the woman is the primary wage earner, and the man stayed home to care for the children, or is unemployed, then the woman may very well have to pay alimony to the man.
What advice would you give a woman regarding social media and texting during the divorce process?
Be careful! I can’t begin to tell you how many cases have been blown by “unfortunate” postings in social media. It’s kind of hard to make a case that you are physically disabled and unable to work when you post pictures of yourself mountain climbing. (And, yes. It happens.) When it comes to social media, the best advice I can give you is to stop using it while you’re going through your divorce. Just don’t use it. Period. If that won’t work, then you need to assume that everything you post (or that someone else posts about you – like pictures!) will end up in front of the judge someday. And remember, even if you take your posts down, they still live on in cyberspace. With one well-placed subpoena, any lawyer can get copies of your deleted posts. So, be careful.
As for text messages… remember that anything you write can and will be used against you in a court of law by your angry spouse. It doesn’t matter if you “were just joking” or “you didn’t really mean it.” The judge will see whatever you wrote, just as you wrote it. If you would rather that the judge doesn’t see it, don’t text it.
Is there any other advice you would like to give women who are just beginning the divorce process?
Educate yourself. Learn about the divorce process (mediation, negotiation, litigation, and collaborative law). Choose the process and divorce attorney that is right for you before you start. Get a divorce attorney who is experienced in the process you choose to use. But don’t expect your divorce attorney to solve all of your problems. Stay involved in your own case. Do what’s right for you. Do your best. Then let the rest go. The process will take longer and cost more than you want. That’s just the way it is. Your job is to keep your eye on the ball. Focus on the big picture, and get through this difficult time in your life. You will get through it. Once you do, you will find that you are stronger and happier. You will also be in a much better place than when you started. Don’t worry. Your new life is waiting.
203 N. LaSalle St., Suite 2300, Chicago, IL 60601
Years in Practice: 29
Karen Covy is a divorce attorney, divorce mediator, arbitrator, and a former adjunct law professor. She has been a divorce attorney for almost thirty years. For twenty years she has focused her practice on family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, paternity, visitation, property division, and spousal support. She is trained in collaborative law, and is a fellow with the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois. Karen is also a member of the international Academy of Collaborative Professionals. She is a member of the American Bar Association, the Chicago Bar Association, and the Association for Conflict Resolution and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.
As a lawyer, mediator, and educator Karen is committed to helping couples resolve their family disputes as amicably as possible. She has lectured on Alternative Dispute Resolution and encourages people to use negotiation, mediation, or collaborative law to resolve their disputes, rather than fighting in court. She volunteers as a facilitator in the Domestic Relations Division of the Cook County Court system.
Karen is the author of When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially and Legally. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows, and has given talks on divorce for a variety of organizations.
Karen is a graduate of the Western Michigan University and the University of Notre Dame Law School.