16 things a divorce lawyer wants you to know

Everything you never knew, starting from the causes, to the process, to the cost.

A recent study suggests that up to 43 per cent of modern day couples get divorced – which isn’t the hugely encouraging figure you want slapping you around the face before your wedding day.

But unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it…), that’s the way it is – which is why divorce lawyer David Ruck, a partner at Gordon Dadds law firm, has shared 16 things you might want to know about the process, causes and cost.

1.The most common causes of divorce lie in sex, money and religion

“In law there are a number of different bases for a divorce, but the most common ones are adultery, unreasonable behaviour, the breakdown of the relationship and falling out of love. Well, these are what one blames the divorce on, not necessarily the cause – I always used to say there are only three causes of divorce: sex, money and religion.”

2.Couples who have children are more likely to stay in an unhappy marriage

“Once a couple have children, it’s more likely they’ll probably stay together for a longer period. Quite often the crunch time is when the children leave. When the husband and wife are looking at the next 25 years without any children to distract them. It’s more likely when the children are gone that they reflect on the position and decide to do something. When the parents no longer have the glue to hold them together.”

3.If a couple don’t have children, most divorces happen around the four year mark

“People quite often make a decision [to get a divorce] quite early: if it becomes quite clear you shouldn’t be married and it’s not gonna work, often the decision is made within the first three or four years. People can make a decision quite quickly and probably before they have children.”

4.Women file for divorce more than men because men have more to lose

“I think it’s because men often, not always, have a distraction elsewhere in the sense they’re working, they’re outside the home, they may not be particularly reflective – and they know in their hearts of hearts that in the event of there being a divorce, they will lose the whole family unit and they will probably lose seeing their children on a day to day basis. In some senses, men have more to lose in that context.”

5.Cheating is usually a symptom of larger issues, rather than a cause of divorce

“Cheating is not necessarily the reason a marriage breaks down – if it’s just one incident, in many cases it would be foolish to throw away the whole of your family life as a result. However, if there’s been a systematic process in which somebody has been betrayed over a longer period of time, that is likely to result in a breakdown of trust and therefore the relationship will fall apart.”

Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston before they ended their marriage of five years.

6.Divorces are likely to be more amicable if raw emotions are no longer involved

“A divorce is inevitably the result of conflict and friction. I think that the divorces where the parties have been separated for a while and they’ve worked out a lot of their emotions and anger before they get anywhere near lawyers – those divorces seem to be much more amicable in the sense there’s no longer a raw emotional element that find their way into the divorce process.”

7.You shouldn’t file for divorce if you haven’t properly considered it for at least 18 months

“If you’ve been mulling over a divorce for a year and a half because you’ve seen the relationship falling apart and worked as hard as you can to make it work, then it’s totally reasonable to go and see your lawyer to discuss it. But if you’ve suddenly decided as a result of a single act of betrayal that you want out, those circumstances you do well to actually sit back and think about it and reflect on it before rushing into anything that you might regret.”

8.There is no minimum or maximum cost to a divorce

“It can cost you very little, it can cost you a great deal. If you’ve got a significant amount of money and you decide it’s sensible to divide it 50/50 and there’s enough money for you both to walk away feeling very happy about it, it’s possible the costs can be tiny. [Lawyer costs mount] when there are either substantial emotional issues or substantial issues around money where it is difficult to come to a conclusion to what is the right settlement.”

“The real issue is when the issue gets out of hand and people begin to litigate what are in essence emotional issues. Therapy through litigation is an extremely expensive and corrosive exercise. That’s where costs lie.”

9.The average divorce takes a year and a half

“[More divorces take] about a year, if not a year and a half – possibly longer. I’ve been involved in one that’s been seven or eight years, [but] it’s surprising if it’s more than two or three years nowadays. Inevitably issues surrounding children go on for years and years because they remain a potential issue for years and years.”

10.Couples don’t argue in front of their lawyers like the movies IRL

“Any lawyer will work very hard to not allow a situation to arise when people with raw emotions get into a room where it’s gonna happen. It happens, but it’s regrettable. People can get very angry, and sometimes they do things that are irrational. Lawyers should try to arrange situations in such a way where it’s unlikely to happen.”

11.Prenups are highly persuasive, but not fully binding

“Prenups are increasingly common. They’re not fully binding but they are highly persuasive. If they’ve been properly negotiated and everyone’s been legally represented and knows what they mean, they are likely to be effectively enforced. They’re much more common, they’re not just in cases when there are massive amounts of money.”

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck went through a very public separation.

12.Prenups are worth having to protect what you might inherit in the future

“What [prenups] tend to do is preserve what people bring into a marriage as a separate entity so they belong to the person who brings them in. It’s usually about preserving assets and inheritance that you bring into a marriage – not what you create in a marriage. Oh, and what you may inherit after the divorce, too.”

13.Although it can be argued about whether they were ever reasonable in the first place

“It’s an uncomfortable process to go through before you’re married to acknowledge that you possibly might get divorced. From my experience, as you’ve had that negotiation before you’re married, it may well be there’s less acrimony [about prenups during divorce] because the argument has already taken place. However, it is said also, that all a prenup does is potentially shift the battleground away from a general argument to a specific argument as to whether that prenup was reasonable.”

14.It’s possible for one party to argue against a divorce if they don’t want it

“You can technically defend a divorce, which means that when someone can produces what’s called a ‘Divorce Petition’ and outlines that the marriage has broken down for a number of reasons, the other party can say ‘Well, it hasn’t broken down. In fact, there shouldn’t be a divorce.'”

15.A happy marriage is down to luck

“Being a divorce lawyer has taught me that there is no formula for a happy marriage. A lot of it is down to luck, a lot of it comes down to being prepared to listen to the other party. It’s a great deal of luck – everybody changes, you might meet the right person at the right time, you might meet the right person at the wrong time. Inevitably, both of you will change as time goes on, and you hope to change at the same rate.”

16.Choosing a divorce lawyer carefully is incredibly important

It’s very important that if you have a divorce, you’ve got to make sure it’s a divorce lawyer who you think you can work with and you get on with. The last thing you want is a lawyer who becomes too emotionally engaged in the process. If they start arguing with the other person’s lawyer for the sake of arguing as opposed to doing it for your benefit. They’ve got to be compassionate but dispassionate.

Divorce lawyer in question is David Ruck, partner at law and professional services firm Gordon Dadds.

This story appeared on Cosmopolitan.

Related stories

Get your favourite magazines home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.