Dealing with Divorce: Talking to your children, laws and more

The COVID-19 pandemic has added extra stress in everyone’s lives and for some, it’s taken a toll on marriages. Between navigating families, finances, and the law, getting a divorce can be hard to navigate.

According to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, these are the top reasons for divorce:

  1. Lack of commitment/incompatibility: 43%
  2. Infidelity/affairs: 28%
  3. Money: 22%
  4. Domestic violence/addiction: 5.8%
  5. Communication issues: 1.2%
The Body Image Counseling center CEO Lori Osachy joins the Morning Show to talk about how couples can avoid getting to the point of a divorce in the first place.

The law

Attorney Jonathan Zisser with Zisser Family Law says in Florida, the only requirement for someone to get a divorce is to prove the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

“What is your advice to anyone who is starting this process?” asked Consumer Investigator Lauren Verno.

“Determine if there is any chance of saving the marriage,” said Zisser. “Florida is a state that does not require a reason to get divorced like other states do, we also don’t have waiting period like other states do, essentially all you must allege is the marriage is irretrievably broken. But is your marriage irreprovably broken?”

Do you need an attorney?

Zisser says if your marriage is broken, the next step is to decide if you need a lawyer.

“Do you have to have an attorney to file for divorce?” asked Lauren.

“You don’t, but when I get sick, I don’t diagnose myself, and when I file taxes, I don’t pretend to be an accountant. The legal arena is complicated, and the legal system is complicated. If you don’t know the law it’s hard to navigate,” he explained.

The expense

Whether or not you have a lawyer is going to determine the amount you will spend on a divorce. Experts say if the divorce is uncontested in Florida, the average cost will be:

  • Under $500 if you complete the paperwork yourself and file without a lawyer
  • Under $650 if you get online help with the paperwork and filing instructions to file without an attorney
  • Between $3,000-$5,000 if a lawyer takes care of everything

If your marriage is contested – meaning you cannot come to an agreement about finances, assets, or children and you must go to court -- things can get more expensive:

  • The typical cost of a contested divorce in Florida is between $5,000 to $30,000. It’s a wide range that primarily consists of attorney fees, and how long the proceedings are drawn out
  • The average price for a divorce involving children is $13,500

But Zisser says from his experience, a person may end up paying more than needed without an attorney who knows the law.

“I literally just witnessed that result in a $100,000 mistake for one of the parties who did the divorce themselves (and) did not have an attorney representing them, he said. “The other spouse did and the spouse who did not have an attorney did not know how to ask for specific things, therefore, a particular document was not turned over. Had that party had that document would probably not have signed that agreement that was signed, and it cost that person a lot of money.”

Talking to your children

Divorces can take a financial toll and an emotional one -- especially on children. Lauren spoke with Lori Osachy, the CEO of The Body Image Counseling Center in Jacksonville, who says divorcing parents have to remember the kids come first.

“The most important thing is to focus on your child rather than yourself and sometimes that’s difficult when you’re going through the pain of a divorce. It’s not easy, but to kind of let your child know directly in age-appropriate language, and then let them respond and listen,” she said.

Osachy says while the exact conversation depends on the age, all these things are recommended when talking to your children about divorce:

  • Plan what you will say beforehand and prepare for follow-up questions
  • Don’t have the conversation on a holiday or right before bed. Make sure there’s some time to have a conversation
  • Talk to your children together. While it might not be easy, Osachy says it’s best if you can still show you’re a united front
  • Avoid blaming one or another
  • Tell your kids what will change and what will stay the same

“It’s important not to think about being truthful as being harsh because if you’re going to get a divorce, it’s going to happen,” Osachy explained. “And a lot of parents don’t tell their children early enough and then it’s painful anyway. So, you can tell your child in a very soft, loving voice, you can reassure them that both parents still love them, it’s not their fault, and that they can talk to both about it. Hopefully, you can still be able to say, ‘mom and dad are going to be friends and be there for you.’ And if not, it’s important to do everything to ensure that happens.”