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15 Things This Divorce Lawyer Wants All Married People To Know

Once you know the real reasons couples end up in his office, you can take steps to make sure you don't.

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Marriages go up and down with the economy

Tough times makes for tough relationships, says Robert J. Lewis, Esq., a divorce lawyer at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP, in New York City. “Finances are one of the main stresses on a relationship and I saw a lot of fights over money during the recession of 2008,” he explains. But paradoxically this may offer some protection to fragile relationships as divorce rates declined slightly in the America during the Great Recession of the last decade. Why? It’s simple, Lewis says: Two households are always more expensive than one and in tough times practically trumps love. Pay attention to these secret signs your marriage could be headed for divorce.

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It’s not about the 20-year-old hottie

Do you feel like a 40 changed in for two 20’s? The stereotype of an older man leaving his wife for a younger woman is true, but not for the reason you think. “He’s not leaving you for someone younger and hotter, he’s leaving you for someone less critical,” Lewis says. Everyone wants a partner who makes them feel special and wanted and it’s easy to forget that when you’ve been married for 20 years. Spouses take each other for granted and forget what they love about each other until someone else comes along and points it out. So generally when a spouse leaves you for someone else, Lewis explains, it’s not only for superficial reasons but because they want someone who they feel is supportive and appreciative of them. You can short-circuit that (and save the money you’d pay a divorce lawyer) by taking time every day to remember why you first fell in love with your spouse and let them know you appreciate them. Try these tiny ways to make your spouse feel loved.

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Yeah, you need a pre-nup

Too many people get into relationships without having any idea of the other person’s financial situation and that causes huge problems down the road, Lewis says. For this reason, he tells all couples to at least consider drawing up a pre-nuptial agreement—even if you don’t end up signing official papers it still forces you to have a serious conversation about your assets, your earning potential, and your financial expectations. Done right, these conversations can strengthen your relationship by preventing arguments down the road and removing uncertainty.

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Infidelity isn’t the real issue

Cheating is a symptom of a relationship already on the rocks. “The person who was cheated on will say it’s all the cheater’s fault, but it is usually indicative of deeper issues,” Lewis explains. “Cheating isn’t ever justified but it doesn’t happen in a vacuum.” So if you or your mate are tempted to stray, it’s time to take a serious look at the foundation of your relationship and repair the cracks. These are subtle signs that your partner is cheating.

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Save the drama, mama

“In most states, divorce courts really don’t care who’s at fault for your relationship problems,” Lewis says, adding that most of the time the court doesn’t even want to know who did what to whom. “Sob stories won’t impact the court’s decision about money, spousal support, or custody, unless it specifically impacts the well-being of the kids.”

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Think before you text

Any time you’re tempted to fire off an angry text or an incensed email, consider how it will sound read aloud in front of a courtroom full of people, Lewis advises.  “Everything in writing can be used against you and in this age of the internet nothing is ever private,” he says. Even if your rants don’t end up in front of a judge they could be read by your kids someday, and that would feel even worse.

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Divorce isn’t about punishment

It’s easy to look at divorce as a way to make your spouse pay—literally and figuratively—but exacting your pound of flesh isn’t the point, Lewis says. “People want their spouse to experience consequences or repercussions from the bad things they did but divorce courts aren’t for punishment but rather to divide assets and set custody,” he says. “That’s it.”

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Publicly shaming your partner will backfire

Nothing feels better than having the court of public opinion on your side, especially when you feel sorely wronged by your partner. But before you go airing all your dirty laundry, consider how it will affect you and your children, Lewis says. He points out that speaking bad about your partner could hurt their business which in turn could hurt their ability to pay you. And if you reveal your spouse committed a crime, like under-reporting taxes, you may be liable too. Not to mention how quickly the public can turn and the support you thought you were getting might then work against you. “Either way, it’s really of no benefit to you, so just don’t do it,” he adds.

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Young children can be marriage breakers

“Having young children adds a tremendous strain and responsibility during a time of life that can already be tough,” Lewis says, citing this as a factor he sees in many divorces. Your children can either bring you closer together or drive you apart so be sure you’re taking as good care of each other as you are of the kids.

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Marriage is tough no matter what age you get hitched

“It used to be we’d hear a lot of ‘I got married too young’ but now it’s the issues that come with trying to blend two established lives,” Lewis says. Getting married younger and getting married older both have their benefits and their trials. It isn’t about which one will be easier but rather about recognizing that all relationships take a lot of hard work. Here are 28 ways to make your marriage happier right now.

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iStock/Nicolas McComber

Make the hard decisions before you have to make the hard decisions

Death, disease, employment, family, location—people often prefer to avoid difficult conversations with their partner. But failing to speak frankly about these issues doesn’t mean you won’t have to face them, it just means you’ll be sorely unprepared when you do, Lewis says. Knowing what you will do about important issues before they are a problem is a big step to staying out of his office.

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You need a real therapist

“I’ll listen to your story but I’m not a trained therapist,” Lewis says, adding that neither are your friends or your mother. If your relationship is in crisis and you don’t want to end up in divorce court, it’s important to see a certified marriage counselor. “The changes are small and gradual but I’ve seen it work in a lot of cases,” he says.

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iStock/Courtney Keating

People change, for better or worse

It sounds obvious yet so many of us think that the person we married is going to stay exactly the same forever and we’re shocked when they don’t, Lewis says. Some changes improve people while others definitely don’t and surprisingly both types of change have landed couples in his office. To save yourself this kind of pain, learn to be flexible and accepting of change, even if you don’t like it at first.

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It takes two to fight

It takes two people to get into a relationship and it takes at least that many to make it end, Lewis says. People who think their marriage problems are solely the fault of their partner are delusional and doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Instead of worrying about assigning blame, take a close look at your part and see what you can do to fix it.

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What you see is what you get

Marry the person you’re with, not the person you hope they’ll become someday, Lewis advises. “People go into a relationship thinking they can change the other person but they can’t,” he says of the all-too-common reason people end up needing his services. “Yet it can be really hard to let go of that but you knew what they were when you married them and you can’t expect them to change so either learn to love that person or let them go.”

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen is a health, lifestyle and fitness expert and teacher. She covers all things wellness for Reader’s Digest and The Healthy. With dual masters degrees in information technology and education, she has been a journalist for 17 years and is the author of The Great Fitness Experiment. She lives in Denver with her husband, five kids and three pets.