The best kept secrets only divorce attorneys know

As divorce attorneys well know, the odds are stacked against married couples — at least as far as it concerns the "forever" department. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), around 40 to 50 percent of all marriages in the United States will end in divorce. And, if you and your partner are each getting married for the very first time, the odds of your marriage lasting until death do you part are even worse. As noted by the APA, first-time spouses have approximately a 50 percent chance of getting divorced. Not that you should mention that to your wedding guests, of course.

While people don't say "I do" hoping their marriages fail, statistics tell us that, for many, divorce is a looming, inevitable demon. This is especially true in the United States. If you ever find yourself facing divorce, you're likely going to want the best divorce lawyer around — someone who will make the process easy to understand while also fighting to get you what you deserve, à la Laura Dern's character in 2019's Marriage Story.

So, what's the key to a successful divorce? Here's a look at the best kept secrets only divorce attorneys know. 

Divorce attorneys know that a divorce can cost more than the wedding

With all the hoopla surrounding modern-day ceremonies, one might assume divorce would cost way less than the big day. Not quite. "Divorce as a whole is really expensive," Jacqueline Newman, divorce attorney and managing partner at a New York City firm, told Business Insider. And if the soon-to-be exes "want to fight," Newman said it gets even pricier. She continued, "A line I use to clients when they come in and they tell me they want to fight is, 'Would you rather pay for your kid's college or mine?'"

According to a 2019 study by The Knot, the average cost for a wedding in 2019 was $33,900, with the price of a venue, wedding dress costs, and all other major wedding aspects taken into consideration. However, many couples are able to have their dream wedding for $10,000 or less, per Brides. The average cost of a divorce, on the other hand, is around $15,000, Bankrate.com estimated. And, according to Business Insider, that price can easily skyrocket thanks to optional added expenses such as education classes for newly divorced parents, counseling sessions, and even psychiatric evaluations.

Divorce court isn't the best option, according to divorce attorneys

Heading to court with your estranged spouse may seem like the logical next move when going through with a divorce, but settling a divorce in court may not be in your best interest — despite what you've seen on Divorce Court.

According to marital and family law attorney Charles D. Jamieson, the judge presiding over your divorce proceedings isn't likely to care nearly as much about your divorce as you do. "The judge who handles your divorce probably will have dozens or hundreds of cases on his docket," Jamieson wrote for BottomLineInc.com. He continued, "He isn't going to be able to dig deep to discover the truth about you and your spouse or carefully weigh who should receive each possession ... he's going to get a thumbnail sketch of the relationship and take his best shot."

Instead, Jamieson advised settling out of court, even if you don't feel like the settlement offered to you is fair. "The system isn't designed to produce fairness ... it's designed to end the marriage according to the laws of your state," the expert added.

Divorce attorneys know way too much about their clients' personal lives

While divorce attorneys know plenty of information as it pertains to a couple's divorce, they also know a shocking amount of secrets about the more private aspects of their clients' lives — whether they want to or not.

According to lawyer Laura Wasser — the go-to divorce attorney for Hollywood's elite, according to Vulture — clients who find themselves in her office at such a vulnerable time in their lives often feel the need to overshare. As Wasser detailed to Vanity Fair, this oversharing often comes in the form of spilling intimate details about their sex lives. "People want to tell me all about whatever was the matter or weird in their sex lives," she revealed. "I say to them, 'I really don't need to hear it and I certainly don't need to see it. Please don't bring me any pictures. Please don't bring me any videos. I believe you.'" 

Wasser told the publication that she's heard it all — from accusations of husband's wearing women's clothes to wives not being comfortable with the size of their husband's genitalia. "It's like they disrobe verbally in your office," said the attorney.

Divorce attorneys know that every marriage is going to end

When couples exchange their wedding vows, most promise to love each other, as the saying goes, "'til death do us part." However, perhaps a better line would be "'til divorce do us part.'" After all, as noted by the American Psychological Association, up to half of all marriages in the United States end this way. 

Simply put, every marriage is going to end eventually, whether in death or divorce. That's why divorce attorney James Sexton highly recommends couples sign a prenuptial agreement before exchanging vows.

"It's not only smart to have [a prenup] ... it's incredibly foolish not to have one," Sexton revealed in an interview with Lewis Howes. He explained, "Every marriage is going to end. It's either doing to end in death or divorce, but it's definitely going to end." Sexton continued, putting it this way: "Your marriage is going to end in death, so you have a will, right? Well, your marriage might end in divorce, so why not have a prenup?"

According to divorce attorneys, there's rarely a clear bad guy

While some divorces can certainly be mutual, and perhaps even amicable, many divorces are filled to the brim with he-said, she-said rhetoric and plenty of finger pointing. Of course, depending on whose side you find yourself taking in a divorce, it's easy to paint the other party as the villain. 

However, according to divorce attorney James Sexton, there's rarely a bad guy (or a good guy) when it comes to divorce. "I don't think it's as simple as good people over here and bad people over there," Sexton said in an interview with Vox. He continued, telling the publication, "I think that all of us, if you catch us at the right moment, can be good or bad."

As Sexton told the publication, most people have the same underlying wants and needs from a marriage. "Most of us just want to stay connected, and we really do want to love people and be loved ourselves," he said. Added the divorce attorney, "If you don't do the work of constantly checking in, of keeping that connection, you will lose it."

Social media is not your friend during a divorce, according to divorce attorneys

While sharing pics and funny anecdotes across various social media platforms may be America's favorite pastime, marital and family law attorney Charles D. Jamieson warns against using social media while getting a divorce as it could end up costing you if you aren't extremely careful. "If you bad-mouth your spouse on social ­media, your spouse's attorney might use these posts in court to make you look like a bad person," Jamieson wrote for BottomLineInc.com

Jamieson continued, writing, "If you post pictures of fun things you do or fun places you go, your spouse's attorney might use these to make it appear that you spend recklessly or don't take proper care of your children."

According to Jamieson, the best way to use social media during a divorce is not at all. "Stop using social media until your divorce is final," Jamieson wrote. Added the attorney, "Delete any existing posts that are critical of your spouse ... or that show you spending money or enjoying yourself without your spouse."

According to divorce attorneys, a private investigator may be a necessity

When you think "private investigator," you likely picture what you've seen on TV shows: an elusive, undercover man in an unassuming parked car, snapping photos of a person of interest. And while following a subject around and taking photos of his or her day-to-day life is certainly a task assigned to many a PI, these investigators also have other skills useful to someone getting a divorce. 

Attorney Eva Cockerham told GOBankingRates.com, "Private investigators are useful for investigating people who own small businesses, as independent data about the number of customers, employees and resources can give a much fuller picture of a person's true finances." Added Cockerham, "[Private investigators can give] insight as to whether a person going through a divorce is getting accurate information from their soon-to-be ex-spouse."

According to Divorce Magazine, the retainer fee for a private investigator can range anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. However, shelling out the cash to hire a PI could ultimately save you a fortune, depending on whether or not your ex-spouse is keeping financial secrets. 

Divorce attorneys know that what you wear to court matters

Everyone knows the old adage "dress for the job you want, not the job you have." Similarly, when the time comes to scour your wardrobe for something to wear to court, it's important you remember to dress for the divorce you want, not the marriage you had.

Of course, having a marriage on the rocks can certainly take a toll on one's self-esteem, as well as one's finances), which can subsequently take a toll on the quality and/or appearance of the clothes in a soon-to-be-divorcée's wardrobe. However, if you find yourself heading to divorce court, attorney Ann Narris explained to GOBankingRates.com that purchasing a nice, professional outfit to wear to court will do more than simply boost your own confidence, it will also likely have a positive impact on how the judge perceives you and your character. Plus, there's plenty of really easy ways to look classy on a budget, like rocking a vintage ensemble from a thrift store.

"You will feel better and likely fare better with the judge," Narris told GOBankingRates.com, advising to keep court clothing "neutral," and not pile on tons of accessories.

Divorce attorneys are well aware of divorce grief

If you ever find yourself getting a divorce, perhaps it would be a good idea to ask your lawyer if he or she could recommend a grief counselor. While different than the grief one feels after the death of a loved one, divorce grief is a very real — and very painful — thing.

According to marriage educator and divorce coach Cathy Meyer, divorce grief can even be categorized into the commonly known stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. However, Meyer says that moving from one stage to another is rarely a smooth transition. "There was no beginning, middle or end for each stage and most stages I visited several times," the divorce coach wrote for HuffPost.

Marital and family law attorney Charles D. Jamieson recommends seeing a therapist who specializes in either marital issues or grief — or maybe even both. "Not only should this help you avoid making bad grief-driven decisions, it also makes it less likely that you will discuss your emotions at length with your divorce attorney," he revealed on BottomLineInc.com.

Divorce attorneys know everything is fair game during a divorce

If you've never gone through a divorce, you might enter into your own divorce assuming what's yours is yours — unable to be claimed or taken by your soon-to-be ex. However, according to divorce attorneys, most people don't realize that everything is on the table in a divorce.

As noted by the attorneys at Brandon Legal Group, "Spouses have the right to demand a shared portion of anything the other owns, every 'marital' asset is divisible." Unfortunately, some of said "assets" could include something as big as the house you and your spouse shared or even as small as the airline miles you racked up using the joint credit card. If you happen to be a published author, even royalties from the books you've written could be up for grabs during your divorce, attorney Ann Narris told GOBankingRates.com.

On her website, attorney Kristen L. Campbell explained that anything owned by either party can be considered "marital property" during a divorce — regardless of whether or not said property is co-owned by both spouses. However, in most cases, "only property acquired during the marriage is marital property," Campbell added.

According to divorce attorneys, not all states are equal when it comes to divorce

Depending on where you live in the United States, getting a divorce could prove to be more difficult than it has any right to be. Nebraska, New York, California, Arkansas, South Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont are the worst states in which you could end your marriage in divorce, according to attorney Bruce Provda. As Provda explained to Next Avenue (via Forbes), these states' higher filing fees and long processing wait times make them the least divorce-friendly states in the country. California is particularly harsh, with a filing fee of $395, a 360-day processing wait time, and a mandatory, six-month "cooling-off" period between the time you file and the time the judge signs off on your petition for divorce. 

However, Arkansas may have California beat when it comes to the worst states to handle divorce. According to Provda, Arkansas' minimum processing time is a whopping 540 days — nearly 18 months — which just so happens to be the longest processing time of any state. 

Divorce attorneys realize the most expensive lawyer isn't always the best one

Even people with no divorce experience have likely heard horror stories about the process of getting a divorce and how it can often be as expensive as it is lengthy and emotionally taxing. To put it simply, divorce hits you in the two places that hurt the most: your heart and your wallet. 

The majority of your money in a divorce naturally goes toward paying your divorce attorney. According to high-profile divorce attorney Laura Wasser, her legal services require a $25,000 retainer fee, as well as a $950 hourly rate. However, as Wasser told PureWow, it's possible to find attorneys in non-metropolis areas whose retainer fees range from $2,500 to $5,000, with hourly rates ranging from $250 to $500. 

Speaking with GOBankingRates.com, attorney Ann Narris cautioned against going with the most expensive lawyer your money can buy. While you may assume the higher the price, the better the representation, that's not necessarily true. "Find one that is experienced and knowledgeable but is also a good fit for you," Narris advised. She continued, saying, "The attorney should advise you but also respect your position on how to approach the negotiations."

The "winner" in a divorce isn't who you think, according to divorce attorneys

As finances are generally at the center of most divorce cases, one might think the "winner" of the divorce to be the person who walked away with the largest divorce settlement, the most assets, or perhaps paid the least amount of money in legal fees. 

However, according to Forbes contributor Heather L. Locus, people rarely consider themselves the "winner" of their divorce, regardless of what they come away with. "If you asked one hundred divorced couples who they thought got the better end of the deal when they finalized their divorce, it's a safe bet that most, potentially all, would say, 'my ex,'" Locus wrote.

Divorce mediator Lori A. Grover insists the "winner" of a divorce isn't the person who walks away with the most money, but the person who walks away with their emotions — as well as their bank account — largely intact. "My personal and professional experience has taught me that the real winners in a divorce are those who don't end up emotionally or financially broken, and are able to rebuild their lives," Grover explained