I am dreading the next steps!!!! Was your divorce very confrontational @browser
? and did you make any mistakes I can learn from?
Oh boy is that a loaded question.
The easy answer. My divorce was extremely confrontational, highly litigated with numerous court appearances over 3 years that culminated in a 3 day trial that only ended after 3 days because the judge wisely took the attorneys into chambers and said something like "You've sucked your clients dry for over $250k in combined legal fees for no good reason because they won't get anything more than they would have if they settled this thing 3 years ago, let's end the bleeding now, here's a settlement offer that I STRONGLY advise your clients accept. It reflects what I will ultimately decide anyway and you should have recommended this to your clients 3 years ago but you didn't because you are selfish greedy pigs".
The tougher question, did I make mistakes.
Looking back at the whole thing, I didn't handle things as efficiently as I could have, at first she came out swinging and I sat there ducking the blows and not taking the initiative, I unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a settlement with my exwife numerous times during the three years, and I allowed things to get to the point where we were in extremely high conflict which gave the attorneys even more control.
But then again I don't think there was anything I could have done about it. Once my exwife had the initial consult with her attorneys, all control was lost and the outcome was predetermined based on the dynamics of the people involved, mainly her manipulative, highly skilled attorneys and her inability to realize we were both being taken advantage of.
All I can suggest is try to keep things civil and think of the entire thing as a business deal and try to remove emotions from the process as much as you can, and work towards the common goal of getting this over with as inexpensively and as quickly as you can will minimum collateral damage to your children and to your finances. Don't allow yourself to get into the mindset where you're thinking "how could the person I married do these terrible things?" because they are no longer the person you married and may have had children with, they are now an exbusiness partner who has no regard for your wellbeing. One mistake I made was to get into a very negative depressed state of mind where I thought my life was basically over and I'd never recover from the devastating lost of my relationship with my children and the huge financial losses. I was mostly wrong. Things were never the same with my children, and I did lose a LOT of money but I've more than recovered the financial losses and ironically met a woman who has about the same net worth as what I paid to my exwife. My relationship with my daughters was never the same however.
If your ex is amenable to mediation then try to go that route, but if they're completely shut down to the point that the attorneys are handling everything then hold on tight, hope for the best but expect the worst. Don't take everything your attorney tells you at face value. They are interested in making money, that's their primary goal. Know the laws in your state. Know the judge and how they tend to rule. Determine what is a realistic settlement -best and worst case scenario- so you know what is worth fighting for and when it might be time to accept what you might have previously thought is a very unfair offer.
One tactic often used by divorce attorneys is to give their clients unreasonable expectations, which becomes a sense of entitlement. "My attorney told me I can get $2000 per month in child support and 5 nights per week with my kids" so that becomes their reality even if it is not the typical award in their state. All it does is keep the two parties in the ring fighting for something they cannot realistically expect to obtain. When it's all over the attorney will simply say "the judge made an unfair ruling, here's my final bill".
If possible make your ex aware of these things so they too might rethink their expectations. The longer the litigation, the more expensive it gets and eventually even the most conflicted parties finally realize they're spending far more than they will ever hope to recoup and they throw in the towel. Obviously, the sooner the better.