January has been dubbed “Divorce Month” in some circles because of the surge in divorce filings that happen after the new year. If you’re going to call it quits in 2023, here’s what you need to know and do to be prepared!
Decide HOW you want to divorce.
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From Mediation to Collaborative Divorce to duking it out in Court, there are many ways to end a marriage. I prefer the first two options for my clients rather than Litigation because of the responsiveness, flexibility and respect Mediation and Collaborative Divorce can offer to couples. Yes, you’re splitting – but that doesn’t mean you have to do it viciously. Mediation and Collaborative Divorce offer more peace-focused, work-together ways to break up than appearing before a judge in a cold courtroom, virtually, and waiting for her to make decisions about you and your family. How you divorce can determine how you move forward after your divorce – especially if you have children.
Find an attorney.
Do your research online, ask friends for recommendations, check out attorney websites and make a short list of practitioners who seem to match your vibe and desired approach. Then email or call to set up introductory meetings to determine if the chemistry will work for you!
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Not only the dollars you’ll lay out for representation, but the cost to your mental health if you choose a less responsive, more cantankerous approach. Identifying your priorities and values will help guide you to the right way to divorce, and if you choose a less combative path, you’ll likely pay less – not only in fees to experts, but in your time and well-being.
Get your house in order.
Before you divorce, you should have a sense of the assets in your marriage – including values, deeds and documentation for your house and other collective property. Gather documents for investments, businesses, tax returns, and other assets in advance. Come to the table prepared with information!
Learn the laws.
It never hurts to do a little online surfing to find out what the laws are in your state regarding divorce, custody, parenting time and marital assets. And of course, talk to your attorney about the laws. That way, you walk into the divorce process with realistic expectations for how your life might look after the split.
Do some career planning.
Whether you’ve worked the whole time or stayed at home raising kids, it’s wise to build a post-divorce budget, establish your own credit and financial accounts, and look for the type of work that will allow you to live on your own once your marriage ends. Don’t worry or be afraid – planning and researching can erase anxiety and concerns, and help you create a workable plan for your future. You may have to change your lifestyle, but at least you’ll know what you’re walking into!
You may want the divorce, or you may be hurt and angry that your spouse initiated the split – either way, do your best to get along, be kind and do not lash out. A divorce ignites lots of emotions – good people are often at their worst when going through a divorce. Keep your eye on the ball – a happy and livable outcome for you and your children, yes, even your adult children – and choose behaviors and words that will get you there.
Introducing Our Family in Two Homes – a divorce resource now offered by Transitions Legal!
If I had a resource like Our Family in Two Homes (OFTH) when I was getting married and raising children, I would have been so supported!
It never occurred to me way back when, nor does it to most people, to think through and articulate my values, my perspectives, and my beliefs on parenting, partnership, finances and more – and if I had, I bet I could have avoided many marital arguments or parenting disconnects.
Most people don’t really think through these things when it comes to the most important relationships of our lives because it’s just not embedded in our culture to do so. Think about all the romantic movies you’ve enjoyed in your life, which painted a picture of relationships as easy, automatic and synergistic. That rarely happens in real life.
Of course, I see couples when things have gone so wrong, they’ve given up hope that they can stay together. Nonetheless, I am excited to offer OFTH as a unique resource to help couples who are contemplating divorce, already decided to split or going through mediation.
They begin by going through pages 1-13 of the workbook, where they’ll find questions to help them get in touch with what is important to them for the divorce process. These pages cover communication, trust, emotions, values, expression tendencies and more.
It goes so much deeper than the kids or the house. What I love about this resource is how it helps clients discover their personal and collective core values and decision-making preferences. There is a lot of work people can do on their own before they come to an attorney, and this work helps them be more efficient with their attorney, which can sometimes reduce overall legal costs and time spent negotiating.
An example of this is when a client comes to me and insists they want to keep the house, but they’re not sure they can afford to do so, I have to dig deep with them to determine first what is important to them about the house. Then we explore the feelings behind it. That can take a lot of time at billable rates! I enjoy doing this kind of work with my clients. I am also aware that some clients are watching their money. This can save them on fees that might be needed further down the road, or better yet for their kids’ college education.
But if the same client worked through this on their own with the workbook, they would save time spent with me, their attorney, and get moving on the actions required to facilitate their breakup.
I use OFTH in Collaborative Divorce cases and also in Mediation. Individuals can purchase the workbook directly from Transitions Legal, and in doing so, they also get three consulting hours with me as they work through it.
The goal is for people to understand themselves better and understand the divorce process more. Also, they gain insights in how they interact and communicate, which helps an attorney know what they are dealing with in the case. They can draw out an introverted spouse or respectfully ask an extroverted spouse to give the other person some time to speak.
There are, of course, instances where using this workbook might help a couple to identify some of their nagging problems and decide to work on resolving them in an effort to stay together. That’s a lovely outcome when it happens!!
Regardless of the situation, anyone who uses this resource will gain clarity. They’ll understand elements of divorce like parenting time and custody, and know how these are established in the state of Michigan, where I practice. They’ll also know the background of the law to help them reach their decisions.
People often say, “I don’t know what I don’t know.” This resource gives you what you want to know.
To learn more about Our Family in Two Homes or to purchase the workbook-consulting package, click here.
Perhaps you had an affair. Maybe you hadn’t had sex with your spouse in five years.
And it’s not just about sex – whatever skeletons and secrets are hanging in your marital closet, it’s a good idea to let your attorney know, so we can represent you as expertly and fluidly as possible.
We’re not gossip-mongers, and we’re not in the business of passing judgment over our clients’ behavior. Attorneys need information in order to build a case.
I won’t judge you, but it does make a difference to have the whole picture rather than just a part of it, to fully understand what my client has been through, so that I can represent him well.
Plus, for the attorney, it can be embarrassing when you’re confronted by opposing counsel or if you’re in court and something comes out in front of the judge, and you really didn’t know about it. Then it appears that your representation or your relationship with your client isn’t 100% solid.
If we don’t have all the information, we can’t help find solutions that are going to work for our clients. And if we feel like a client is holding back information, then it makes what I want to do for my client difficult to achieve.
There’s another way to think about this. When you withhold information, it can be hard to keep track of what you’ve shared and what you’re holding back. It’s like that old adage that one lie leads to another to another? Well, you’re better off being honest in the beginning, so you don’t have to be concerned about letting the wrong information slip.
Recently, a client told me some lurid details of her marriage, and I learned that my opposing counsel, representing her husband, didn’t know. Apparently, the husband had an affair, but the attorney had no idea. I knew the opposing counsel would want to have all the information. I explained this to my client and encouraged her to share everything that happened through the course of the marriage.
Whatever you’ve been through or done, it doesn’t define who you are. Your attorney isn’t going to change perspective on your character or integrity.
But they will represent you better if they have all the information. It’s up to you.
Someone recently mentioned that in a lead-in for an earlier blog I posted to LinkedIn, I said: “The decision to divorce is never easy.” He was going to comment that for him, it WAS easy!
We shared a laugh but it made me think about the saying above . . .
I know a rabbi who advises couples about to be married to never say never, never say always. When arguing, he says, because you will argue, try to avoid the words “never” and “always.” These words only get you in trouble.
Similarly, when you’re in the process of divorcing, I recommend never saying never and never saying always. Couples make a lot of decisions when they divorce. They have to negotiate a settlement, parenting time, so many details, which become impossible to work out if you dig your heels in and spout absolutes like never and always.
In the heat of the divorce, with hurt and bitterness swirling around (as it does for some people), you may feel one way. And it’s hard to imagine that in a year or two or six, you might soften and not care so much about this one point as you do today.
Hence the advice to never say never, never say always.
Think about it. I’ll never do this, I’ll never agree to that, I always have this holiday…
These statements only dig a hole to bury yourself in. Perhaps one year, your ex-spouse has that holiday. Or maybe at some point in the future you won’t care so much about this or that. Why corner yourself, or your spouse, or the future of your children?
It’s so important to maintain as open a perspective as you can when going through a divorce. For both parties.
If you want to reach a settlement that you are both comfortable with, banish the words never and always. Stay as open as you can. Push the hurt aside, put it in a corner. At least temporarily.You limit yourself with never and always. Why set limits for a new approach to life, when you really don’t have to?
The Power of the 11th Hour in Last Minute Divorce Negotiation
Sometimes finding creative ways to reframe divorce settlements can ease tensions.
For example, a client’s husband found it more palatable to pay attorney fees directly to his wife’s attorney rather than to pay his wife money as property settlement which she would then use for her attorney fees. It’s all the same amount of money; creative redistributing can make an easier outcome for all.
Small shifts can make a big difference when feelings of anger, sadness or uncertainty are involved. Although I was prepared to improve my client’s settlement, she and her husband agreed on our bottom-line offer.
If you’re caught up in a last-minute divorce settlement, remember to step back and take a deep breath.
As divorce trials approach, the hours before a court appearance can be filled with last-minute negotiations and rounds of offers and counter-offers.
Emotions between the divorcing couple run high, and it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture, the context and the greater good.
There’s a fine balance between taking on the other person’s perspective to get closer to settlement and making sure you maintain enough of your own perspective that you don’t settle for too little. The offer on the table must be weighed against the cost of extensive attorney fees for trial and the possibility that a mediated or trial settlement could be better or worse.
There is no sure settlement in court, even though the current offer may fall short of your expectations. Weigh in on the costs of continued litigation with the financial reality of the result you seek – and the emotional impact on family members who are directly involved in the restructuring of your family, especially your children.