Because it's January again and many people are thinking about divorce, it may be helpful to have a brief review of what someone can do to prepare to file for divorce. Some people don't really plan ahead. They just go see a lawyer and turn everything over over to the lawyer to file and come up with a plan of action. Other people may want to do more to have a greater chance of a favorable, or at least acceptable, outcome. Here's what can be done:
1. Start by determining what you what to end up with. What are your goals, needs and interests? The easy way out is to say that you want what is fair or you want a 50-50 split, but that's really superficial and may leave you short-changed. Everybody is different. What's “fair” to someone is not fair to someone else. There may be certain assets that are more important to you than to your spouse. Maybe you need cash now to pay for some immediate expenses, or maybe you need extra retirement assets. If there are four automobiles, you may just need one, not two. Maybe some collections or artwork are more meaningful to you. Whatever the situation, you will feel better and be better off after the divorce if you decide early what your objectives are.
2. Select a method. You actually have choices. You need to decide whether you want to use Collaborative Law, litigation or just try to work out things with your spouse over the kitchen table. Maybe mediation appeals to you. Investigate the options and choose the way that works best for you. In researching the possibilities, make sure that you speak with an attorney with significant training and experience in the different methods. Hint: not all attorneys are trained and experienced in Collaborative Law. For an opinion on that approach, you should make sure the attorney has had experience in handling Collaborative cases.
3. Prepare. Gather records and information about your financial estate and be familiar with any issues regarding your child and your spouse. For a handy checklist, see the prior post from January 2, 2011.
4. Meet with your attorney. Early. It is important to see the attorney before things get heated up. Your attorney will appreciate having time to prepare and you will have more options on how to proceed. You will have time to gather or request records and you can plan different options for where you will live and how bills will be paid.
5. Take the first step. File, set a hearing (if needed) and serve the papers (or hand-deliver them, if that will help). It is generally advantageous to be the one to file first. Once it is inevitable that the divorce will take place, you will be better served by being active and getting things done at your convenience.
These suggestions are not meant to talk you into a divorce. Whether you decide to divorce is an separate and very personal matter. You should carefully consider all the circumstances in your life and in most cases, you should meet with a counselor, alone or as a couple, to get some perspective in evaluating your situation and maybe to get some help in resolving the issues you are facing. Only after careful consideration should you begin the process of divorce. Once you commit to the choice of divorce, you should then follow the above steps.