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Planning Ahead

Dick Price Feb. 1, 2023

Going through a divorce is usually tough emotionally. Some people just want to turn everything over to their lawyer so they can avoid stress. That’s usually not possible.

Actually, a better approach is to discuss with your lawyer what your goals or needs are and then talk about how you can meet them in the divorce process.

·         Preliminary steps. If you are unsure about whether to file for divorce, there are some small steps you can and should take to get ready just in case. You can always back out if you change your mind. Talk to a counselor or trusted family or friends. Look for help outside of the family. Think about your finances now and in the future. Gather important papers. Talk with one or more attorneys.

·         Planning how to start. You will benefit by planning ahead instead of just reacting to your spouse or the situation. If you plan early, you can decide when to start (file). It's usually a good idea to be the first one to file. You need to carefully consider whether you should go ahead and file and then notify your spouse. For some people it works out better if you discuss divorce before you file. The first approach is a little more aggressive than the latter one. Sometimes just filing can lead to bad feelings if your  spouse feels surprised or ambushed. Choose what will be helpful for what you want to accomplish.

·         What to expect. You need to try to anticipate your spouse's reactions. That’s a valuable part of the planning. Your spouse might become angry, sad, relieved or neutral. Your response will be affected by their state of mind. Do you move forward right away? Do you hold back and give your spouse time to process what’s going on? How do you want to respond to various requests by your spouse?

·         Process expectations. If you are in a traditional divorce litigation process, there are normal steps that are followed. It’s helpful to understand them, the timing and what you will need to do. In a Collaborative divorce process, a very different approach is taken. In that situation, the experience of well-meaning friends who had litigated divorces will generally be irrelevant. Make sure you understand how the meetings with the neutral professionals work and the joint meetings work.

·         Help for negotiating. Put yourself in your spouse's position and try to understand his/her point of view. You need to think about what s/he wants, how s/he will react, what s/he will say and how to motivate him/her. If you only think about what you want or need, you will have a harder time getting the divorce resolved on favorable terms. Like it or not, courts take into account the desires of both parties to the divorce. If you can meet your spouse's needs as well as yours, you will do a lot better in negotiations or court.

Planning ahead, and not just reacting, will give you a head start on your divorce. Planning is good for you and your family. It can help reduce stress and get better outcomes for you. Good luck!