Divorce is often cited as one of the top five most stressful life events, usually second only to the death of a spouse. Even when both sides are mostly in agreement, divorces are still difficult-emotions run high, uncertainty in the future looms large, and trying to navigate your new normal can make it difficult to make sound decisions. However, there are things that you can do, with the help of competent representation, to make your divorce as smooth and as stress-free as possible. Here are our top ten tips for a successful divorce:
- Let Go of Trying to Win
If you go into your divorce proceeding expecting to win or expecting to beat your spouse, you are likely to end up disappointed. Usually, neither side ends up completely with what they want. Just like the relationships that come before them, the divorce process is complex and usually involves several aspects including dividing property, arranging parenting time (custody), child support, and sometimes spousal support (also known as alimony). If possible, it is usually best to come to an agreement with your ex on these issues rather than having the Court decide. Although you may not get exactly what you want, at least you know the outcome and have input in making an arrangement that you can live with. If you are determined to win your case you are likely to end up spending more money, suffering more heartache, and getting stuck with a decision from the Court that you may not like.
- Negotiate in Good Faith
Negotiating in good faith goes hand in hand with letting go of trying to win. Except in situations where domestic violence is present, the Court usually always requires both sides to participate in a settlement conference (a face-to-face meeting to try to come up with an agreement on the issues in their case) or a mediation (a face-to-face meeting with a neutral third party that helps the parties come to an agreement on the issues in their case). The Court also requires that parties negotiate in good faith to try to resolve the issues between themselves, rather than having the Court make decisions for them. If you go into a settlement conference or mediation with the mindset that you are not going to agree on anything with your ex (or that your ex won’t agree with you on anything), you are setting yourself up for failure. Even worse you could face sanctions from the Court for not participating in good faith
3. Keep an Open Mind
Most people know someone (or a few people) who have been through a divorce. It is easy to let other people’s experiences color your perception of what your divorce may look like or what the outcome of your divorce may be. Just because someone else went through a nasty divorce and custody battle doesn’t mean that you have to. Keep in mind that each relationship, situation, and person is different. Just because something happened in someone else’s divorce does not mean that it will happen in yours. Family Court judges have broad discretion to make decisions. Accordingly, outcomes may (and do) vary significantly. Going into the process with an open mind, focusing on your particular situation, and focusing on your particular goals will serve you well during your divorce proceeding.
- Focus on the Big Picture
When emotions are running high, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the little details rather than focusing on the big picture, particularly when you have been hurt by your ex. However, fighting over who gets the silverware is only going to cost more time (and money) that could be better spent elsewhere. Thinking about where you want to be post-divorce can help set the tone for your divorce proceeding and can help you keep focus on the big picture. Focusing on what is most important to you, and communicating that to your attorney can help your attorney place focus on what is most important to you and get the best outcome possible.
- Focus on What is Best for Your Kids
It’s no secret that divorces can be hard on children, and psychological studies show that the more parents fight during a divorce, the more damaging the process is on their children. Absent any abuse, neglect, or substance abuse issues where parental rights have been terminated, both parties are going to have some sort of parenting time with the children. When your ex forgets to pack your child’s favorite stuffed animal in their overnight bag during your first weekend of parenting time, it’s easy to see red, but cursing your ex in front of your kids, or using your kids to take jabs at your ex, can only make things worse. The Court routinely orders that neither parent say or do anything in the presence of the children that will diminish the affections of the other parent or alienate the other parent from the children. So, keep in mind that making nasty comments about your ex while your kids or present (or letting someone else do so), can come back and hurt your case with the Court in the long-run. Communicating with your ex in a cordial manner can help make things easier on your kids, and can establish the groundwork for a good co-parenting relationship post-divorce.
- You’re Likely to Get a Better Result by Agreement
If you are able to come to an agreement with your ex that you are able to live with, it is usually better than going to a Final Hearing in Court. Not to mention that resolving things through a formal settlement conference, mediation, or informal negotiations with your ex is faster and less costly than going to a Final Hearing. If you aren’t able to agree with your ex, numerous hours (and thousands of dollars) may be spent preparing for and appearing at a Final Hearing, which can take multiple days depending on the dispute. Even then, you can be left facing the uncertainty of the Judge’s ruling and ultimately be stuck with a Court Order that you do not like. That being said, not all issues can be resolved by negotiation. That is where hiring competent representation can play a significant role in making sure your rights are protected and that you get the best outcome possible in Court.
- Consider Alternatives
Most divorces can be resolved without the Judge having to make a decision for the parties. Mediation, as mentioned above, is a process whereby both parties meet face-to-face with a neutral third party (a mediator) in an attempt to come to a mutual agreement on the issues in their case. The mediator does not represent either party, but rather serves as a facilitator between the two. Each party can have their own attorneys at a mediation session, or can participate by themselves. One of the biggest benefits of mediation is that it enables the parties to have control over how the issues are decided in their case. It is also less costly than a full-blown court proceeding.
Our experienced family law attorneys at Adams Legal Group offer mediation services. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us for a free consultation.
- Honesty is the Best Policy
In order for your attorney to adequately represent you, you have to be honest-even if the truth is difficult, painful, or embarrassing. Providing your attorney with all of the details of your case helps them to assess your case and give appropriate advice. Typically, there is nothing that a client can tell us that we haven’t heard or experienced before. The Rules of Professional Conduct require us to zealously advocate for our clients. We cannot do that if we aren’t given all of the facts. And, chances are, if we aren’t given all of the facts, they may very well come out during the proceeding anyway. By that point, it is likely that you have already harmed your case and your ability to get a favorable result.
- Have Reasonable Expectations
In concert with keeping an open mind is keeping your expectations (and goals) reasonable. Sometimes, our goals may not be consistent with what the law actually requires, or what the law requires may not be within our expectations. Talking with your attorney can allow you to assess your goals and expectations and to determine whether those goals and expectations are reasonable in light of what the law requires. Throughout the proceeding, it is important to check-in with your attorney to continually assess your expectations and big picture goals to ensure that you get the best outcome possible.
- Hire Competent Representation
At Adams Legal Group, we focus a large portion of our practice on family law matters. Our attorneys have handled hundreds of family law cases in various capacities, and can help to make your divorce process as smooth and as stress-free as possible. We offer a wide range of legal services to meet the needs of your particular situation – from mediation to individual representation – we are here to help you navigate the often difficult process of divorce. If you would like to learn more about the services we offer in relation to divorce matters, please contact us to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.
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Gerst, M. S., Grant, I., Yager, J., Sweetwood, H. (1978). The reliability of the social readjustment rating scale: Moderate and long-term stability. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 22(6), 519–523.