This article was written by Hance Law Group associate attorney Beverly Ward Via.
In my previous article for the blog, I discussed what you should know about your finances heading into a divorce. This is obviously an important part of your divorce, as it’s a legal process that has much to do with your assets, your debts, and in the case of couples with children, what level of child support should be paid, and what level of alimony or additional asset distribution might be needed. Knowing your financial situation heading into a divorce will allow you to know where you stand and how you should proceed with a settlement.
But divorce is more than a financial arrangement. Divorce is a major life change that is emotionally transformative and often disruptive. When planning a divorce, you should think carefully about your goals – what you need, what you want, what’s most important for you to get, and how much of a fight you’re willing to put up in order to get it. It’s quite possible that you can negotiate a settlement with your spouse, allowing you to get what you need and what you want, without a court fight.
Our founder Larry Hance wrote an excellent article on this blog recently talking about the different types of lawyers out there, and how to determine if you need a cooperative lawyer to help you through a negotiation, or a hard bargainer to battle in the courtroom. Since the vast majority of divorces are negotiated before they reach the courtroom, odds are that you’ll be better served by a cooperative lawyer. Plus, if you have children, or if there are other reasons you’d want to stay on cordial terms with your soon-to-be-ex, working with a cooperative lawyer gives you a better chance of keeping that relationship on as good of terms as possible.
If you’re a woman with a child or with children seeking a divorce, you should also think about the parenting plan for you children – how will decisions about the children be made and who gets to make those decisions; how much parenting time will each parent have and what is the schedule; and how will the expenses of the children be paid (monthly child support or some other arrangement) and who pays whom. The court has a default schedule that awards a majority of time to one parent with mid-week, weekend and holiday possession to the other parent, referred to as a standard possession order, which works for many families but might not necessarily work for you. For some people going through a divorce, the parenting time schedule is the least negotiable and most contentious issue. You should let your lawyer know at the outset how you strongly feel about this issue and how flexible or inflexible you are with the schedule.
It’s important to remember that divorce can be a long, frustrating, emotionally taxing process. Your lawyer is there to help guide you through the legal process of getting divorced but doesn’t have the training that a therapist has. Scheduling time with a therapist – at whatever level of frequency you’re comfortable with – is the best way possible of separating the legal work you need to do with your lawyer to end your marriage and resolve the divorce from the emotional work you need to do to be prepared for life after divorce. The time spent with a good therapist separating the legal and emotional matters will not only allow you to make smart, level-headed decisions that literally impact the rest of your life, but also to emerge from your divorce feeling ready to embark on the next chapter.