When a marriage ends, spouses and their children often face a perfect storm of stressful events: new living arrangements, parenting schedules, and of course, decisions about property and money. The emotions caused by these changes can make it difficult for spouses to understand the legal process of divorce, and may even impair their ability to make sound decisions. Getting through a divorce may be easier if you’re informed about the process before it begins. The following article provides a few tips to help guide you through this difficult time.
Don’t Expect to “Win” Your Divorce Case
A lot of people start their divorce hoping to “beat” their spouse in court. In fact, there’s seldom a true winner in divorce. The typical divorce involves various issues, such as child custody, support, and the division of property. Rarely do divorcing spouses end up with everything they want. For example, one spouse might be awarded primary physical custody of the children, but may receive a much lower amount of spousal support than requested; it’s virtually impossible to tell the “winner” from the “loser” so trying to “win” is pointless. Instead, consider the consequences of a full-blown court battle before you go down that path. In addition to the many thousands of dollars you’ll spend, your children may suffer the most in a heated divorce battle. After the dust has settled, you may soon forget who “won.”
Don’t Make Important Decisions Without Thinking Them Through
Many life-changing decisions come up during a divorce. For example, you may have to determine whether to you need to sell the family home. Resist the impulse to make a quick decision just to get the case over with. When making important choices, it’s essential that you consider the potential consequences.
You’re Getting Divorced: Your Kids Aren’t
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the heat of the moment. However, saying cruel things to your spouse in the presence of your children can have a lasting effect. Psychological studies show that the more parents fight during a divorce, the more damaging the whole process is to the children. Whenever you’re about to say something hurtful give yourself some time to think before you speak. A simple rule to follow is to count to ten before you answer a question or make a statement.
In addition, unless there’s a history of abuse or neglect, your children will continue to have a relationship with their other parent. No matter how upset you are with your spouse, you should not try to discourage or interfere with a healthy parent-child bond. You may want to consider asking an experienced mental health professional to counsel your children about the divorce, and seek counseling for yourself as well, so you can learn how to address your children’s needs during this difficult process.
Don’t Believe Everything Other People Tell You About Their Divorce
Your divorced friends may give you advice about what should happen in your divorce. Unfortunately, the information and advice you get from other people can be misleading or wrong. Every divorce has a different set of issues. Your friends may believe what happened in their divorce is typical, but it’s best not to base your decisions on someone else’s experiences. Instead, rely on the advice you get from your attorney, mental health professionals, and financial consultants, all of whom are familiar with the specifics of your case.
Forget the Past. Prepare for the Future. Be a “Big Picture” Person
Obsessing about all of the bad things you feel were done by your spouse during your marriage will only prevent you from moving on with your life and making decisions that are in your family’s best interests. Try to forget the past and focus on the future. Approach the divorce with a willingness to work with your spouse to achieve the best possible result for your family. You may get hung up on relatively insignificant matters, such as how to divide the DVD collection. Again, this may be because you or your spouse can’t let go of a past hurt. However, this approach will increase the time (and legal fees) it takes to complete your divorce. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Instead, try to be a “big-picture person.” Make some concessions on minor issues, and you can spend more time on important matters, such as when you get to see your children.
Court Is Not All That It’s Cracked Up to Be
When things are not going well in a divorce case, one spouse may threaten to terminate negotiations and head to court. However, the road to a divorce trial is long and costly. The expense of a trial can deplete the very assets that are often the subject of the dispute. Even simple matters can require multiple court days to complete, and after spending many thousands of dollars, spouses and their attorneys are left with the total uncertainty of how a judge will rule.
Consider Alternatives to Court
Most people think all divorces end up in court. In fact, there are alternative ways to resolve divorce cases. One method is “mediation” in which a mediator (neutral third party specially trained to work in divorce cases) facilitates face-to-face negotiations between divorcing spouses and helps them work out mutual agreements. The mediator will often recommend that each spouse consult with an attorney while the mediation process is proceeding. However, these consulting attorneys don’t attend mediation sessions. In a “collaborative divorce” each spouse hires a collaborative attorney, and all parties agree to resolve the case without going to court. A team of professionals is assembled to assist in the decision- making process. Besides the attorneys, the usual team includes mental health professionals (who function as “divorce coaches” and child specialists) and a neutral financial specialist, such as an accountant or a financial consultant. Using face-to-face negotiations, e-mails and telephone calls, the spouses and their collaborative team address each issue in the case.
The greatest benefit to choosing mediation or collaborative divorce is that they enable divorcing spouses to make their own decisions. In dividing parenting time, for example, a judge might choose a standard schedule that’s used in many other cases. In mediation and collaboration, spouses can structure a parenting plan that best fits their children’s needs. Sometimes, however, court is the only way to resolve an issue. For example, if your spouse subjects you or your child to domestic violence, you will have to file a request for a protective order. Or, if you need immediate financial assistance from your spouse, you might have to ask a judge to award you temporary child support and/or alimony. If so, it’s best to accept the fact that you need to go to court, and consult with an attorney for help.
Be Honest With Your Attorney and Your Spouse
You need to provide your attorney with all key facts so he or she can analyze your case properly and give you appropriate advice. Even if you hide something from your attorney, the facts may very well come out anyway (e.g., your spouse may discover hidden facts from a third party or by reviewing documents). By then, however, your failure to be up front may have already harmed your case and your ability to obtain a good result. Similarly, you should be honest with your spouse. In Utah, divorcing spouses must voluntarily disclose complete information and documents regarding their income, expenses, assets and debts. In addition, the law requires spouses to update that information as new facts come to light. The law is serious about these duties. Judges may impose severe penalties on spouses who fail to comply.
Create an Inventory of Household Furniture and Furnishings and Make Copies of Important Documents
Disputes over furniture, furnishings and other valuable items, such as a great wine collection or an expensive piece of art, can be avoided by taking a complete inventory of your home as follows:
• take photographs of every item and photograph sets of small items, such as dinner ware, together
• use the front page of that day’s newspaper in every photograph in order to create a “time stamp,” which avoids any claims that the photo was taken at an earlier date
• keep your photos in a safe, protected place
• create a list of all items, including where they’re located and your estimated value of each, and
• get appraisals or ask for insurance inventories of the items in your inventory.
Despite the strict rules for disclosure, some divorcing spouses will hide or destroy key documents such as pre-nuptial agreements. This problem can be avoided by making copies of important documents as soon as you decide to file for divorce, or learn that your spouse is doing so.
Have Reasonable Expectations
Sometimes, divorcing spouses have goals that are completely unreasonable or inconsistent with the law. If you want your divorce case resolved quickly, you need to understand how the law applies to your case and have a reasonable expectation about the outcome. You may want to consult with an attorney to get a better understanding of the potential outcome(s) in your case. People get married for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, not all of those reasons are healthy. When a marriage is founded on the wrong ones, there is a high likelihood that it will eventually deteriorate.
To be sure, a couple that shares common interests, plans for the future, and settles disputes in a civil and constructive manner is likely to survive. On the other hand, a couple that marries because they’re in love, infatuated with one another, or trying to avoid other issues in their lives, is likely to fail.
With that in mind, we’ll describe reasons many people get married that ultimately pave the way to divorce. While the following don’t guarantee a marriage is doomed, they do make it more difficult for a couple to remain together over the long run.
Reason #1 – Get Away From Family
Many people in their 20s and 30s live at home with their parents. Even if they enjoy a healthy relationship with their parents, being under the same roof can seem stifling. They look for opportunities to move out, and may be inclined to get married as a mode of escape. Needless to say, that’s a less-than-ideal motive for getting married. Sadly, many couples who do so end up calling it quits down the line.
Reason #2 – Money And Security
Marrying someone who has ample financial resources or will be a good provider can be helpful in a marriage, especially if a couple plans to start a family. Statistics show that a large percentage of divorces occur as a result of money issues. The stress that accompanies not having enough money can strain a relationship to its breaking point. Having said that, getting married solely for money and security is a bad idea. A couple that grows to resent or dislike each other will not survive, regardless of how wealthy and financially secure they are.
Reason #3 – Sexual Attraction
There’s nothing wrong with being physically attracted to the person you marry. In fact, most marriage counselors agree that mutual attraction plays a big role in a successful relationship. Problems arise, however, when sexual attraction is the main reason you get married. Passoin dissipates with time. Eventually, your relationship will succeed or fail based on how well you and your spouse communicate, work out differences, and trust one another. No amount of sexual attraction can save a relationship lacking in those 3 areas.
Reason #4 – To Follow The Crowd
When all of your friends are tying the knot, you may feel pressure to do the same. The pressure is subtle, but potent. It stems from a niggling feeling of being left out as you become one of the only single people left in your social group. Getting married just to follow the crowd is a risky proposition. Committing to someone who isn’t right for you, or doing so before you’re ready, is a recipe for marital disaster.
Reason #5 – You’ve Fallen In Love
Love shared between a couple is obviously important. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to have a successful marriage without it. It’s what motivates one spouse to want the best for the other. It’s what inspires the unique intimacy they share with one another. That’s different than falling “in love.” Falling in love is an overwhelming emotional attachment that one feels toward another person. It’s exhilarating, frustrating, and confusing at the same time. According to psychologists, it can reach the point of obsession. For many couples, it happens quickly, often accompanied by excessively high expectations and a lack of practicality.
The deep-seated affection that binds a couple grows with time. Couples that have been married for decades can describe it in detail. If you’ve fallen in love with someone you’ve been dating for a few months, the “love” you’re feeling may simply be infatuation. Getting married because you’re infatuated with someone is a good way to end up in a divorce attorney’s office.
Reason #6 – It’s The Next Step
A lot of couples get married because they think doing so shows forward progress in their relationship. Needless to say, it may not show that at all. Many people slide into marriage without making a conscious decision to spend the rest of their lives together. They marry because they think they should based on how long they’ve been together.
Unfortunately, research shows that such couples are far more likely to divorce. You may be looking back at your reasons for getting married with a twinge of regret. You’re not alone. Millions of people marry for reasons that set the stage for divorce down the road. The important thing to remember is that you’re not forced to remain in an unhealthy marriage. You have options. If you’re thinking about seeking a divorce, consult a family law attorney who can advise you through this difficult and confusing time.
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It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
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