10 WAYS TO AVOID A MESSY AND EXPENSIVE DIVORCE
By: Attorney Demetria L. Graves, http://www.attorneygraves.com
1. ADDRESS YOUR EMOTIONS: I know this may be an extremely difficult task, but it’s very important BEFORE you can move on with your dissolution process and your life. If you are feeling angry, identify why you are angry. If you are hurt, identify for yourself why you are hurt, etc. If you are having difficulty identifying your feelings, it might be beneficial for you to contact either a family member or professional (maybe a therapist) who can help you deal with your emotions. From what I’ve seen lately, it’s clear that before you can move on to deal with the dissolution or to move on with life in general, it’s important to honestly address your emotions.
2. YOUR CHILDREN FEEL YOUR PAIN: Please always keep in mind that your children are watching you. They understand when you are upset and if you do not address their feelings, they to may begin to panic! Avoid stress as it relates to your children by listening to their concerns and identifying what you feel is appropriate to tell them about your approaching divorce. It might be beneficial to also allow your children to seek professional help if you feel it’s necessary. Additionally, if possible, try to keep your children’s schedule as “consistent” as possible during this difficult time.
3.DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU OWN: It is extremely important to identify what you own and all of your assets, i.e. your house or rental properties, your cars, 401(K), Retirement Accounts, Bank Accounts, etc. This will help identify what you may need to discuss with your divorce attorney and/or your spouse.
4. DO YOU KNOW YOUR DEBT: Identify the debt that you and your spouse may have. How many credit cards do you and your spouse own, is there a Line of Credit on your home? Do you have student loans? Did you take a loan on your 401 (k), etc.
5.WHAT’S YOUR BOTTOM LINE?: Once you have identified your children’s needs, a breakdown of your assets, and a breakdown of your debts, it’s important to ask yourself: What are my goals in terms of the assets, debts, the children? If your spouse asked you, “Honey what do you want?” What would be your response? Absent family, friends, attorneys and what you’ve heard about divorce, really take time to think about YOUR “Bottom Line.”
6. MEDIATION v. LITIGATION: This is an extremely important decision. “Mediation” is a good choice if you and your spouse are seeking an alternative to “traditional litigation” and are willingly to attempt to work out your differences with a third party, instead of “litigating” or allowing the courts to decide your fate. Mediation also tends to be much cheaper! In Mediation you and your spouse negotiate your final outcome instead of attorneys and the court system. Your second option is what I call “traditional litigation.” With this option, you both get attorneys, one side files for the divorce, the other side responds, you may have several court appearances etc. This option tends to be a bit more expensive and a bit longer than mediation.
7. COMMUNICATE: If possible, talk to your spouse and try your best to discuss what you feel is best for your family in terms of dividing your assets, your debts, doing what’s best for your children, and how you wish to proceed with your divorce. This discussion might ease the difficulty and stress of the divorce and allow the two of you to begin to discuss your options.
8. MAKE A DECISION: Decide if you can what YOU and potentially your spouse think is best for your family in terms of “mediation” or “litigation.” This will require you to decide if the two of you can work together with one attorney to meet your needs, or if you think you both need your own attorneys for possible court intervention.
9. CHOOSE AN ATTORNEY: Once you have done ALL of the above…then you must choose an attorney that best fits YOUR needs. You will at this point seek out someone who can either assist you as a “mediator” or “litigator” depending on your goals.
10. BREATHE! You are now on to the next chapter in your life…..