Divorce and separation are hard. Few people will tell a story of a “happy” separation. Instead, many people will talk about divorce and separation as a process they “survived”. Are there tips for an “easier” separation? Since it is the New Year, and therefore a time for resolutions and lists, here are 5 tips that may make your separation easier:
1. Court is a Last Resort
The stress of separating is often magnified many-fold by court. If the idea of waging a war about your private life in front of strangers is unappealing, then court is not for you. Instead, try to negotiate, mediate or engage in a collaborative process before you leap to court. Court does not save you time or money and in fact, 99% of cases that go to court settle. Use it at your own risk (financially and emotionally).
2. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Easier said than done of course. However, the easiest way to incur a huge legal bill is to fight with your spouse about things that really do not matter to you. Often, lawyers are told to fight over the cutlery, stuffed animals, plants, books – things that, when added up are worth very little money. If the items are truly sentimental, then it makes sense to engage lawyers to determine their ownership. However, getting caught up in “the fight” will only lead to significant lawyer’s bills over items that matter very little.
3. Have your Financial Documents in Order
Producing your financial information is necessary to determine division of property and support. Frequently, resolutions are delayed because a party has failed to keep good records or is unable to obtain valuations for assets and income. Avoid this pitfall by devoting significant time upfront to document collection and organization.
4. Be Wary of “Cheerleaders”
We all need cheerleaders in our lives – those friends or family members who will support us no matter what, and particularly during a traumatic event such as separation. However, cheerleaders are not objective. Sometimes they may tell you what you want to hear, and not what you need to hear. Have your cheerleaders, but also take counsel from professionals to avoid this pitfall. Lawyers, by definition, are not cheerleaders. If you have a cheerleader lawyer, then it is time to find another one.
5. Hire a lawyer
This sounds trite from a lawyer’s blog. However, having been retained by clients who have messed up their own cases, I can say it is often cheaper in the long run to hire a competent legal professional. The fees, frustration and time it takes to unravel a mess is much more costly than the cost of a case done well from the beginning.
Wishing you a wonderful 2015!