Getting a Divorce
The reality of marriage and the day-to-day struggles lead some couples to pursue divorce. Many times, divorce simply brings different challenges. Before you make that final decision, it’s important to consider all divorce entails.
Thinking It Through
If you are contemplating a divorce you should ask yourself, and your spouse if possible, some potentially difficult questions. Both introspection and interpersonal communication with your spouse are key when evaluating the severity of a divorce. Use the following ideas to springboard these critical conversations.
- Why do I want to get divorced? Do I imagine life would be easier alone or with a different partner? Invest some time thinking about your expectations after a divorce.
- Would I be happier with someone else? If another love interest is involved, your emotions are likely contributing to a romanticized, active imagination. The daily challenges of a new marriage could alter that mental picture. Though you might be happy with a different spouse, new or similar problems might also arise. With some helpful direction or counsel, it’s possible you could be happier with your current spouse.
- Interpersonal Communication-
- Did we try everything? Marital problems can easily lead one to feel lost, stressed, confused, angry, and hurting. Ask your spouse if they are interested in pursuing marriage counseling, talking with a religious leader, or working on the marriage in another way.
- Who will stay in the home? Who will get what? The logistics of a spouse moving out or selling a home are real. Splitting what you own and what you owe is necessary. Any marital debt will be split halfway, regardless of whose name is attached to the debt. As much as possible, speaking with your spouse alone on these topics will save time and money. A trained divorce mediator can also help navigate these discussions.
- What should custody look like? How will you co-parent? Who will talk with the children about these upcoming changes? Divorce drastically affects the emotions and lifestyle of children. Other points to consider are:
- Will the children have to move homes or change schools?
- What is each partner’s availability to care for the children?
- Are you both open to co-parenting, working together toward consistent discipline, communication, and involvement?
- How will you communicate the separation or divorce to your children? Keep in mind the child’s age, their coping style, and how close they feel to an individual parent.
Walking Through a Divorce
The divorce process varies by state. Usually one person is required to file a petition for divorce. After filing, the other party is formally served divorce papers. A limited amount of time is allowed for said party to respond in writing. Failure to do so may find the served spouse in default. When a party is in default, the case will continue without them, and the individual may lose their rights and ability to participate in the case.
Many states allow “no fault” divorces, meaning that one spouse did not necessarily wrong the other. No specific reasons need be offered either. Many couples simply claim “irreconcilable differences.”
Whether your divorce proceedings are emotionally-charged or civil, it’s important to have someone advocating for you. When looking to hire an attorney, consider interviewing at least three divorce attorneys to find one that fits your comfort level. A minimum of five years of experience practicing family and divorce law is highly beneficial. Look for a competent attorney, who is comfortable presenting before a judge if needed. In cases of abuse or domestic violence, a divorce lawyer can offer direction toward support agencies during the separation period.
A divorce attorney will meet with their client before drafting the divorce petition. Financial records, property, assets, and child custody/support will be discussed thoroughly. Your legal counsel will develop a plan for distribution of assets between both parties.
Not all divorce proceedings go to trial. Lawyers often assist couples in communication, negotiations, and other collaborative divorce techniques. If no agreements can be made, a case may proceed to trial where a judge will determine the outcome.
Starting over financially or separating joint accounts may seem daunting. Consider the following financial advice to begin your next life chapter.
- Prove income- Collect pay stubs and old tax returns to provide proof of income.
- Budget- Consider what your post-divorce budget will be. This information can help you determine what to ask for in a divorce settlement.
- Establish credit- Apply for your own credit cards. Build credit by using these sparingly and paying the total balance each month.
- Open and close accounts- If you share a bank account with your spouse, document any withdrawals. Share this information openly with your attorney. Open an account in your own name, especially if you’re concerned about misappropriation of funds. Close joint accounts as quickly as possible and place a freeze on your joint credit cards.
If you or your spouse are unable or unwilling to continue the marriage, be prepared to make smart choices. Should your divorce proceedings go into litigation, actions and/or poor decisions will be scrutinized. Avoid gregarious partying, dating, and other reckless choices. Most certainly remember, if children are involved, this divorce will undoubtedly affect the whole family. Use this experience to draw closer with your children by modeling common courtesy, maturity, wisdom, and kindness.
If you and your spouse are considering getting a divorce, you can find help by talking to a counselor.