Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful and emotionally difficult experiences you will ever go through in your life. Everything that you know is about to change in a dramatic way, and even getting started can be a daunting task. After having recently blogged about who you can turn to when the divorce is over, here are five things to consider when preparing for the divorce process set (not surprisingly to those who know me) to some of my favorite Pearl Jam song titles and lyrics:
- The “Wishlist”: When setting forth down the path of divorce, know what you are looking to walk away with when it is over. Maybe you want to retain the marital home so that you can continue living the with the children, or perhaps your primary focus is on the children’s college education. Maybe you are more generally focused on simply ensuring that you will be able to live some semblance of the lifestyle you once knew without worrying every single day about how you are going to pay your bills while trying to get back on your feet. Lindsay Heller’s recent blog post about making your custody and parenting time wish list is also great place to start. Knowing where you want to go and how you are going to get there on all issues will help focus you on what matters most in your divorce matter.
- “All that’s sacred comes from youth”: Do what you can to ensure that the children’s best interests are protected and safeguarded from the outset of the divorce until its conclusion. If there is no filed divorce action and you are attempting to privately resolve your divorce without an active litigation, consider talking with professionals (therapists, counselors and the like) to learn how best to parent your children during the divorce. If there is a filed divorce action in the court system, not only should you still consider consulting with such professionals, but also you will be required to undergo New Jersey’s Parent’s Education Program, which, among other goals, is designed to help parents better understand what the children are and will be going through during a difficult time.
- Find the right “Fixer”: The divorce process can be beyond overwhelming for countless reasons. When searching for a divorce attorney, consider not just looking for someone who is experienced in family law. Also consider retaining an attorney who you feel comfortable talking to. Who you can trust. Who you can confide in and discuss certain aspects of your life and your marriage that you may not ordinarily feel comfortable speaking about with anyone else. Who is responsive and reliable. Who can ultimately advocate for you in the way that you believe best serves your interests and those of your children. Who will listen to you and be mindful of what you are looking to achieve.
- “Saw things so much clearer”: Many financially dependent spouses have no idea what assets or liabilities make up the marital estate. Perhaps the financially superior spouse always paid the household bills. Perhaps all assets and accounts are only in that same spouse’s name. All of a sudden you, as the dependent spouse, are tasked with figuring everything out so that you can simply determine what you may or may not be entitled to in the divorce. Determining as early on in the process as possible what incomes, assets and liabilities exist will provide you and your divorce attorney with a clearer understanding of the picture that is your marital estate and how it should be distributed. In so doing, it is best (if possible) to get together the financial documents underlying the incomes, assets and liabilities, such as income tax returns, account statements, bills and the like.
- “The waiting drove me mad”: As I have previously blogged, patience in a divorce proceeding can be a tremendous virtue. There are so many factors beyond your control that can delay the matter’s conclusion that you can easily and understandably become frustrated and more willing to surrender to an inequitable settlement. As a result, it is best to concern yourself with what you can control. As indicated above, get your information and documentation together for your divorce attorney. Timely comply with court deadlines. Present reasonable settlement positions and if settlement cannot happen, do what is necessary to prepare for trial.
Commencing the divorce process, let alone going through the process to conclusion, may feel like you are at the foot of a mountain without the equipment necessary to even begin scaling its face. The process and all of the emotions that go along with it, however, will hopefully be made easier when taking the above detailed steps into consideration.
Robert Epstein is a partner in Fox Rothschild LLP’s Family Law Practice Group and practices throughout New Jersey. He can be reached at (973) 994-7526, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Photo by Lugnuts (talk) – I (Lugnuts (talk)) created this work entirely by myself. Photo from Pearl Jam show dated 17th August 2009., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24027300