If one of our attorneys had to give divorce advice to our best friend or to one of our relatives, what would we say? As a divorce firm that has represented countless clients throughout the divorce process, we’ve given our share of divorce advice. But what is the best advice we can give? If our brother or sister or best friend was getting a divorce, what would we say to them? What would we advise if we only had 10 minutes to pass along some wisdom?
As we considered the question, we realized that some advice is better than the rest. Meaning, some advice is more important than other advice. So, if we were sitting across from a dinner table from you, and we only had a short period of time to pass some information along, this is what we would tell you.
1. Make sure you’re certain it’s over before you file for divorce.
Are you 100% sure the marriage is over? It’s not uncommon for couples to mention or even threaten divorces in heated arguments, but it’s not really what they want. Once a spouse takes the steps to get a divorce, they’ve almost reached a point of no return.
Of course, it’s possible to halt the divorce proceeding, but filing for divorce sends a strong message that you’re “done” with the marriage, and it may change things forever in your spouse’s mind. Before you cross the line and file for divorce, make sure you’re certain that a divorce is what you want.
2. Start seeing a therapist.
Divorce is almost guaranteed to affect you emotionally and physically. If you lose your appetite, develop insomnia, feel nauseous or weak, have trouble concentrating at work and almost feel like you have the flu but you don’t – that’s all normal. In other words, divorce can be the absolute, best decision you can make right now, but it can also make you a train wreck for a while. Our advice is to get a therapist now. You need a professional who you can talk to, someone who can act as a sounding board and help you deal with the flood of emotions, so you can think clearly during the divorce process.
3. Get educated on California’s divorce laws.
One of the problems with divorce is people don’t have much, if any, knowledge of their rights and responsibilities under California’s divorce laws. Since knowledge is power, spouses can alleviate a lot of their fears of the unknown by familiarizing themselves with California’s divorce laws and procedures.
You can certainly ask your attorney questions, but you can also visit the California Courts’ website and educate you on the state’s divorce laws so you have a firm grasp of what you’re getting into.
4. Put the kids first above all else.
Each family’s situation is different, so how you put the kids first will depend on a number of factors, such as their age, and their relationship with you and your spouse, etc. For example, if your kids are going through a hard time, don’t leave them with a sitter so you can hit the bars with your single friends. Instead, use your off-work hours to focus on your children, not meeting new people to get your mind off the divorce. If you need some adult time, schedule it for when your children are with the other parent or at a friend’s house.
As you create a Parenting Plan, think about the arrangement that would be in your children’s best interests. For example, you may want to relocate to get away from your ex, but is that best for your children? Would it be better for them if you lived close by? Or, would it be better to keep things as stable as possible instead of uprooting them?
On the other hand, perhaps a move would be in their best interests as long as you get the family court’s approval. Regardless, it’s important that the decisions you make from now going forward have your children’s best interests in mind.
5. Figure out what you want.
One mistake that people make is letting their spouse get whatever they want in the divorce. Our advice is to think about what you want out of the divorce. What are your goals? If you have children, this is something that you need to put some thought into.
It may be overwhelming, but you need to put in some time and effort into thinking about your goals, and then you need to create a plan to get it. Knowing your goals doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get everything you want, but it does create a roadmap, a starting place so you can negotiate until you reach a fair and reasonable agreement.
6. Explore all of your alternatives.
Before you file for divorce, ask yourself, “How do I want to divorce?” If at all possible, it’s best to avoid an adversarial divorce. If you approach your divorce with a lot of spite, you could be setting yourself up for a costly litigated divorce that drags on for months, if not longer. Consider a divorce mediation or a collaborative divorce – try to settle your case amicably, out of court. Our advice is to ask us about the alternative divorce methods at your disposal before considering divorce litigation.
7. Negotiate with your spouse.
Hourly attorney fees can add up, and the court system is known for being slow. You may dislike or even despise your spouse. Perhaps he or she was unfaithful and you are uncomfortable being in the same room with them. Regardless if you like or agree with your spouse or not, the more you are able to talk and hammer out a fair divorce settlement, the quicker and cheaper your divorce is going to be. Not only that but when you can drive down divorce costs, the more of the marital estate you’ll be able to preserve.
Next: 7 Tips for Negotiating a Divorce Settlement
To schedule a free case evaluation with a Los Angeles divorce lawyer, contact Claery & Hammond, LLP today.