You, and you alone, need to be completely comfortable that divorce is the right decision for you before you begin the divorce process. No one else can make this decision for you.
IS DIVORCE THE RIGHT CHOICE? Twelve Questions to ask yourself and your spouse as taken from The Unoffical Guide to Getting a Divorce by Russell Wild and Susan Ellis Wild.
1. How am I doing in my life? Am I content within myself? 2. What are the roles and tasks that I consider important in my life? How does my marriage affect those roles, and how would divorce affect them? 3. What gives me satisfaction? Marriage? Job? Caring for kids? Friendships? 4. Where do I want to be right now. In one year? In five year? need? Would divorce move me closer to or further away from fulfilling those needs? 6. Are the problems in the marriage fixable or are they beyond my control? 7. Is there an outside influence that is affecting your marriage that can be eliminated? 8. Can I openly share my frustrations with my partner? If no, why not? 9. Can I forgive my partner for what I perceive as some awful wrong-doings? 10. Do I find my spouse physically attractive? 11. Do I respect my spouse as a person? 12. Is this someone I want to grow old with?
The authors suggest you set ground rules to keep the discussion amicable. Some examples are: minimize distractions, select a good time for both spouses, listen to what your partner says even if it is painful, don't interrupt, and keep an open mind.
Marriage is too important to walk away from without a fight. Prior to seeking a divorce, it is advisable to attempt marriage counseling unless one spouse is physically abusive. Additional information on counseling, including reasons why spouses will not go to counseling, is found on the counselor page.
RECOMMENDATION. Attorney Angela Lund-Logan recommends couples counselor Gary Hubbard. Gary is trained through the Gottman Institute founded by John Gottman, the first to scientifically study marriage and divorce.
Some parties will try a separation period before filing for divorce. This may come from the idea that if the couple steps back from the stress and emotions, the couple can better see the problems and attempt to fix them. The truth is that most separations where one spouse moves out of the marital residence truly do not work. Once the couple has moved belongings and started paying separation bills, reconciliation becomes too complicated. Reconciliation after a separation is much less complicated if the spouses reside in separate rooms of the marital residence rather than separate residences.
SEPARATION AGREEMENT. If you separate, you need to have a WRITTEN separation agreement to protect your interests as you need to know where you stand during the separation and if the separation ultimately leads to divorce.
Topics. Visitation; division of belongings; support for spouse; child support; payment of bills; insurance - health, car, life, etc.; and allocation of debt.
WHEN TO SEEK LEGAL COUNSEL. The simple answer is AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. BEFORE you announce you want a divorce. BEFORE one party moves out of the marital residence. BEFORE you divide up your belongings. BEFORE you decide which parent the children will reside with and what visitation the other parent will receive.
Reasons to speak with an attorney as soon as you are seriously contemplating a divorce are:
The patterns you establish during the separation can, and most likely will, affect what happens in the divorce.
You do NOT want to rush the decision of which attorney you hire. If you are served with divorce papers (handed the divorce papers by sheriff or process server) you have thirty (30) days to file paperwork with the courthouse. Thirty days may not leave you sufficient time to find an attorney you can feel comfortable with AND can afford.
If you have already chosen an attorney prior to the separation, you will be ready if the situation reaches a critical stage such as violence occurs, spouse will not return the children, belongings are being sold/disappear, stalking/harassment from spouse, inappropriate conduct by spouse towards/in presence of children, etc.
HOW TO CHOOSE A LAWYER.Choosing the right divorce attorney may be one of the most important decision you will ever have to make as this decision will impact the results you obtain in the divorce. You must be able to develop a comfortable rapport with the attorney handling your divorce as you will be discussing very sensitive issues. You must be able to afford the services of the attorney you hire or your attorney could stop representing you.
CAUTION IN SEEKING A DIVORCE ATTORNEY. Be very cautious when seeking a divorce attorney if the attorney guarantees results, promises a quick result for a low fee, or is giving information that sounds odd or wrong. Keep in mind that an attorney who is only occasionally in divorce court may not get as good of results as an attorney is who always in divorce court. Also keep in mind that the cost of an attorney is not indicative of the quality of results: hiring the most expensive attorney does not guarantee you will have the upper hand in the divorce.
Obtaining a recommendation from an attorney or someone who has been through a divorce is an excellent method of selecting an attorney. YOU must also make an independent choice if this is the attorney for you. It is not uncommon to have more than one attorney handle your divorce if the attorney-client relationship is simply not working. You need to feel comfortable discussing very personal and sensitive information with your attorney.
FEES CONTRACT. Prior to hiring any attorney, thoroughly discuss the fees of the attorney. Most attorneys have the client sign an attorney-client contract detailing the retainer/flat fee associated with representation. If you have any questions about the fee agreement ask the attorney. The attorney should explain what is expected of the client once the retainer is depleted.
IMPACT OF DIVORCE
FINANCIAL ISSUES. Most individuals worry about monetary repercussions of filing for divorce. A few of the concerns are listed below:
COST OF THE DIVORCE
MAINTENANCE (formerly called alimony)
RAMIFICATIONS OF DIVORCE ON CHILDREN. Many parent worry about the impact divorce has on a child. Authors Elissa Benedek and Catherine Brown point out in their book How to Help Your Child Overcome Your Divorce that "living in a divorce family is not inevitably harmful to children." Although divorce has the POTENTIAL to seriously affect the development of children simply having divorced parent or being part of a divorce family is not in itself harmful. How the divorcing parents "handle the dissolution of their marriage, conduct their lives and their relationships after the divorce, and continue to care for the children" that can create the harmful effects of divorce. Parents, not divorce, are the key factor in determining whether the child will be harmed by the divorce. This becomes more apparent from research into the children of high conflict intact (never divorced) marriages.
MYTH: DIVORCE IS WORSE THAN STAYING TOGETHER. Everyone has heard the stories of a parent who remains in a unhappy marriage "for the children." The underlying belief that divorce would be worse on the children. HOWEVER, research has found that children from divorced families are more well adjusted than children who witness the parental conflict of their married parents. Benedeck and Brown state that depending on the circumstances of the particular family, "staying together may harm the children more than had the couple divorced when their problems became irreconcilable."
BOTTOMLINE: Parents determine whether divorce is harmful on the children. A child who witnesses the high conflict marriage of the parents is worse off then if the parents divorced. Taking this research into consideration, a parent who has decided that divorce is the best course of action must have the primary goal of minimizing the impact of the divorce on their children.