THINKING ABOUT FILING FOR DIVORCE

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.

COUNSELING

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.


TRIAL SEPARATION

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.


 LEGAL COUNSEL

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:

  • ATTORNEY'S FEES
  • COST OF THE DIVORCE
  • CHILD SUPPORT
  • MAINTENANCE (formerly called alimony)
  • DEBT ALLOCATION
  • ASSET LOSS
  • CREDIT CONSIDERATIONS

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.
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