What to do BEFORE You File for Divorce or Separation

March 23, 2017

 

OK, You’ve Decided to Divorce                                                                By Steve Litt, LCSW

Take time to figure out how to approach divorce

Take time to figure out how to approach divorce

First, sit with the decision for a few days. Make sure you are not just very hurt and angry. If the decision is clear, a few more days won’t change that. You may have been thinking about this for a long time. I offer that there are things for you to do before you make the big announcement. Don’t declare your intentions yet and don’t file anything yet.  In the meanwhile, BE NICE! Do your research before you act.

When you stack cannon balls, how you set the first row determines how the subsequent rows will look. So it is with divorce. What you do at the beginning shapes the course and shape of what is to come.

The Second thing to do is talk to professionals like lawyers and marriage counselors who are specialists. Do some checking around, every lawyer and therapist is not qualified to help. This could be the most important choice you make. Ask about your rights in a divorce. Ask for details of how the legal jurisdiction you live in functions. In some jurisdictions there are long waits to get to court. Some offer mediation or arbitration options. Some states have a do it yourself method for simple divorce. You do want to know all that you and yours will be facing.

When the cost of a contested divorce can cost as much as a condo, house or a college education, its worthwhile to see how much you can do yourselves. Divorce need not be contentious in no fault divorce states. I have seen stellar outcomes in Collaborative Divorce. It’s worth investigating. You can start by looking at the options for doing your own divorce. Each state determines how or if that is available to you. In Colorado, there are handbooks available for do it yourself divorce. These are a good place to start, even if you don’t choose to do it yourself.

Lawyers can be interviewed and you get to choose. Ask if your friends who have been divorced have a recommendation. If you have a simple divorce that is amicable look for a person who understands that and is willing to work with mediation and in a collaborative way.

If its going to be a fight and there are  estate or custody issues, get an attorney who can handle the conflict without being overwhelmed.

This divorce cost over $100 million. It could have been much more.

This divorce cost over $100 million. It could have been much more.

If your spouse gets the attorney first, do some research and find an attorney who has gone up against your mate’s attorney before. Its so much cheaper and  easier to settle when they know each other or if they are friendly. Lawyers that don’t know each other or don’t respect each other will spend your time and fortune jousting in order to understand their opponent.

Thirdly, in this early stage before you file or declare divorce, make and appointment with a marriage and family therapist who is an expert in post divorce adjustment. Use that time to begin to understand how to manage yourself and the family after the separation and then after the divorce. I give a  “divorce inoculation” to newly divorced/separated clients that has been greatly appreciated over the years.

NOTICE: At this point you have not told your spouse or filed for a divorce or separation. That will be covered in Part 2.

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