Tips for a Healthy Divorce
By: Tracy Ann Moore-Grant
1. Select an attorney that shares your goals
Divorce attorneys approach a divorce in several different ways and come zebras can’t change their stripes. Whether you are looking for an aggressive bulldog attorney or an amicable resolution minded attorney, be candid with any attorney you meet with about what type of divorce case you want to have and what their plan is to help you meet that goal. Don’t be afraid to meet with more than one attorney to find the right one for you.
- Use the correct professional for the job
Lawyers give legal advice and know the law. However, they don’t give tax advice and are an expensive way to get therapy. Sometimes a divorce takes a team of the correct professionals. Use the services of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst to assist with tax issues or asset identification, a Certified Divorce Lending Professional to help you know what you can and cannot do with refinancing or purchasing real estate and an experienced mental health professional to assist you during this time or transition or to check in with your kids.
- Write a Parenting Plan that is for your children, not you.
A Parenting Plan details your schedule and all of your rights to your children. When looking at your plan, try to keep the kids as the center point not your schedule or desires. Is your schedule good for the kids? Will they be having long morning car rides to school or having to change an activity they enjoy for this schedule? Making a plan that is best for your kids will help them through this period of adjustment.
- Trust but verify
When settling our case, make sure you verify the numbers you are agreeing to particularly with incomes, debts and the values of assets like retirement. In Georgia, an easy way to verify this information is with the Domestic Relations Financial Affidavit. This five page form sets out each party’s income, budget, assets and debts and is signed under oath. It is always a good idea to exchange this document. If you want to further verify any of the numbers, ask for the supporting documents prior to entering into a binding agreement.
- Agree on how to resolve disagreements
Disagreements after divorce are inevitable. Issues may arise that you never intended with new spouses, moves and new employment. Without a way to resolve disputes, tensions can escalate quickly. In your divorce agreement come up with how you will resolve differences without one party running to the courthouse to file an action. Perhaps for parenting disputes you enlist a Parent Coordinator to help work through changes or agreeing to mediate any issues with child support before filing a court action. Disputes on how to make decisions about your children should be detailed in the Parenting Plan.
- Beware of where you get your advice
When people learn you are getting a divorce, all kinds of advice springs forth about their sister’s friend in New Jersey’s divorce and plenty of other unhelpful information. Although friends (and Google) have the best intentions, each case and each family is entirely unique down to your jurisdiction and your assigned Judge. Seek legal and financial information from the professionals and use your friends for support only.
- Set clear boundaries
The more amicable the divorce, the harder it may be to break old patterns like joint holiday celebrations, coming and going from your previously marital home, or texting in the familiar way you used to for support. It is hard to make that break but having confusing boundaries can be difficult for young children and for healing hearts.
- It’s ok to take time for yourself.
No explanation needed.