Where do I begin?
Deciding to end your marriage is not easy decision to make. There are so many emotions involved, and it can seem completely confusing It may not be easy to think in a calm, rational manner during this time, but if you want the best result for your divorce, with the least amount of pain, it is something you must try to do.
Of course, if there are children involved your first thought must be for their emotional security, safety andwell being. They need to know you are not divorcing them, and it is not their fault – it’s a grownup issue. Most parents just want the best for their children, even if it doesn’t seem that way in the ensuing courtroom battles. Parents often disagree on just what is the best for their children, and this can lead to more conflict.
If there has been any sort of domestic violence, then the first step is to make sure everyone is safe, and possibly get a protective order. We will talk about this topic at length another time, but please know you do not have to wait to escape an unsafe situation.
Divorce does not have to be ugly!
The days of having to prove a reason for the divorce, such as adultery, are long gone. Florida is a no-fault divorce state, so no one has to be the “bad guy” in these proceedings.
Mediation is one option, where the parties use a neutral third party who guides them to a mutually agreeable arrangement. Mediation often works very well for those parties who can approach this process with a cool head and keep the ultimate goal in mind. This also works very well for those couples who don’t disagree about much. The husband and wife are the ones who come up with the solutions, so they are vested in the result. Mediation agreements become a contract which is very often the basis for the final divorce decree.
The concept of collaborative divorce is on the rise everywhere, and this approach can work very well in a situation where the parties don’t hate each other, don’t want to hurt each other and they want to achieve the best possible result. Each party is represented by a lawyer, but litigation is postponed until agreement is reached, and the attorneys for the collaboration use cooperative techniques rather than adversarial ones to come to agreement. Usually, the attorneys involved in the collaborative negotiations are not the ones used if negotiations break down and litigation ensues. This technique can save time, money and emotional strain.
Florida Statutes Help
You may be surprised to know the very nature of divorce law in Florida helps smooth the way, as many of the issues that arise in divorce cases, such as child support, custody & visitation and alimony are addressed by Florida statute. This means there is considerably less to argue over, and there is less chance some random judge will make some random ruling that is completely unfair to one party or the other. The judges do have latitude in determining “the best interest of the child” scenarios, but even that hot button issue has well defined criteria that they must consider.
Make a Plan
One of the first things recommended is to have all your financial ducks in a row. Make sure you have a handle on the financial aspect of your marriage – that you know where the bank accounts are and generally how much are in them. Know what investments you have, if any. Make copies of bank and brokerage statements so that you have that information at the ready. If you have received an inheritance, make sure to keep that in a separate account; do not comingle those funds with your marital assets. Inventory any valuables and furnishings you may own. Know what your spouse’s business interests are. Make it your business to know what assets you have and the debts for which you and your spouse are liable. Make sure you have copies of your recent tax returns.
Being well prepared for the financial aspect of divorce can protect your interests, save you money and ensure the wheels run more smoothly. Not being prepared can cost additional time and money.
When you do talk to an attorney for advice, make sure that they provide you with all the options that are out there, not just expensive litigation. If that can be avoided, that is certainly the best route to take. Not only is it less expensive in dollars, it is much less expensive in the emotional currency that divorce can require.
Civility is best, but…..
We know intellectually that negotiating a reasonable divorce settlement is really best for all involved, but divorcing parties don’t always play nicely with each other. Even when the best of intentions is there, old arguments and emotions rise up from the murky depths of our souls and they can get stuck on a particular issue like their feet are in concrete. If the divorce does become contentious, then you need to make sure your attorney can be a strong advocate for your interests.