Lois Liberman and Marilyn Chinitz
You are facing one of life’s most difficult transitions. After putting your financial affairs in order, but before broaching the topic of divorce with your spouse, we recommend that you prepare yourself by consulting experts who can provide the guidance and support you will need. Knowledge is power, and being fully informed will enable you to protect your rights and those of your children.
Consult a Family Law Attorney. An attorney who is an expert in the domestic relations/family laws of the state in which you reside will be able to provide you with vital information and guidance about what you can expect regarding child support, spousal maintenance, the division of assets, child custody, and parental access. Don’t consult someone who dabbles in family law—consult a specialist in the field.
Consult a Child Therapist. To ensure that your children are shielded from the stress and tension that has led you to make this decision, consult with a child therapist in your area. He or she can make suggestions as to the best way to advise your children about the divorce. These experts can also provide you with tools and strategies to deal with many of the questions and issues that will arise once your children have been told.
Safeguard Important Personal Belongings and Documents. Hurt, anger, and resentment often cause people to act out of spite. Before you discuss divorce with your spouse, make sure to safeguard your important personal belongings, which could go missing or be destroyed. Open a safe deposit box or place these items with a trusted friend or family member.
Consider Your Legal Options for Resolution. There are many options available, but not all options work for all parties. Negotiation and/or Litigation between two parties each represented by counsel; Mediation—in which a neutral third party attempts to help the parties reach a compromise; Collaborative Divorce—where each party has an attorney, but the adversarial milieu is replaced by a philosophy of harmony and the goal of getting along. If there is one party who is very controlling or there is an uneven balance of financial power, mediation may not be the best option. If there is a party who is acting unreasonably, you could find yourself having to go back to square one in a Collaborative Divorce because you entered into a contract in which your collaborative attorney cannot represent you in litigation. Seriously consider the dynamic between you and your spouse when selecting your path to resolution.
Ensure That You Have a Support Network. Surround yourself with people whom you trust, to not only provide you with the emotional support that will be essential, but who will also tell you the truth throughout the divorce process—even when it is difficult to hear. Whether that support network is made up of family, friends, and/or mental health professionals, make sure they are in place before you embark on your journey.
Excerpted from “10 Things You Should Do Before You Discuss Divorce With Your Spouse,” by Lois Liberman and Marilyn Chinitz, originally published in ModernMom on March 8, 2016.