Does your divorce have to be a knockdown, drag-out fight? The short answer to that question is: no. The slightly longer yet still true answer is it does not have to be that way, necessarily. Just because the media cranks up the coverage of celebrity divorces to an eleven does not mean that most divorces of people you don’t know are incredibly hostile. For another thing, even if you know a person who has gone through a divorce that does not mean that he or she is accurate with their impressions of divorce, either. All persons who have been through a divorce may not have been able to make it out in one piece. Your experience may be the opposite of these folks.
The trouble for you is to be able to distinguish between the advice that you are better off brushing aside and that advice that is tailor-made for you. The first type of advice is the kind that we discussed in today’s opening paragraph. Misery sometimes loves company. Think about the guys you knew growing up who would embellish at every moment the size of the fish that they caught. With each passing story, the fish got a little larger. When it comes to divorce the case got a little more difficult to manage and their spouse got a little meaner and nastier.
The other kind of advice that you may receive in a divorce scenario is good advice that you need to consider. At a certain point, however, this type of advice becomes difficult to distinguish from bad advice. When it comes to being able to consider this advice you need to be able to quickly discern what is valid and which is not. When you have little experience in the world of family law this can be especially tricky. So, the question is how to gain an understanding of divorce on a basic level and then how to proceed to protect your rights and that of your children.
In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to discuss twenty tips to make your divorce more amicable. Amicable means that you and your spouse can set aside your differences and attack your divorce in a way that suits both of you. That doesn’t mean that your divorce is going to end up being as good for you as it was for your spouse or vice versa. However, what it will mean is that the two of you can set aside your differences and look at the case as more of a business transaction than as a referendum on which of you can be nastiest to the other person.
- Determine what matters most. Goal setting. It’s an important aspect of any divorce yet is not one that many people spend a great deal of time doing. It does take time to set goals. Not only does it take time but in writing down concrete goals you also allow yourself not to accomplish those goals and in doing so you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. However, it would be a mistake to not have goals for your divorce even if you don’t end up accomplishing all of them. Work to create goals and then determine how best to accomplish those goals.
- Hire an attorney. Most divorce cases require the assistance of an attorney. My general rule of thumb is that if you have any property to your name or have a child then your divorce would be enhanced by both you and your spouse having lawyers. Contrary to what many people believe, an attorney will not make your case any more war-like. Attorneys help you and your spouse to deliver updates to one another, stick to a plan when negotiating and otherwise keep the peace. Instead of having to communicate every settlement offer yourself to your spouse- you can use an attorney to do so for you. Less contact typically means keeping the peace with a much higher likelihood.
- Determine what goals are non-negotiable. You will likely begin your divorce case with certain goals that cannot be negotiated upon. If you believe that you need to keep 65% of your retirement accounts after the divorce, then this may be a goal that is near and dear to your heart. There is nothing wrong with having goals like this. However, it is important to adjust those goals if need be. For example, if you determine that it is not practical for you to retain that much of your retirement after a few weeks of your divorce then that may be a goal that you alter to an extent. This is also an area where having an attorney can pay some serious dividends.
- Talk with your spouse- if you can. I freely admit that not every person reading this blog post is going to be able to speak civilly with your spouse. You may have circumstances involved in your case that make this an impossibility. However, not every person out there is in this sort of position. For the rest of you, I would recommend speaking in person to your spouse about the ideas that each of you has for your case. You may find that you have more in common with one another than you had previously thought. At the very least it can show the other person that you are being earnest.
- Don’t talk to your kids (too much) about the divorce. Depending on the age of your kids it is almost inescapable that you are going to talk with them about the divorce in some form or fashion. There is nothing wrong with this. You know your family much better than I do. However. I would recommend that you take a moment to consider the specific needs of your kids, their ages, and their maturity levels. Do not put too much pressure on them by telling them too much about the case. Also, do not use the kids as your sounding board or as a therapist.
- Do not attempt to alienate your kids from your spouse. One of the worst parts of a divorce can come when one spouse attempts to use the kids to hurt their other spouse. This can be done through alienation. Simply telling the kids negative things about your spouse and how their spouse thinks of them can be enough to ruin a relationship. It is understandable to look for advantages in a divorce. It is another thing altogether to want to use your children to gain that advantage. Expect your spouse to pick up on this behavior rather quickly and for that to make your divorce much more acrimonious as a result.
- Understand that your spouse is not your enemy. It is a weird twist of fate, or at least a twist of your relationship, to think of your spouse as the person that you need to defeat in a negotiation. However, this is exactly what a divorce becomes at a certain point. Your divorce will be a business transaction if you treat it correctly. It’s sort of cold to think about it in those terms but it helps to keep things on those business-like terms when emotions start to come into play. It’s not personal- it’s just business. While you won’t completely be able to eliminate emotions from your divorce, nor would you want to, it can help to keep amicable if you can do so successfully.
- Don’t look for opportunities to fight. I have worked on divorce cases where the opposing attorney and client will seem to look for chances to pick fights over trivial matters. The way you phrase things in court pleadings, the way you show up late for every drop-off and pick-up of the kids, and the various small things that gradually add up to be significant during a divorce. The list goes on and on. A lot of things can be taken out of context during a divorce. Your job is to minimize those issues and work to keep things mellow between the two of you. That doesn’t mean that you should back down if your spouse oversteps a line or a boundary of some sort, however. But you should know the difference and err on the side of caution.
- Negotiate temporary orders where there are minimal chances for misunderstandings. To be unclear is to be unkind. I like this piece of advice that I received from someone a long time ago. So much of the problems that we have in life and divorce is from being unclear with our partner about what our plans are. Nobody likes feeling that they were left in the dark. So, don’t leave anyone in the dark about something about this divorce. Make sure your spouse understands your motivation and why you are negotiating a certain way. He or she may not agree with what you are doing but it is more likely that he or she will not assign some ulterior motive to your actions if you are clear with him or her why you are doing something.
- Use mediation to your advantage. Mediation is the great equalizer in a divorce case. Say that you and your spouse are engaged in a contentious divorce. Mediation can allow you both to take the air out of negotiations just a tad and have someone else deliver the messages and soften the blows a bit. If you tell your spouse something, then it may be enough to cause World War III. However, an experienced mediator can say the same thing differently and soften the blow enough to keep your case on track. Arrive at mediation with a plan and seek to leave that mediator’s office with a settlement in place.
- Take advantage of the time allotted to you in a divorce. Even though there is quite a bit of downtime in a divorce you have no time to kill, as it were. The time you have in a divorce should be spent preparing for the next phase of your case, negotiating where you can, and spending as much time with your kids as possible. These should be your goals during periods where there is little to do, seemingly. There is always something you can do to help propel your case to the finish line. Talk with your attorney about this and decide to be proactive.
- Choose to see things from the other person’s perspective. This can be easier said than done- no doubt. During a difficult and contentious divorce is can feel good to assume the worst of your spouse. However, the odds are good that he or she is acting in a way that is intended to benefit him or her and not intended to harm you. Their positions may be harmful to you, no doubt, but the primary objective is not to hurt you. Choose to approach an issue from their perspective first. Why is your spouse doing something? Why is she choosing to take on that perspective? What could you do to bridge the gap between either of your two positions? This is useful stuff to consider as you work towards a resolution to your divorce case.
- Be prepared when discussing settlement negotiations. If you go into settlement negotiations without your ducks in a row, how can you expect to have the specific numbers, figures, and circumstances in mind for you to settle your case? If you need to discuss how to divide your retirement up but you cannot determine how much money is in the account or how much of it is community property, then what do you expect to have happened? Treat every opportunity to negotiate with your spouse as being important. Maintain this attitude throughout your case and you will find that it is possible to avoid war and make peace.
- Select your attorney carefully. What is your attorney’s position on mediation and settlement negotiation? Most lawyers will use mediation liberally and want to settle cases rather than go to trial. However, you should keep your eye out for the following situations arising in your case. The first situation involves a lawyer who is unprepared constantly. As we just touched on, an unprepared lawyer does not expect to settle cases. Settlements are achieved by parties and their lawyers who are prepared. The other circumstance that I would out for is a lawyer who is always looking for a fight. You’ll know this type of lawyer when you see him or her. There is nothing wrong with facing down a fight when it’s inescapable. It’s another thing altogether to look for an unnecessary fight.
- Communicate with your attorney regularly. This may seem like common sense, but the reality is that you and your attorney go for periods without corresponding. Maybe there is some downtime in your case where you focus on something other than your divorce and your attorney focuses on their other clients. Whatever the case may be, it is important to stay on one another’s radars. This gets back to preparation. The better prepared you are the less likely you are to miss opportunities to settle your case if possible.
- Talk with your attorney about their preferred method of communication. The great thing about this age that we are all living in is that there are several options when it comes to communicating with your attorney. The downside is that there are also several options when it comes to communicating with your attorney. Work with your lawyer to have a preferred method of communication. Then, pick a day to communicate with each other this week. If possible, this is a conversation that you should have with your lawyer at the outset of your case. If you are meeting with a lawyer and he or she cannot commit to providing you with this opportunity each week, then you may need to consider hiring a different lawyer
- Don’t get divorced. There are options in terms of avoiding divorce. Have you considered trying to get in to see a counselor with your spouse? Have you tried to speak to your priest, pastor, or another religious leader about the problems in your marriage? There are so many options out there for you and your spouse to work through to avoid getting divorced. The best way to avoid a war-like divorce is to go through every option possible and then avoid getting divorced at all. It may sound overly simplistic, but I can tell you that people just like you avoid divorce all the time by choosing to communicate with one another rather than rush to court to file a divorce.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.