I came to mediation slowly, having practiced over 30 years of divorce litigation in three states. Mediation is a far better choice to minimize damage to people in this crisis, and protect their assets and their children.
Experience in that arena brings knowledge that I hope to share with all clients. After many years of practicing divorce law, a certain attitude arises in most attorneys. Although some folks picture the family lawyers as grasping, or inviting conflict, I have found the reverse is true. Most of my colleagues were reasonable, reliable and settlement oriented.
People in a divorce do things they have never done before and will never do again. It is a frightfully scary time, and full of very personal emotional upheavals. You can minimize your legal fees, your family stress, and damage to your future by remembering what many of my colleagues and I agreed upon – so if you find yourself embroiled in a disputed divorce.
- What they say on television is true: “Anything you say can be used against you in a courtroom”. Now is not the time to have that emotional explosion, as the consequences can be long term.
- If you are in litigation, and have a divorce hearing set, you can keep your legal fees down if you follow the schedule outlined by your lawyer and get him/her your documents quickly. Organize the papers before you bring them into the office, and make a full set for the use of the lawyer so there is no need to copy them or bill you for that.
- You can keep your legal fees down if you differentiate between emotional telephone calls to your lawyer, or business telephone calls to your lawyer. Make the emotional calls to your counselor or your family, not the lawyer because your lawyer is a professional and most bill for time. You can keep your fees down if you try to act as courteously as possible to your spouse, no matter where you see him/her, or with whom you see him/her. You can keep your fees down if you think of the divorce as the dissolution of a business partnership – one that is your family, but also generated houses, cars, pensions and kids.
- Remember, the person you hate so much, was once the center of your universe. Let’s try to be somewhat fair about it. Most states do not demand a fifty-fifty division, but figure out why fifty-fifty is not fair, before someone begins a war.
- Your kids belong to both of you. Parenting time belongs to the kids. A few minutes or hours one way or the other will not have nearly the impact of spending their college fund in court.
- Give the kids a break. Keep your new sweetheart private for about a year, until the children have settled into new family dynamics. If the kids meet the new sweetheart too soon, they could well blame that person for breaking up their parents, and you will only have more trouble.
- Expect the other side to obey the orders. If they threaten, they will go to jail first, know your lawyer can handle this. Jail is a fine place for such an attitude.
- You will see your children, no matter what the other side threatens, unless there are serious child related crimes involved. No judge in domestic cases takes away your parental rights, they just divide time between you both. Try not to get frustrated over fifteen minutes, or half of a holiday – see the big picture and know your kids are your kids, forever.
- The financial devastation of a divorce is usually temporary. The money that was intended to support one household now needs to support two households. No court order or high powered lawyer can make the money go further. Everyone needs to tighten the belt.
- There are financial guidelines for payment of child support. All the lawyers and the judges have the same schedules. If child support is adjusted for shared parenting time, expect to share out of pocket costs like haircuts, uninsured medical costs, extra jackets. These are still your kids, be generous.
- Your lawyer is on your side. Sometimes that means telling you the truth, and working through the problems to a solution, and encouraging compromise. If you are not hearing what you want to hear, it may nonetheless be true. Give it some time to sink in, before you discard a suggestion.
- A court hearing is a last resort. Our judges, however fair, do not know you or your children or your family situation. You are better able to resolve the problems outside of the court if at all possible.
- No matter how the other side behaves, try to play by the rules. Do your best to act in a courteous and civil manner, and provide the necessary information in a timely manner.