As the New Year begins and kids return to school, many people are re-evaluating relationships and unfortunately deciding to divorce. We have received so many calls already asking
- What do I do?
- How do I do it?
- What’s first -what’s next?
- How long does it take?
There seems to be a constant thread of impulsivity and rush once a client makes up their mind to divorce or is on the receiving side of the papers. The divorce process is a marathon – not a sprint and you must take your time to do it right – if at all.
Here are 3 terrible ideas clients divorcing have experienced that you should avoid in the New Year.
1. It’s a bad idea to kick anyone out of the house or leave without a plan
JK from Boulder called to tell me that her husband found out she had been having an affair. After a terrible argument with one another, he asked her to pack a bag and get out. Not unlike many couples, the home was only titled in husband’s name so he thought he had a right to tell her to leave.
While you never want to remain in a situation that is dangerous or creates more tension than necessary, it is important to come up with solutions instead of creating more problems. By acting emotionally, husband failed to realize in the heat of the moment that he travels for work and JK is the one who manages the entire lives of their small children – and the dog. He didn’t think about anyone else in the home. He didn’t think about how much more he would likely have to pay for child care and a second residence for her during the separation before the divorce was final.
Once she retained me and had been away for a couple days, I was able to speak with her husband, recommend a few great counselors, and negotiate an interim plan that had her stay in the home with the kids while he was away and travelling for work and staying with her family the few days and weekends when he was home. With this, they were able to avoid each other during this extremely emotional time, while still maintaining the children’s schedules and routines with the least amount of change and additional costs as possible.
They were able to maintain this nesting situation for a few months, until the children got to summer break, and then finalized their divorce successfully.
It is almost always a bad idea to take such drastic measures as forcing a spouse to leave when there aren’t issues of domestic violence, or choosing to leave without a solid plan in place. Divorce is difficult enough. You don’t need to make it worse by causing havoc for the children, increasing costs of living unnecessarily, and acting from an emotional place instead of a logical and reasonable state of mind.
2. It’s a bad idea to move money from accounts or stop paying marital bills during the separation and divorce.
There is no doubt that most people come to a divorce with fear of losing everything. Money may be seen as a source of control or future bargaining tool but most certainly it is the one thing people fear losing as an immediate need and source of lifestyle.
AD retained me in Cherry Creek when his wife first mentioned that she wanted to get divorce. He planned to work with her to prepare the financial disclosures together, and they had hoped to sit down and negotiate a settlement before ever filing paperwork with the court. A month later Wife had taken tens of thousands of dollars out of their accounts and placed the funds in her separate account before filing for divorce the next week.
By removing marital funds from their joint accounts, Wife created an immediate sense of mistrust and otherwise unnecessary financial issues for the parties throughout the divorce. It created costly litigation with temporary orders to make certain neither was wrongfully moving monies from accounts out of fear of the other.
Most often good attorneys can negotiate temporary agreements so attorneys’ fees are paid, bills are taken care of as they were during the marriage and everyone is financially ok while going through the divorce.
The presumption usually is that all the assets and accounts are marital property. Neither should be moving funds or otherwise doing anything differently than they were financially during the marriage while going through a divorce. Transferring funds without an agreement of the other party is often frowned upon under the law and may jeopardize your property settlement at the end of the divorce.
By working together to determine how to divide accounts fair and equitably, while considering the expenses necessary to maintain through the divorce, your path to settlement and resolve is more likely to be clear and cause less litigation as you work towards a resolution.
3. Mediating without understanding your legal rights is a bad idea.
Although a mediator myself this might be the worst idea that I hear all the time! Mediators are 3rd party neutrals and not in a position to offer legal advice. Hiring lawyers does not mean you want to litigate or go to trial or fight about everything. There is not a substitute for great legal advice when considering divorce.
RW was divorcing after a 20-year marriage in Denver. He was business savvy and very smart. Wife was also intelligent and thought they could handle their divorce through mediation. They signed agreements that had them still sharing business interests, and with contractual maintenance terms that brought years of extreme expense to RW that could have been negotiated had he received sound legal advice before signing the agreements he did.
Mediation is not an alternative to legal advice. Don’t go to mediation unless you understand the legal consequences of certain decisions. There are property interests, tax consequences, children’s rights, parental rights, and severe financial implications to the contract you are signing to end your marriage.
If you want to work together but want to ensure you are both getting the same legal advice consider Unified Divorce.
If you have different ideas or financial interests, there are many attorneys that offer complimentary consultations or unbundled services that offer assistance only in the areas you need legal help – such as preparing the proper financial statements, determining guideline support, and discussing possible settlement negotiations or drafting the proper documents.
Mediation is a great process so long as you know your legal rights and have considered the financial and legal consequences of all possible solutions before mediating. It is more of an ending place than a beginning place for your divorce.
Whether you’ve made choices that caused too much damage to repair your marriage or have decided the future for your family is better with you not together, know that you do not have to end a bad marriage with a terrible divorce. You got into this together and should work together to finish it in the most time-efficient and cost-effective way possible. This happens when you make the following good decisions:
- Respond – don’t React
- Know that the more you work together the sooner you able to move forward alone
- Get legal advice, not to litigate, but to know your rights and understand the process.