Wondering where to start your divorce?
There are so many things to think about it can be overwhelming. For many of us a divorce is unfamiliar legal territory and we’d like some help making good decisions to get it right.
A lot of people begin by filing divorce papers with the court. In Colorado, USA there is a 90-day waiting period before the judge can enter a Decree so people like to get that clock started. (Check locally to find your area’s timelines.) I don’t recommend starting your process by filing legal papers. It does start the clock ticking and that’s ok if you have most things decided. If you do not, having that clock ticking creates a high-pressure situation. It is an unnatural timeline that forces you to make decisions even if you’re not ready. You need unpressured time to decide the future of your finances and family and home and many other things.
Unless you suspect foul play there is no need to file right away. If you do suspect foul play, filing papers can be helpful. Once the Petition is filed, large expenditures and moving money must stop. Another benefit is that you are also able to ask for Temporary Orders to make sure you and your children have the resources you need. One partner does not get to hoard all the money while the other party struggles to get by. If there is no suspected foul play, however, I suggest waiting until you have a lot of things figured out and are at least seeing the light at the end of the tunnel before you file papers.
First Things First
Before you do anything, you need to find out who is in your corner. Divorce is primarily an emotional event even though it has legal aspects to it. You need support for the emotional upheaval. If friends and family aren’t too one-sided they can be those supports. You don’t need friends who villainize your soon to be Ex. That will skew your perspective as you are trying to work things out together. A divorce coach, therapist, and especially group support with those having a similar experience will be your best support.
Five Choices for Negotiating Your Divorce
Pro se: (Also known as do it yourself) If you have a very simple estate, meaning you don’t own a lot of property, have a lot of investments or debt, and can easily discuss your co-parenting, you may be able to get through just fine on your own. Just be sure to have a lawyer look things over before you sign anything.
Mediation is one of the most popular means for creating agreements. Select a mediator who has had a minimum of 40-hours of mediation training and preferably has some experience with divorce. Sometimes male and female mediators will pair up to offer comfort and perspectives to both genders. Sometimes a financial mediator and a divorce mediator will pair up to offer a broad range of expertise. Mediators, even if they are attorney mediators, cannot give legal advice. You will still need attorney review before you sign anything.
Although I am trained as a mediator with other related skills, my expertise is in facilitating hard conversations helping you work through and heal the things that trigger you so you can move past them and make the best decisions for yourselves. When both people speak honestly solutions naturally arise. Holding that space for you is my passion, my reward, my pleasure, and your solution. Check out Heart Mediation to learn more.
Collaborative Divorce is a relatively new way to divorce and provides a team of professionals to guide you through all the important aspects of your process. You each have your own attorney along with a neutral financial expert and a neutral divorce coach. Other professionals such as a child expert, business evaluator, realtor, etc. are brought in only as needed. The team, along with you, works on a needs basis for a win/win solution to get you both set up in workable futures. It is a healing, rather than destructive process.
Litigation: is the most common way people divorce. It is outdated and decreasing in popularity, and that is a good thing. Litigation is a model where there is a winner and a loser. Each of your attorneys are trained to, and even required to, help you be the winner and will often use dire means, such as character assassination or trying to prove child abuse/neglect, to accomplish their goals. The attorneys are usually the biggest winners using this model. It is nearly always destructive to families. I don’t recommend this approach with one caveat. If one of you hires the meanest lawyer you can find the other will be served by engaging a powerful attorney, also. You don’t want to be outgunned in a war.
Arbitration is generally not used to negotiate a divorce but is a problem solving solution if disagreements arise after your divorce is final. Sometimes, especially in pro se cases, things are forgotten and have to be revisited in the future. Most divorce agreements provide that the divorced parties first return to either the collaborative process or mediation and if those fail, then enlist an arbiter. An arbiter hears all views and reviews all evidence and makes a binding decision the couple must abide by. If you mediate and resolve all but a few issues you can agree to arbitrate instead of going to court. You agree upfront to be bound by the arbitrator’s decision.
You Are in Charge
It is your life, your family, your finances, and your divorce that are affected. Stay in charge of the process as much as you can. Even if you hire a litigating attorney, you get to say how the process goes. Don’t let him or her fool you into thinking they are in charge. They aren’t. Another caveat there, you are paying them for their expertise, so make sure you understand what they are telling you, get a second opinion if you need to and don’t be afraid to make demands to be kept informed and up to date about your case.
A simple approach to getting the legal advice you need is to pay an attorney by the hour, also referred to as unbundled legal services. An attorney doesn’t need to represent you or enter an appearance on your behalf to advise you of your best legal options.
I am glad to help you explore your options. You will want to be especially careful if you are the under-powered partner in your marriage. If you felt over run in your marriage there is a good chance you will feel over run in your divorce. Let’s talk.