Because people often wait until “after the holidays” to make the Decision to Divorce, February is Divorce Month. Since it is such an important Decision, I have put together this post on important considerations.
If someone facing divorce comes to you, I hope this article will help.
First Step – Think about how divorce will affect your children.
Think about what is in the best interest of your children.Often unknown, or unappreciated, the Decision has an indelible and devastating effect on young children. Children often see divorce as the death of the child’s family, at least as the child has known the family. This “death” can result in outcomes including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, pain and depression. In the lives of young children, no decision of their parents can have a more negative effect than the decision to divorce.
Second Step – Talk alone with your spouse about the Decision. “But, we can’t talk! That’s why we’re divorcing!” Well listen, if your child was in the emergency room and you and your spouse had to talk to make a decision, would you talk and make the decision? If your answer is “Of course”, well, in your child’s life, this is just as important. Talk! Talk about: -Is divorce the only choice? -Is divorce the only answer? -Is divorce necessary now? If you cannot talk, then talk with a professional. Yes, it is that important in the lives of your children. Also, if the first professional “just isn’t right,” try another, and another, until you are both comfortable with the professional. If you have done all you can to keep the family “alive” and still divorce is necessary, then do it the right way.
Third Step– Pick the best divorce Process first, and then pick your divorce attorney.All too often, people go to an attorney first. This is not the best approach. Attorneys are best at “what they do”. For example, consider this medical scenario, if you go to a surgical oncologist for advice on how to handle a newly discovered tumor, you will most likely get advice on the best surgery. If you go to a medical oncologist, you will get advice on chemotherapy. The radiology oncologist will give you advice on cancer radiation. It is the same in divorce, e.g. there are litigators, there are mediators, etc. Study and select the Process; then pick the attorney who works well in that Process.
There are two overall divorce processes – the Court Process and the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Process.
The Court Divorce Process
The Court Process assumes a confrontational route. (See: The Adversarial Approach for a different assumption). The confrontation begins when you or your spouse declare, in a public document called a Complaint for Divorce, that you are suing for divorce and you want custody of the children (if any) and an equitable division of all property.
In the Complaint for Divorce, the plaintiff is the accuser and the defendant is the accused or defender. (In the Court Process, all proceedings and most documents are open to and available to the public for viewing and copying.)
In Massachusetts, there are rules that set out the procedure for using the Court Process. One of the rules is called: Standing Order 1-06 – the Time Standards.
When considering what Process is best for you, it is important to understand the effect of the Time Standards on your budget. The Standards establish a list of events that must be attended to. Failure to attend to an event may result in sanctions. I say “attend to” because although Standing Order 1-06 orders certain acts, for example, the completion, filing, and serving of a Financial Statement within a certain period, experienced divorce attorneys know there are other rules that permit parties to skip, delay or get around a Time Standards rule. Sound confusing? For experienced attorneys, it is not; for persons who represent themselves, it may be quite confusing.
For those considering cost, the Court Process, by its nature, will require you to pay your attorney for “attending to” a required “Time Standard” event. Given the number of “events” in Standing Order 1-06, this can be costly.
Under the Court Process, if you and your spouse cannot resolve your differences, you will have a court trial. Learn what a court trial entails by clicking and reading my article: Who does court trials anymore?
The ADR Divorce Process
In divorce, there are four alternative approaches to divorce resolution – non-confrontational adversarial, Collaborative divorce, mediation and arbitration. Regardless of the approach you use, the only time you will be in the court system is when you appear for a five minute uncontested divorce hearing. There is no Divorce Complaint! There is no plaintiff! There is no defendant! No Time Standards! No dirty linen washed in public!
Click here for more information about Non-confrontational Adversarial Divorce. The key to resolution in this process is for you and your spouse to have very competent non-confrontational adversarial attorneys. Be sure to check out an attorney’s reputation. You want a peacemaker not a warrior. If an attorney thinks like a general, talks like a general and moves like a general, he or she lives and works in the confrontational world. He or she is not a non-confrontational adversarial attorney.
Collaborative Divorce is a unique process where you, your spouse, and your own trained and certified collaborative attorneys, and other specialists, work together for, and only for, resolution of all issues.
In Divorce Mediation, you and your spouse work together to resolve your own issues with the help of a divorce mediator. The mediator is not a legal expert or advisor; the mediator establishes the atmosphere and uses proven techniques to help you and your spouse reach agreement on all divorce issues.
Arbitration is used in conjunction with any of the other ADR approaches. It is used to resolve deadlock, i.e., where parties cannot agree on an issue.
Choosing the right approach can make a real difference in the time and cost of this life-altering period.
Anthony C. Adamopoulos ©2016