There are lots of consequences to a divorce that drags on.
You spend way more money. And it’s a lot harder to settle into the new normal or move on to your life while everything is up in the air.
And while you can’t control every part of the divorce process, there are things you can do to help the entire process go a little smoother, and run a little faster.
1. Develop realistic expectations.
There are so many myths floating around about family law it’s easy to walk in with a bunch of misperceptions. Those misperceptions may vastly skew your ability to accurately determine both what you deserve and what you can get under the law.
You may have heard divorced friends say, “My ex took everything,” and conclude that you, too, can take everything, or are in danger of losing everything. In reality, “everything” is an exaggeration which really means, “I wasn’t happy with my divorce settlement.”
Your family members and friends may also get stuck on your spouse’s behavior and what they believe would be fair based on that behavior. Remember, the purpose of a divorce is to dissolve a marriage, not to punish your spouse. In many ways, your spouse’s behavior doesn’t matter at all.
2. Know what’s really important to you.
Once you’ve reset your expectations you’re in a good position to start determining what you might really want out of this divorce. Is it to be the primary custodian of the children? Is it to receive spousal support because you’ve been a homemaker for 30 years in support of your spouse’s career?
What can you live without? What strikes you as a non-negotiable?
Remember to discuss these desires with your attorney. It’s the best way to make sure they are in line with what courts are really likely to do or support.
3. Be ready to compromise.
If you truly want a fast divorce then you want to put yourself in the mindset that you intend to settle. This is also the best way to develop arrangements which can work for you and your family. The judge just doesn’t know you, your spouse, or your kids the way you do.
If you can get your emotions in check and stay business-like, you and your ex may be able to come to an accord quicker than you think. If you can agree and the shape of your agreement is in line with what California family court tends to support, your divorce can become a matter of dotting a few “Is” and crossing a few “Ts.”
4. Remain organized.
When you meet with your divorce attorney for the first time there’s a whole host of documentation you should bring with you. You need at least 2 months of documentation regarding income, assets, and debts.
Ideally, you’ll get all this before you file or moments after you know you’re being sued for divorce, because some unscrupulous spouses will try to hide some of those assets later.
You’ll also want to start documenting interactions with your spouse and children, and all that documentation needs to be kept in an organized, safe place where it can be readily accessed. And if your attorney asks you for anything specific, it’s important to gather that information and bring it in promptly as well.
5. Work with an attorney who understands your options under California law.
Did you know California judges take a dim view of spouses and attorneys who decide to be overly difficult or combative? Spouses who fight over everything down to the kitchen sink and attorneys who encourage such behavior to ramp up their billable hours can be sanctioned under California Code § 271, which allows you to recover attorneys fees from your ex if the court agrees they are holding up the process on purpose, or are being unduly unreasonable.
If you go it alone, of course, there are no attorneys fees to pay, which means this sanction doesn’t do you very much good. You’re likely to be run roughshod by your ex and his or her lawyer. A good family law attorney can not only protect your rights, but remind the opposing attorney of the statute and the benefits of working together.
If you’re facing divorce, take a deep breath. Sit down, go through each of these points, get what you need, and find a family law attorney you feel comfortable with. If you want to start with the Law Offices of John A. Bledsoe, just click here to schedule a consultation.