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10 Things To Know Before You File For Divorce
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Here are the some things you’ll want to know before you file for a divorce:
1. Over 95% of all divorce cases settle before they go to trial, so try mediation rather than taking an adversarial position. And if mediation's not for you, there are other options like collaborative divorce and even arbitration.
2. Before you file for divorce, think about your goals for the ultimate outcome of your case. Write down your most important goals.
3. Create your Divorce Mission Statement. Know who you want to be when your divorce is over. You can use the free interactive Divorce Mission Statement on MakingDivorceWork.com
4. Reach out for help. A therapist, lawyer, accountant or fee based financial planner—or all of the above---can be a great support system.
5. Take time to assess and reassess your actions and goals and whether your path is taking you where you want to go. It's easy to get caught up in the stress of court procedures, or to become entrenched in a specific position.
6. Be organized. Use your professional fees wisely. Address your legal questions to your lawyer, and your psychological questions to a counselor or therapist. Be organized. Write your questions down....then write down the professional's answers. Keep a notebook so your papers stay organized and in one place. If you're too overwhelmed to get organized on your own, ask for help from a trusted friend, relative, or even a college student from Craigslist.
7. Do your homework. Remember, you’re the final decision maker in your settlement. Gather information, speak to level-headed friends and qualified professionals like an accountant, fee-based financial planner, a therapist or a lawyer and use self-reflection to decide what's best for you.
8. Don't jump to conclusions or rush to a decision.
You took years getting to this place, so don't expect to solve everything in 2 minutes. A reasonable, solid, working divorce settlement takes time.
9. Keep your perspective: If the amount of money you're fighting about won't matter in 5 years, it probably doesn't matter now, so let go of it. Sure, it's more money than you'd leave for a tip, but will it really change your life?
10. If you choose to represent yourself, get enough information about how to behave in court and what forms you need in order to do it well. Consider hiring a lawyer by the hour to consult with you about special issues and to review your settlement (the technical name for this is Unbundled Legal Services). If you cannot afford a lawyer, the local Legal Aid Society can help.
11. If your goal is "justice" or to "tell the judge my story", keep in mind that no-fault laws and court over-crowding means you'll get very little time or opportunity to testify. And besides, do you really want a stranger to make your decisions for you?
12. Your divorce will not go on forever (and you don't want it to). There is an end. Things will get better. And no matter how hard it is to believe, when one door closes, another door opens. In my own divorce, my former husband mockingly said, "You’re never going to finish that book!" Your Divorce Advisor was published by Simon & Schuster 2 years later. To be honest, if he'd never taunted me like that, he might've been right. I might never have finished. But I did, and we toasted the publication date with our new significant others. You really will move on, even if that's tough to picture at the moment.
Diana Mercer is a Collaborative Divorce Attorney and the founder of Peace Talks Family Mediation Services; they provide you divorce mediation, Parenting Planning, Collaborative Mediation and Child custody mediation Los Angeles, Culver City, Ladera Heights, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.
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