The presents are unwrapped, the mistletoe is put away, and you somehow managed to get through another holiday season with the in-laws. Now, it’s a new year and reality sets in again. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to explore the possibility of a divorce, there are seven other resolutions you should consider:
1. Make it a point to understand the divorce process in your state. All states have different laws when it comes to divorce. The law that will apply to your divorce is the state where you permanently reside so long as you have resided in the state for the required period of time. Knowing the law in your state and how it affects finances, property, and child custody is important, and may guide whether a legal separation or a divorce are worth considering.
2. Explore other alternatives. Consider the reasons you want the divorce and whether there are other alternatives. Exploring these other alternatives should be done in the first consultation with your lawyer. Other alternatives include a legal separation, establishing trusts for your finances, entering into a post-nuptial agreement, or engaging in counseling.
3. Consider discussing the divorce with your spouse. As difficult as it might be to discuss a divorce with your spouse, the shock and awe effect of filing without some advance warning, can make the process more litigious than necessary. Even if you are not comfortable discussing the fact you are filing with your spouse, discuss with your lawyer how you might be able to serve your spouse with the papers without having a process server surprise them. Starting the process in a conciliatory manner may help generate a discussion of how to resolve matters through mediation or a collaborative process which could be faster and less expensive.
4. Take care of your health. Divorces are not easy. Even in the best of circumstances, they are emotionally and physically draining at times. Make sure you take care of yourself during this time. Joining a gym, or taking up a new activity (such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation) will help keep you emotionally and physically healthy for the process ahead.
5. Obtain competent legal representation. Obtain the names of experience lawyers in the area of family law. The State Bar of Arizona, as well as the bar associations in other states, have a list of lawyers who are certified by the state bar as specialists in family law. Take the time to interview several lawyers until you find the lawyer you are comfortable with in helping to guide you through the process and advocate on your behalf. While it is always hopeful that a case will settle prior to trial, you want to make sure that the legal counsel you choose is also capable of representing you if the matter went to trial.
6. Vow to seek a fair and equitable resolution. A lot of time and energy is spent wanting to punish the other person. In the end, judges tend to divide property equitably, and absent unusual circumstances, provide each parent with substantial parenting time. Recognizing this and trusting your attorney to give you a straightforward assessment of the likely outcome of your case will save you from striving for something that, at least according to the law, is not a fair and equitable resolution.
7. Embrace the change that is about to occur. The end of a marriage is difficult. The life with your spouse that was started with such hope and expectation now is marred by unrealized dreams. But every ending is also a new beginning. Embrace the change and direction that your life is taking, and know that 2018 is your opportunity to start with a blank page as you write your next chapter.
Happy New Year.
About the Author: Marlene Pontrelli is a Member in our Phoenix office. Marlene is a certified specialist in family law. Her practice focuses on all aspects of family law including dissolution, post-dissolution, paternity, child custody and child support matters. She is admitted to practice in California and Arizona. She is a member of the State Bar’s Family Law Practice and Procedure Committee and is a judge pro tem for the Superior Court of Maricopa County in family law. Ms. Pontrelli obtained her life coaching certificate through the Professional Coaching Institute in 2005. She has extensive trial and appellate experience including appearing before the Arizona Court of Appeals, Arizona Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Ms. Pontrelli has written several books, including the recently published Divorce in Arizona, She is a frequent lecturer in the area of family law and has conducted workshops throughout the country on time management and balancing work and personal life. Marlene may be reached in our Phoenix office at 602-285-5081 and you may review her bio here.