If you are contemplating divorce, there is no substitute for preparation. Here are a few practical suggestions to get you started.
Be Certain You’re Ready
Unraveling a marriage can be traumatic for you, your spouse, and, most important, your children. So before you initiate the launch sequence, make sure you do everything you can to make it work. Have you suggested couples therapy? Have you cleaned up your own act? It’s important that you can honestly say you did everything you could to save the marriage before taking it down. It will make the process a bit more bearable.
But If You’re Out, Go All In
Once you decide to file for divorce, commit fully to the process. Treat it as your job. Stay focused. Conduct yourself in an organized and businesslike manner. Your goal should be an outcome that is fair to both parties, and does not unnecessarily antagonize your spouse—especially if you have children, the two of you will co-parent for a while.
The Straight and Narrow is the Only Way
The divorce process will beat you up. But it is the worst time to do what many people do: self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, or sex with the wrong people. Any positive feelings from self-medication are temporary and far outweighed by a multitude of potential negative outcomes—including slowing down the divorce process, interfering with your ability to parent, and threatening your custody game plan. Resist the temptation. The straight and narrow is the only way.
The Divorce Lawyer With the Most Billboards is Not Necessarily the Best Lawyer
All family lawyers are not created equal. Research them to find the right one for you. Read the testimonials on their websites and on Avvo.com. Board certified family lawyers who only practice family law bring specialized skills to the table. After identifying your list of candidates, meet with them—not their representatives. And don’t wait. If your spouse meets with a lawyer first, the lawyer will be conflicted out of representing you.
Create a Divorce File
The better organized you are, the more likely you are to obtain the outcome you want. Create a file. Keep every scrap of paper in it that you believe might have a bearing on your divorce—including emails, texts, pictures, deeds, financial account statements, credit card statements, mortgage statements, and other loan documents. Good divorce lawyers charge by the hour. If you make up your mind to be organized from the get go, the chances of securing your desired result will increase dramatically, and you’ll save some money, too.
Sonya B. Coffman is a Board Certified divorce, custody, and family lawyer in Beaumont, Texas. She also is a CPA. Preparation is the cornerstone of her law practice.