Once you make the decision that a divorce is eminent, it’s important to develop a solid plan before you file. Divorce affects virtually every aspect of your life, as well as the lives of your spouse and children. Planning before you file often reduces stress. Additionally, planning often has the added benefit of reducing conflict. In this article, we will consider four key steps in planning to file for divorce.
- Step 1: Planning for Changes in Your Every Day Life
- Step 2: Finding the right Attorney to Represent You
- Step 3: Timing When you File to Reduce Conflict
- Step 4: Telling the Kids and Others About the Divorce
Step 1: Planning for Changes in Your Every Day Life
A big part of getting ready to file for divorce is planning for the inevitable changes to your daily life. Unfortunately, many people fail to adequately plan for these changes. In our experience, failing to consider the big and small changes that are the natural consequence of divorce increases stress.
For the majority of our clients, divorce has been on the horizon for a while. Since divorce isn’t a knee-jerk-reaction, there is time to develop your exit strategy. It can be overwhelming to consider all these changes at once. Below is a list of divorce related changes daily life that we believe everyone needs to plan for.
Making Ends Meet:
Perhaps the most important aspect to consider in planning for divorce is whether you will be able to provide for your basic living expenses. You will likely find that you fall into one of three scenarios:
- Scenario 1: You and your spouse both earn a good living. If you are lucky enough to fall into this category, you can probably turn your attention to other considerations.
- Scenario 2: One spouse earns all or most of the income and the other spouse has little or no income. If you are the one earning income, prepare for the possibility of paying temporary spousal maintenance. If you are the one without enough income, you must pay close attention to your budget. Your plan must include short-term and long-term solutions to your budget shortfalls. Temporary spousal support is not always awarded. Therefore, you will need a backup plan in case temporary spousal support is not awarded.
- Scenario 3: Neither party earns enough to support themselves without the other’s income. If you find yourself in this situation, developing a plan to deal with your budget shortfalls is a top priority. Look for creative solutions to your cash follow problems.
The Marital Residence:
Once you file for divorce, it is time to decide who, if anyone, will stay in the martial residence. Texas law prohibits either party from evicting the other spouse from the marital residence. This is true even if the home was one spouse’s property before the marriage. However, there are exceptions to this general rule that may apply. Your plan should consider whether you want to stay in the home. If you want to stay in the home, the next question is whether you can afford the mortgage. If you decide a move is necessary, your plan should consider when and where you will move.
Due to the cost involved in moving out, couples will sometimes choose to continue cohabiting. However, for the overwhelming majority of divorcing couples, this is a bad idea. Often, tensions between cohabiting couples increase as the divorce continues
Other Changes to Your Daily Life:
There are countless other changes you will encounter during your divorce. It is impossible to list them all here. Look for aspects of your daily living that were historically handled for you by your spouse. These are areas you will need to plan to handle for yourself. Examples might include car maintenance or grocery shopping.
Step 2: Finding the Right Attorney to Represent You
It is important to realize that not all attorneys are created equally. It’s also important to realize that an attorney can be great for one case and a terrible fit for another. Hiring the wrong attorney to represent your interests can be devastating to your case. While finding the right attorney may seem like random luck, we believe considering these factors can increase your odds.
Factors that you Can Control:
It is very likely that you will turn to online resources in your search for information about potential attorneys. Take this opportunity to look at the attorney’s website. Does the attorney focus on one area of law or practice in several areas? A single area of practice can indicate a deeper level of understanding in the practice area. Conversely, multiple practice areas may indicate that the attorney has a more generalize understanding of each practice area. We believe that family law is a complex area of practice which requires a singular focus.
Factors Outside Your Control:
Most of these factors fall into the gut feeling category. However, that doesn’t mean that these factors are less important. Among the most important feelings you may experience is whether you feel comfortable with the attorney and the office staff. Of course, it is possible to achieve a good result with an attorney you don’t like. But, the entire experience will be more enjoyable and less stressful if you have a good working relationship with your attorney.
Step 3: Timing When You File to Reduce Conflict
For some divorcing couples, the timing of filing isn’t a significant factor. For other couples, timing can work to increase or decrease conflict. The largest factor in determining whether timing is important is whether your spouse is expecting the divorce.
If Your Spouse Knows the Divorce is Coming:
When your spouse knows the divorce is coming, timing when to file the petition is not a consideration. This is especially true if you are both in agreement about getting divorced. In fact, you can avoid having them served with divorce papers if they will sign a waiver of service.
If Your Spouse Is Not Aware that a Divorce is Coming:
If your spouse is unaware of your plans to file for divorce, timing will be more important. You will need to consider how your spouse is likely to react. If you expect a heated reaction, you should plan to serve your spouse when you and the kids are not around.
On the other hand, if you don’t expect a heated reaction, consider sitting down to discuss the divorce with your spouse. If you are hoping to reduce conflict, having your spouse served with no warning will likely have the opposite effect.
Step 4: Telling the Kids and Others About the Divorce
Breaking the news of the divorce to your children can be difficult. Having a plan for how and when you will tell them is important. Consider including your spouse in this planning if you are still on good speaking terms. Ideally, you and your spouse will have already agreed to a temporary visitation schedule before you tell the children. Having an idea of what their lives will look like during and after the divorce is critical. They will likely ask questions about where they will live and with whom they will live. They will also have concerns about whether they will be required to move schools and leave friends. It’s better to have an idea of the answers you will give beforehand, rather than answering on the fly.
Telling family and friends about the impending divorce can also be difficult. You are likely to receive a wide range of reactions to the news. Additionally, if your spouse is angry or hurt about the divorce, plan how you will deal with mudslinging you may encounter.
Conclusion on Planning to File for Divorce
There are many things to consider before filing for divorce. However, there is no requirement that you must plan for every aspect of the divorce before you file. Any planning you do before filing will likely help reduce your stress during the divorce. Nonetheless, it is impossible to plan for every scenario. Therefore, remaining flexible and adaptive to change during the divorce is critical.