Category: counseling

Planning for a Divorce

Planning for a Divorce

As we have previously discussed, divorce filings increase dramatically in the months of January and February.  Many people are considering a divorce in the new year now that the holidays are behind them. There are several things you should do to prepare for an impending divorce.  The following will help you plan step-by-step for your divorce.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

You would not believe the number of people who meet with their divorce attorney and have no idea about their financial status.  Take this opportunity to learn about any prenuptial agreements that may exist.  Learn about your household budget.  What are your monthly payments?  Learn what assets you and your spouse have both individually and together.  Research whether there are investment or retirement accounts. Research the value of those assets.  The property valuation administration and Kelly Bluebooks are excellent resources.

GATHER YOUR PROOF

Take this opportunity to put together as much documentation as you can.  Gather bank records, investment/retirement account statements, credit card statements, deeds, titles, and insurance policies.    You can find a more detailed list of things to bring to your first meeting with a divorce attorney here.

Although your attorney can usually get these documents during the litigation, it can be much more costly and time consuming to do so.  If you gather them ahead of time, it may save you significantly on your fees.  Moreover, when your attorney is properly armed with the necessary information, it increases the chances that the case may be able to be settled sooner rather than later.

Documentary evidence is not the only type of evidence you can gather.  If there are children involved, you should immediately begin keeping a parenting journal.  Keep photographs, education records of children, and information on each person’s medical history (including the children).

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

The five stages of grief are a real thing.  You will be going through them at a different rate than your spouse and your children.  Going through a divorce has been equated to the stress of close loved one dying or losing a job.  The grief and stress of the process requires you to pay special attention to your own mental health and wellbeing.  Further, your children may need assistance dealing with issues of the divorce.  Your attorney should be able to make a referral for you to a qualified mental health professional.

You also need to be aware of your physical safety and that of your children.  Kentucky has in place statutes specifically providing for the protection of victims of domestic violence.  Most counties have a twenty-four hour protocol in place so that you can seek that protection at any hour of day or night.

While it is nothing anyone enjoys thinking about, with a little planning you can get a new start without starting over.

Photo courtesy of babi krishna

Preparing to Parent Apart

Preparing to Parent Apart

As stressful as it is for you to move out of the marital home, that stress is often even worse on the children.  Children often are left out of the loop and then these children wake up one morning and are told to pack up their things to move to a new house they have never seen.  To say that they may be troubled by this eventuality is probably an understatement.  Both parents, and especially the leaving parent, need to comfort the children and reassure them while at the same time the parents need to prepare themselves for possible custody litigation ahead.

Help the Children First

There is no single right way to help your children cope with the stress of divorce and relocating.  It will greatly depend on the age and maturity level of the children, their temperament, their coping skills and their relationship with the other parent.  If the transition is particularly difficult, you should consider enrolling the children in counseling.  Your attorney should be able to make a referral for you to a qualified therapist who can assist you.

Keep a Parenting Journal

Document, document, document.  Those are three great words of advice anytime you are thinking that you may wind up in court.  The unfortunate fact is that the legal system is often less concerned about what is the truth over what you can prove.  Custody litigation involves a number of facts that are difficult to prove and often devolves down to a “he said/she said” situation.  Therefore, the sooner you begin to keep a journal documenting important facts and your interactions with the opposing party, the more documentation you will have of the events that take place while your case is pending. You need to make your journal entries as soon after the events as they occur.  In the law, this is called a “present sense impression” and can be used at trial to essentially bolster your testimony.  A calendar and journal will provide details that might otherwise be forgotten and will present an accurate, real-time depiction of how the custody situation has been handled. This can be very useful information in negotiating custody arrangements or, if necessary, making a case before a judge.

Set a Custody Schedule as Soon as Possible

Once a divorce petition is filed in Kentucky, the other party has twenty days to respond and most judges will not schedule any hearings until after the response is filed.  All of this can add up to a month or two of time where the family is in limbo and both sides are afraid to do anything.  The sooner you can reach an amicable (or at least civil) agreement where both parents get to spend some time with the children, usually, the better the children will be able to transition to the new family dynamic.  Many times once an agreement is reached, the parties and/or the judge is hesitant to alter it if the children are adjusting and doing well.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open (if possible)

Some attorneys advise clients during a divorce to not speak with their spouse at all.  This tactic tends to just increase your legal fees and you should probably be somewhat suspicious if that is the advice you are getting.  Unless there is a situation where the other spouse is violent or harassing, it is much better if the parties can sit down and discuss issues calmly and civilly and then bring their agreement to the attorneys to be memorialized.  Remember after the custody case is over, your lawyer will go back to his/her office, but you still have to deal with the other parent at least until the youngest child turns eighteen.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Lobo

I Am So Angry With My Spouse!! How Can I Be Expected to Sit in the Same Room at a Settlement Conference?!?

I Am So Angry With My Spouse!! How Can I Be Expected to Sit in the Same Room at a Settlement Conference?!?

Unless there is domestic violence present in the relationship, most courts at some point will require you to participate in either mediation or a settlement conference.  A settlement conference usually consists of you, your attorney and your spouse and his/her attorney sitting down at a table and trying to settle as many issues as possible by agreement rather than submitting them to a judge.  Obviously, the more you can settle at an informal meeting such as this, the less you will have to pay in attorney fees and other litigation expenses.

If you are still so angry with your spouse that you cannot have a rational conversation with him/her, it might be beneficial to postpone the settlement conference until you can meaningfully participate.  In the interim, you might seek counseling to deal with your feelings and emotions.  You will not be able to rationally assist your attorney in resolving your case if all you are out for is your pound of flesh.

If after a certain amount of time and/or counseling, you still cannot rationally deal with your spouse, you may want to consider shuttle negotiations.  This is similar to shuttle mediation, you simply cut the mediator out of the picture.  I have used this technique effectively in some cases.  Basically, the parties remain in separate rooms and one or both attorneys shuttle back and forth exchanging offers and trying to reach a settlement.  By removing the focus of a party’s anger (i.e. the other party) it often helps get the person focused on actually settling the case and makes it easier to move forward.  If you have more questions on dealing with your spouse during settlement conferences, please contact the Alford Law Office.

Photo courtesy of Matt E

No One In My Family Has Ever Been Divorced and I Feel Ashamed. Will My Children Feel the Same Way?

No One In My Family Has Ever Been Divorced and I Feel Ashamed. Will My Children Feel the Same Way?

Change is tough.  Changing how you view yourself is even tougher, but when you have children it is important.  Despite what you may feel, there is much less social stigma to divorce now than there was even twenty years ago.  The pendulum has swung so far that my children came home from school when they were little and told my wife and I that we were the odd family because we were still married.  Even with that being the case, perception is often our reality and it is not uncommon for people going through a divorce to feel this way, but it is important you protect your children from those feelings.

One of the best ways to overcome any sense of shame is to encourage the children to take pride in their new family unit.  Urge the children to look forward to the future with a sense of possibility for what is to come.  Although you cannot possibly predict the future or how your children will feel, you can mitigate their feelings of guilt by helping them to understand what is happening and reenforcing that they bear no responsibility for the divorce.  Remind them that both parents still love them and will continue to love them (even if the parents no longer love each other, but you do not have to point that out).  Whatever you do, you must refrain from projecting your own feelings onto your children.  They are not your sounding board or counselors and do not need that burden.  Let them react in their own way and experience their own feelings.

This is your opportunity to really step up and be a role model to your children.  They will see you overcome obstacles and tackle new challenges while demonstrating a newfound sense of independence.  As a family you will move forward and overcome this hurdle of life.  You can be a wonderful teacher to them in this time.  If you have more questions about how to deal with these issues, I would encourage you to talk with a therapist or your children’s guidance counselor.  If you have questions about your legal rights, contact the Alford Law Office.

Photo courtesy of Andy Bullock

I Filed For Divorce, But I’m Having Second Thoughts. Should I Dismiss the Case?

I Filed For Divorce, But I’m Having Second Thoughts. Should I Dismiss the Case?

Regardless of whether you are the one who filed for divorce or you are responding to a divorce, it can be extremely difficult to come to emotional terms with the situation.  Filing papers at the courthouse does not immediately cut off the strong feelings you have for your spouse.  If you are the petitioner, you have the option of dismissing the case at any time before a response is filed or before the other spouse is served.  Whether you should proceed with the divorce is a deeply personal decision.  While our feelings are important guides, they can prevent us from looking at the situation objectively.

The first question is whether everything has been done to try to salvage the marriage.  Did you and your spouse try marriage counseling?  Has your spouse addressed his/her addiction issues?  Has your spouse cut ties with the person with whom he/she was having an affair?  Depending on how you answer these types of questions, you may decide it is fruitful to attempt a reconciliation.

You also have to ask yourself why you filed for divorce in the first place.  Were you concerned about the safety of your children?  Were you concerned for your own safety?  Can you envision yourself financially secure if you remain in the marriage?  Has anything been done to remedy the problems the drove you to file?

Filing for divorce is a scary proposition.  The longer you have been married, the scarier it is because it is harder to envision your life without your spouse.  You feel as though you are standing on the edge of precipice with an unseen force pushing you forward while all you can see over the edge is darkness and the unknown.  By asking yourself the questions set out here, you can get a clearer idea about whether to consider reconciliation.  Look into joining a local divorce support group.  Talk with your family, friends, and clergy.  You might also exploretherapy with a trained counselor.  Before you make any decisions, talk with your family law attorney.  If you have more questions, contact the Alford Law Office.
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My Spouse Moved Out Weeks Ago, But I Don’t Want A Divorce. Should I Still See an Attorney?

My Spouse Moved Out Weeks Ago, But I Don’t Want A Divorce. Should I Still See an Attorney?

You have to prepare for at least the possibility that your spouse is not coming back.  This is a tough pill for some people to swallow.  The other spouse who has moved out has probably been planning this move for a while and has already been through the five stages of grief, arrived at acceptance of the situation and is now moving on with his/her plan for a divorce.  You, meanwhile, are left mired in stage one, denial.

While you are paralyzed by fear and doubt, your spouse is securing documents, raiding the bank account, and gathering evidence for his/her case. It is even worse if your spouse has taken the children with her and left for another state.  I see this sort of thing happen quite often.  Kentucky is bordered by seven different states.  Some of those states (like Illinois) have very short residency requirements in order to be able to file for divorce.  A wife can pack up the child and move across the river and file for divorce in Illinois after only ninety days.  You may be able to fight jurisdiction over the child custody issues and probably be successful, you will still wind up spending more in attorney’s fees all because you did not move quickly to protect your rights.

Regardless of whether you actually want a divorce, you should see a skilled family law attorney to learn about your rights.  Keep in mind, a number of attorneys promise free consultations, but do not actually provide any sound legal advice in these “consultations.”  Remember the old maxim, “You get what you pay for.”  Even if you are not prepared to file for a divorce, the attorney can guide you and advise you on actions you can take immediately to safeguard yourself as well as your children both physically and financially.  The attorney can also advise you as to your options on divorce and legal separation or possibly refer you to quality marriage counselors.  Moreover, even if you are not ready for a divorce, you spouse may have already determined it is the only option.  You have to be prepared especially if you have already been served with divorce papers.

The prospect of going through a divorce is never something anyone wants to think about.  Nevertheless, if you are in this situation, you simply cannot sit back and just hope things get better.  You must take steps to protect yourself.  If you have more questions, please contact the Alford Law Office.

Photo courtesy of  Bob B. Brown