Amanda Trigg, my friend and fellow Fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, wrote an article that discussed several ways to make divorce easier. Many people may promise to make the divorce process easier, but the truth is that only the parties themselves have the power to significantly make things easier on themselves and their children, shorter in duration, and less expensive. The following tips can aid toward those goals:
1. Parent first; litigate second.
As we have discussed before on this blog, there are two important aspects of child custody: legal custody and physical custody. In general, legal custody refers to decision-making ability, whereas physical custody deals with the child's time with each parent.
The best way to maintain control of the outcome of your custody arrangement is to commit yourself to reaching an agreement instead of leaving that decision up to the Court. Parents generally know what's best for their children, as even the most experienced and well-intentioned Judge will lack the level of detailed knowledge about your child that you have. You have the best understanding of your child's needs, and you are in the best position to craft a better solution than any stranger can, even if you might have to co-parent to get there.
Equally important, you should keep your child's needs at the forefront of your case, even when discussing litigation strategy with your attorney. Identify your convictions about which parenting arrangement will promote your child's best interests, and then ask your attorney to strategize around those needs. Always strive to understand how your litigation strategy works toward what is best for your child.
2. Declare your priorities.
If you don't ask for what you want, you can't expect to get it. Begin with a wide view of the issues that need to be resolved in your case and then outline of your priorities. This will enable you and your attorney to discuss possible resolutions for each of the issues so that you fully understand the best case and the worst case scenarios. It's important to consider the possible “bad outcomes”, even if you'd rather ignore them, as they can help you honestly assess your case to make an informed decision about how to best resolve your case.
3. Say “Yes”.
Avoid the natural tendency to reject any proposal from your spouse simply for the sake of saying “no.” Typically, even though you may disagree, keep in mind that not everything your spouse suggests is unreasonable or unrealistic. Having an attorney who is an experienced, savvy negotiator can make a difference when it comes to the back and forth of negotiations and help you achieve a better outcome.
4. Plan to settle.
Going to court on any issue or the entirety of your divorce is the least desirable alternative for any family. Your attorney should help you assess your settlement options against the likelihood of obtaining a better result in court, and you should be receptive to this candid assessment of your choices. Remember, a good and fair settlement is an achievement, not a surrender.
5. Don't Do it Alone.
Be smart and confident enough to know when you need professional help to make a decision. Consider how you might be assisted by a professional, such as a therapist, a parenting coach, a financial planner, a tax advisor, an appraiser, a career counselor, a business coach. Consulting with a professional about a particular aspect of your life can be much more helpful than sifting through well-intentioned advice from friends and family, whose perspective may be skewed by emotional attachment to you.