Divorce is a very difficult life transition. Divorce is known to be one the highest stress events of a person’s life, especially when the divorce was unexpected or involves dramatic changes to the children in the marriage.
My job as a divorce and custody attorney is to help my clients navigate the divorce process as successfully as possible. Divorce is a difficult process, but it should not be a “war.” Wars, as we all know, end with casualties on both sides, cost a lot of money, and leave wounds that do not heal.
What basic advice can I give to help divorcing parties manage the stresses of divorce?
1. Understand that your life is changing, not ending. 99.9 percent of divorcing parents are adapting to life after divorce within a year of the divorce.
2. Keep your attorney informed of job changes, tax problems, relocations, and unplanned new events, such as a girlfriend or boyfriend.
3. Provide the financial documents and responses to discovery as promptly as you can. Upon hiring the firm, please start to gather tax return copies for recent years and complete the “Comprehensive Financial Statement.” If a guardian ad litem or custody evaluator is appointed to your custody case, be sure to contact the GAL or evaluator as soon as possible.
4. Never involve the minor children in the details of the divorce, and don’t send information or support payments to your spouse through the children.
5. Keep an electronic or paper file copy of the pleadings and correspondence sent to you by the firm.
6. Obey all court orders, even if you don’t feel the order is fair. If the Judge orders you to maintain health insurance for your spouse during the divorce, keep them on your plan until the judge allows you to take them off the plan, usually post-judgment. If the judge sets a parenting schedule, don’t change or interfere with parenting times without the consent of the other parent.
7. Obey court orders for this reason, too: In Illinois, if a party fails to obey a court order, and the judge finds that the failure was done without “cause or justification,” the judge will order the disobeying spouse to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees for enforcing the order. Don’t willfully skip a $200 support payment, only to incur $2000.00 in attorney’s fees.
7. Join a divorce support group or find an individual therapist if the stress of the divorce or the stress of life changes becomes overwhelming.
8. Don’t act out in front of the judge while in court. If you don’t like a judge’s ruling, wait until you’re in the hallway outside the presence of the court to vent. Judges have good memories, and will remember people who act out in displeasure at their rulings. In divorce, there is give and take. Judges make rulings based on the law, and the courts make an effort to be fair under the law. Not every ruling will go your way; this is the nature of divorce litigation.
9. Instead of using the process to get revenge on your spouse, use the process the find resolution where possible. Don’t be the divorcing couple that fights over every piece of dishware or tool in the toolbox. If you want to fight over the Ikea lamp, concede the Ikea lamp to your spouse, and take the $250 you would spend on lawyer’s fees for an hour, and go to Ikea and buy yourself a new lamp…and a chair.
10. Even if you’ve had a difficult day at court, go home and breathe deeply, and remember the good that you have in your life. If you have children, treasure them. If you have only yourself, treasure yourself…life will get better after divorce.