Reading up today on divorce planning, the reminder was made that the summer is often the time that many people postpone thoughts of divorce. The reasons for this are many. Business during the summer with activities takes the attention away from difficult subjects like divorce. For many parents, it’s just enough making sure that the kids are having a good summer, and that summer trips or vacations are being taken before the kids go back to school.
Even if you are already decided that you wish to file for divorce, there are a number of things that you can do to make the eventual decision easier. None of these steps are disruptive, and the you and the children will enjoy the summer without thoughts of disruption or change. Here are a few themes to focus on during the summer:
1. Understand your financial position. It’s important to have access to financial records during the divorce process. It can be helpful to try to assemble as much of this information as is possible, so that when you meet with our office. we can have a general discussion of financial planning in the divorce process. Take a look at http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/forms/approved/divorce/financial_affidavit.asp in order to review the form that is now universally used in Illinois divorce cases as a guide for the lawyers and judges is assessing the financial condition of the parties.
2. Set some funds aside. Situations can arise in the beginning stages of a divorce where funds are needed. Some divorcing parents secure funds from relatives, so that the attorney may be retained and the costs of a guardian ad litem, for example, can be secured. If one spouse has exclusive control over the checkbook and the account, it can be necessary to plan to have a reserve of funds available (with a relative for example, to hold the funds) in the event there is a short term cash need.
3. Keep a journal for your attorney to utilize. When child custody is at stake, keeping a journal can help memorialize your efforts at managing the parenting functions, and can also not contemporaneously any negative behaviors of your spouse that may affect the best interests of the children. This journal may include emails and text messages, as well as dates noted of pediatrician and dental visits that your spouse did not attend. It’s also important for any parent to to show that they are involved in their children’s lives — that they have been at school events, doctor visits, and birthday parties, and that they know teachers’ names and their children’s curriculum. Illinois now has a philosophy of encouraging more shared parenting, but it can be necessary still for parents to have evidence of their own capacity for parenting, and the others parent’s lack of capacity or fitness (in some cases). A quick note on evidence issues: I always advise my clients to keep this journal for the purpose of the litigation. An ordinary diary can be considered discoverable evidence, but a journal kept for the purpose of attorney-client work product is ordinarily not discoverable in the litigation.
4. Get support, both financial and emotional. When you’re going through a divorce, it helps to have a safe space to process stress and anxieties. A big part of what I do with my clients is to help them manage their worries and their concerns, and to plan out strategies that protect them and serve their and the children’s interests. But, having a trained clinician in your corner can be a real benefit. Good therapists are experienced with helping people manage stress, worry and the changes that divorce can bring to one’s life. See https://www.psychologytoday.com/us to check out the available therapists and clinicians in your area, and then check your insurance plan to see if one or more of these area clinicians takes your insurance.
5. Be strong, and confident. It will be OK. Many divorces are stressful, but properly managed, people that go through the process of divorce really do, with careful management by their attorney, re-engineer their lives for the better. Kids adapt to most divorces far better than parents believe. And, if things are high conflict or complex, the court system and good lawyers know how to manage these issues to lessen the stress and promote good outcomes. That’s the kind of management my office promotes and feel free to contact me for more information about divorce and any of the subjects listed above.