Let’s face it. Divorce is ugly, dramatic, heartbreaking and rips at the foundation of the life you’ve built with your spouse. While the specifics of each divorce action may differ, there are a few key components that are consistent in almost every divorce:
- There were pre-existing wounds and conflicts in the marriage that were never resolved.
- This divorce action was at least 2 years in the making.
- The filing of divorce papers signals the end of all the positive effects a functioning marriage could have had for the family.
While most adults heal and get over this temporary crisis in their lives, unfortunately this is not the case for children of divorce. According to Divorce.com:
For children, a divorce can represent a traumatic situation from which there is no escape. The transition from a secure life with two parents to suddenly living with only one parent can lead to depression, confusion, and hopelessness. Even in families where the marriage is obviously in trouble, a divorce is often a shock and surprise for the children. A child’s response to divorce is dependent on the level of development the child has reached as well as the ability of the parent retaining custody to successfully adapt to the new situation.
So, what now? What should be your action plan moving forward? Here are a few suggestions:
Step 1: Get A Legal Evaluation of Your Situation
Since divorce can put a sledgehammer to your finances and your emotions, taking the time to do a proper legal evaluation of the issues you face will help you to take control of the situation and move forward with confidence. Since each state has its own unique way of facilitating the divorce process, you must understand how this process works in Texas.
The Davis Law Firm can guide you through the court process, encourage compromise (when appropriate) and unpack proposed agreements so that both parties come away with a ‘win-win’ outcome. If you’re contesting your divorce, hiring our firm can help unravel complicated issues like visitation and child custody.
Step 2: Start putting money aside
Being pro-active and putting together a post-divorce budget will get you used to the idea of living on a single income. During this phase you’ll want to reduce all unnecessary expenditures and avoid large purchases or splurges. You may also want to open a separate bank account that your spouse doesn’t have access to and have your money direct-deposited into this account. Close your joint bank account(s) and cancel (or remove your spouse from) your joint credit cards.
Step 3: Chronicle Your Marital Lifestyle
You’ll need to have records of your assets, debts and expenses. This includes your income (if you’re employed) and your spouse’s income. You will need ‘hard copies’ of you financial statements such as bank and credit card transactions, tax returns, pay stubs and other receipts. If you store your documents in a safe deposit box, be sure it is in your name and you are the only one with access to it. Meeting with financial professionals such as an accountant or financial planner is also a good idea.
It’s also a good idea to get a new email address and get cell phone service in your name to ensure that your communications remain private. You should also stop direct deposit paychecks from being deposited in your shared (marital) bank account. Stop contributions to retirement accounts. But be sure your mortgage, health insurance and car payments stay current.
Step 4: Prep for your custody battle
If you are a parent, family court will require you to come up with a parenting plan that deals with all issues relating to your children. If you fail to do so, the judge will decide the issues for you.
Be sure to document your children’s daily lives. This includes making notes on who has been responsible for taking them to doctor’s appointments, extra curricular activities, school functions and parent-teacher conferences. (If they attend public school as school administrators to help with compiling this information). You are in essence keeping a diary of all things related to the care and nurture of your children which will help in the case of custody battles.
If domestic violence is not a factor in the divorce, do not move out of your home. The goal is to stay living in the home with your children until the divorce is final. This may help your odds of getting full custody or more parenting time if you and your children stay in the home.
There are several other matters to consider if you want to maintain custody:
- The type of custody arrangement you desire
- A detailed visitation plan for the noncustodial parent
- Who will make major decisions in the life of the children (such as where they go to school and church)
- How much you’ll need in spousal support (based on Texas child support payment guidelines)
- Include special circumstances that the court should consider
These are issues you’ll want to review with your attorney.
Step 5: Consider speaking to a therapist
Since divorce is an traumatic experience for everyone involved, it is a good idea to see a counselor during this time of change. Send your children to a licensed child therapist as well. Include regular exercise in your routine and try to eat healthy. In the case of a contested divorce, these tips will help you shield your mind and heart against the legal attacks from your spouse.
Step 6: Do not rule out non-traditional means of ending your marriage.
If you are open to a solution oriented divorce process that is less combative, you may want to consider a collaborative divorce. In a nutshell, Collaborative Divorce allows both parties to control the outcome of their divorce by helping them resolve their issues without the necessity of a judge or jury. You avoid court hearings and the stress of contentious litigation.
Houston, Texas attorney Shelly Davis-Smith is ready to help you make the best decision regarding your divorce based on your unique circumstances. Contact The Davis Law Firm to schedule your complimentary case evaluation today.
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