Many people think of the outcome of divorce as a win or lose proposition. The reality is that whether you settle out of court or go in front of a judge, everything is divided, although not always in the way that either side wanted. While no one gets 100 percent of what they want in a divorce, with reasonable expectations, you may be able to get most of what you want and nearly all of what you need.
- identify wants and needs
- know your rights and obligations
- gather important documents and information
- plan and budget for your post-separation and post divorce life
- communicate in writing
- get too focused on small things
- give in just to get everything over with
- make emotional or revenge-seeking decisions
- give in to guilt trips
- give in to threats or intimidation
Make two lists. The first should detail all the things you want. The second should be shorter and include what you can live with. The key is to focus on the things that are most important to you. It is also important to remember that no one gets everything they want in a settlement, and it doesn’t happen often at trial either, so be prepared to compromise.
It is important to understand what you are entitled to receive and what a judge can or cannot do. Once you understand the process and know what is marital and what is not, it is easier to decide what you need and what you want.
You need to have information about your assets and liabilities, household income and expenses. It is important to have information about your bank accounts, titles to property, cars and vehicles and that you know what your monthly expenses are going to be. Gathering this information will help you to make decisions and will also help your lawyer evaluate your case.
Once you figure out what your current expenses are, you will need to figure out what they will be after the divorce. Expect that things will change. You will either be moving to a new place or paying all of the bills for the home in which you and your spouse once lived. New expenses may also pop up, such as health insurance and child care. Start finding out the cost of these expenses so you can figure out your budget.
Some people find it difficult to stand their ground in face-to-face interactions. It may be easier to state what you want in writing and ask your spouse to respond in the same way so that you do not feel pressured to give up something that is important to you.
Sometimes, someone going through a divorce gets so focused on one particular item that he/she is willing to give up everything else. This is often a bad idea. Make sure the entire picture is fair and reasonable and that it’s something you can live with.
It may be tempting to take a settlement offered by your spouse simply to avoid the discomfort of having to discuss the divorce, or to avoid the pressure and stress of the situation. Remember that you will have to live with your settlement and your parenting agreement. Avoid the desire to settle just to be done if doing so will shortchange you in the long run.
It may be tempting to want to use the divorce process to punish your spouse, but this will not benefit you in the long run. Many states are no fault states, which means that a judge will not make decisions based on who did the other person wrong. Keeping the divorce process going or insisting on your day in court simply because you are hurt or angry will do nothing but cost you money in attorney’s fees.
Your spouse, and maybe other family members and friends, may try to make you feel guilty about asking for certain things in the divorce. Don’t engage in these conversations if you can avoid them. If that is impossible, remain polite but firm and refuse to give into the guilt of others.
Keeping things in writing is a good way to avoid intimidation tactics. Your spouse may also threaten to take you to court or threaten that he/she will “win” in court. If you’ve followed these steps and you understand your legal rights and obligations, you will know that in some instances you are dealing with empty threats.
Many people find it difficult to be assertive, especially in a divorce situation. It is important that you take the right steps so that you do not give in to fear or intimidation and that you get what you want and need from your divorce.