Which strategy should you choose for your divorce and how to avoid conflict even if you have to litigate the dissolution?
By Lilliana Real, Esq. – Family Law Attorney, Mediator and Parenting Coordinator
Once you decide to obtain a divorce, you will be making decisions often up through a trial and/or settlement and possibly even after a divorce if you have children with your spouse. As a part of the divorce process, you will need to determine whether you will be litigating the matter through the court system which could possibly still lead to a settlement but also you could decide to go through Collaborative Law for your dissolution of marriage which does not start out in the court system.
Collaborative Law is a family law process enabling parties who have decided to end their marriage to work with lawyers and, on occasion, other family professionals in order to avoid the uncertain outcome of Court and to achieve an agreement that addresses the specific needs of both parties and their children, if any, without the underlying threat of litigation. The parties initiate the voluntary process by signing a Participation Agreement, binding each other to the process and disqualifying their lawyer’s right to represent either one in any future family related litigation. In South Florida there is a Collaborative Family Law Institute which has many lawyers to choose from for this alternative method of dissolving a marriage, there are two caveats, your spouse must agree to participate in Collaborative law and you both must choose a lawyer who is part of a Collaborative Law institute. For more information you can see the website: www.collaborativefamlaw.com.
If you do not choose the Collaborative Law route which means you have to go through the litigated divorce, you can still make decisions to try to make the litigation less painful and ameliorate the damage to your children (if you have children) and to lessen the long term harm caused by prolonged litigation. You can quickly get your mandatory disclosure ready which are the documents that you (and your spouse) must provide to the court and provide to each other by law along with your financial affidavit. After you and your spouse exchange mandatory disclosure and financial affidavits, you can attempt to go to mediation to attempt to try to settle either partially or completely your case with a neutral party called a mediator who is hired to attempt to facilitate a settlement). To assist you to co-parent with your soon-to-be former spouse, you can attend parenting classes (required by the courts) early on, within the first 30 days after filing your petition for dissolution of marriage throughout and after your divorce. You can also ask your counsel to prepare a parenting plan and send it to opposing counsel to get at least a temporary agreement on parenting time-sharing/visitation as soon as possible especially if holidays or birthdays are upcoming. Additionally, one way to lessen the amount of conflict is to try to get the most temporary agreements in place you can until you can reach a full mediation of your divorce or attend trial.
A parenting coordinator can assist parents going through a divorce by providing parents with an alternative to going to court for every stalemate about the children and who can also assist parents in developing a parenting plan and revising a parenting plan. Mental Health (psychologists, licensed mental health professionals, social workers, and psychiatrists) Professionals can also be invaluable during and after a divorce to assist parents to work through their anger against each other and to assist with co-parenting as well as provide therapy or counseling for children. Some courts have family court appointed professionals who can assist in the area of mental health and co-parenting as well as provide anger management and co-parenting classes in family cases. Further, financial (forensic accountants) professionals can provide assistance especially in cases where there are small businesses involved in the dissolution matter.
Here are some general tips to avoid conflict:
1. If you must cancel or remove your spouse from your automobile insurance or health insurance, give them time to find new coverage and either send them an email or have your attorney contact the other spouse’s attorney and give them time to secure insurance.
2. Never send message with your children for the other spouse.
3. Avoid having your child(ren) meet a new love interest until after the divorce is over and if possible have the child(ren) meet with a therapist before the initial introduction.
4. DO NOT BRING YOUR NEW LOVE INTEREST TO ANY COURT HEARING UNLESS THEY ARE SUBPOENAED BY THE COURT TO TESTIFY IN YOUR CASE.
5. Do not withdraw all funds from your joint account; only remove your share.
6. Avoid messages on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter that talk about your spouse or the divorce and DO NOT POST PICTURES OF YOURSELF AND YOUR NEW LOVE INTEREST on any of those sites.
7. Try not to talk to any of your “shared” friends about the divorce or your new love interest. You will not know which friends you are keeping from the divorce until its over, so trust only your friend from before the marriage.