The Dos and Don'ts for Helping Your Divorce Stay Amicable
From Petition to Stipulated Judgment, tips for surviving your divorce without resorting to nuclear war!
DO Get Help Figuring Out What the Law Actually IsToo many couples start fighting over what they think is fair before they even know what the law in their state provides for! For example, Dad might want 50/50 custody of the kids but Mom thinks that she should have more custody just because she's the Mom. In California, Courts disregard gender and look to parents' respective involvement with the children and desire for custodial time. Similarly, in many states, as in California, inherited property is typically the separate property of the spouse who inherited it. There's no point in having a knock down drag out fight over the jewelry Wife inherited as the Courts will invariably award it to her. Bottom line: Read up before you throw down.
DON'T Refuse to Share InformationMost states require spouses to freely give each other information on bank accounts, salary, expenses etc. Sure, you can refuse, but you'll likely end up in court with a very pissed off judge, and you might even face monetary sanctions! The best move is to be upfront, honest and transparent. IF you spouse asks for documents, (unless you have a legal reason to refuse) err on the side of disclosing.
DO Get SpecificCouples who are amicably divorcing often try to avoid the tough conversations: who gets the kids for Christmas? And does that mean all of Christmas break from school? Or just Christmas Day? Who keeps the good china? How will you split the wine collection? In order to avoid fights in the future, you're better off being as specific as possible. When you agree to "split the holidays" do you mean just the major holidays? Or every. Single. Holiday ("Arbor Day trip anyone?") What if parents celebrate different religious holidays? Hammering out the details when you're getting along typically prevents future fights.
DON'T Get Stuck in DenialGoing through a divorce will change your life, and importantly, your finances. Remember that you and your spouse used to share household expenses and tasks and now you're responsible for those things on your own! Don't expect that you will be able to continue living in the same house and spending money the way you used to. It's a hard truth to adjust to, but the sooner you get real with your budget, the sooner you can rebuild your life and move on from your divorce.