“The will to win is worthless if you do not have the will to prepare.” – Thane Yost
“Fortune favors the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur
Planning for a divorce takes as much time as, or more than, planning and organizing a big wedding. Most people meticulously plan and research every aspect of their wedding, from the largest detail to the smallest. Yet too often people dive into the divorce process with nowhere near the amount of planning and organization they put into their wedding, if they plan for it at all. This may leave them feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and like they have no control over the situation. To prevent those feelings, and to maintain control over the process, your number one goal should be to get organized and set your priorities. Tackle it like you would any large project.
“Extricate yourself from the system, don’t try to vindicate yourself within it.” – Peretz Partensky
To be and stay prepared, keep your life as close to normal as reasonably possible. Don’t let the divorce process consume you and overtake your routines. Eat regular meals, get regular sleep and keep doing things that you enjoy. If you are a runner, make sure you keep running. If you love reading, make sure you set aside time to read. Put these things on your calendar if it helps you keep doing them.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
So first, get a big binder or box to store important documents you will need to commence the divorce process and to store the documents that you will generate as your divorce progresses, so that all the information you need will be easily found and accessible to you.
Next, make a to-do list. Writing down what you think needs to be done. This will be the list you discuss with your lawyer. Your lawyer will likely add tasks to your list that you and he will need to work on, explain the divorce process, and (if your lawyer’s a good lawyer) will also help you break down crucial tasks into the steps necessary to get each of those tasks done as quickly and inexpensively as possible, and then organize them by importance. This will help you see the end from the beginning, get your organized and focused, and give you more control over the process. You have a plan. You can add to or subtract from your plan as necessary, as the process unfolds. Stay flexible and be realistic.
As you make your to-do list, your head may swarm (and swim) with questions, which is the second step you take. Write and keep a list of questions you may have about the process. Conduct your own research to answer those questions to the extent you can. Learning everything you can about divorce early in the process will help you take a realistic approach and contribute to the control over, and the real confidence you will have in, your ultimate success. If there are questions cannot answer, take those to your attorney. Keeping track of your questions and conducting your own research will make the most of your discussions with your attorney.
Gather your financial information together. It is vital that you have an accurate picture of your finances for the sake of dividing assets and responsibility for debts, as well as for calculating child support and/or alimony correctly. Use the district court’s official Financial Declaration form (a copy of that form appears as the end of this article) to identify what the court wants to know, then gather and organize that information and supporting documentation together in one place in a binder or file folder. As much as you may not enjoy it, the more you understand your current financial situation the better you and your attorney can explain and argue it.
The more familiar you are with your finances, the better you can manage them during and after divorce. And divorce usually places a huge strain on your income and ability to meet all of your expenses, which will now include attorney’s fees and possibly child support, alimony, and new household expenses if you move out of the marital home. You’d likely be wise to save up to hire and pay for a lawyer. If you need to borrow money from family or a friend to pay for a lawyer, get documentation of the loan. A handshake agreement will likely not be believed by the court. You need proof that it’s a loan you are planning to repay, not a gift. Then keep a copy of the promissory note in the binder with your other financial documents.
Keep a calendar and/or dated journal specifically devoted to your divorce. Write down the dates for meetings with your attorney and make notes of items you discussed. Use it to keep track of court deadlines, mediation and other important events. Use it to keep track of interactions with your spouse—what you’ve discussed and what your interactions are like. If your spouse does not keep agreements or appointments, violates court orders, interferes with your relationship with your children, or engages in other kinds of wrongdoing or misconduct, you will want to record and document it by the “who, what, when, where, and why” details. If you and your spouse establish separate residences during the divorce, the calendar should also be used to keep track of visitation dates and other important interactions with your children. Keeping track of your involvement in your kids’ lives (meetings with their teachers and doctors, attending sports or other special events) may be crucial evidence of the level and quality of your engagement with your children’s lives. It’s important that you and your spouse make sure your children’s physical, social and emotional needs are being met during the difficulties of divorce. Keeping a calendar of these things can give you a clearer picture of how much interaction you are actually having with your children. It serves as a reminder to you, your spouse, your children, and to the court that you are meeting your kids’ needs during this difficult time.
“One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist, is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose. There are a lot of things I don’t worry about, because I have a plan in place if they do.” – Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
Be one who acts, not one who is acted upon. Take time to think, to plan. Do the work, stay consistent, persevere, and you will won’t feel frustrated or overwhelmed by the divorce process. You will be prepared for each step as it comes and you will find yourself feeling confident and in control.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277