For parents of minor children who want to know what ALL the options are when thinking about divorce, hear this. A mind works best, like a parachute, when it is open. There are very creative ways to divide property and to share children if both parties keep their eye on the prize – the well being of the children. They didn’t ask for this drama and it is possible to shield them if the two of you work at it. The idea of “working at it” may sound odd to a couple who is about to break up just because their relationship isn’t “working” but if you have children together your job will never end. There will be weddings and grandchildren and holidays for the rest of your life. If you start World War III now, with the kids caught in the middle, they are going to have to do a lot of duck and cover as your verbal bullets whiz over their heads.
Take a step back and focus on the children. No matter what perceived wrongs may or may not have happened to you, this is where you are right now and playing the blame game may make you feel better but it is not productive. A little rational thought instead of playing victim to your own feelings is what is needed most right now. The more you focus on anger, the more anger you will feel. Focus on the children now instead. Who has been the primary caretaker? If you have been a stay at home mom or dad, guess what, you will probably have to go back to work because you won’t collect enough support to keep you living the life to which you have gotten accustomed. So if both of you are working then you really get a chance to look at a shared custody situation. It is hard to raise a child alone. Sometimes you really need a break for your own sake.
5/2 2/5. This is a very popular child sharing plan that gives the children a consistency that is dependable. One parent always takes Monday and Tuesday while the other parent always takes Wednesday and Thursday with weekends going back and forth. This means that you will never be away from the child more than 5 days at a time. Some times the weekend runs into Monday/Tuesday and sometime it runs into Wednesday/Thursday. Having big chunks of time with and without the children lets you plan a personal and work life that a lot of people enjoy.
On the financial side, if you have a bitter, uncooperative, self employed spouse, try collecting support. It is impossible unless they feel like paying you. This is going to be a fight to the end and you probably will never collect what you are owed. The last thing you want is to go to war with a person like this. So now we talk about the most important decision you will make. What kind of divorce do you want? Some people want to go in guns blazing. There are a LOT of attorneys who just love clients like that because they know they can make a lot of money off of you. But if you have a self employed spouse, you NEED them to cooperate. You know what your grandmother used to say about catching more flies with honey. A long, expensive, adversarial divorce will not produce a workable result when the side who owes the support is self employed. They will dig in their heals and do so much creative accounting, you will end up paying them.
We create our lives out of our intention. That may sound counter intuitive. You didn’t intend for your marriage to end, did you? Well intention is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets. If the two of you intend to break up with as much cooperation and generosity as possible BOTH of you will be better off, financially and emotionally. I always say the same thing to people, you can divide the pie two ways or four ways. Which way do you get the most? When you use divorce mediation, you cut out the lawyers. The average fees in California, when both sides have their own lawyers is $20,000 each, but the truth is that the more you have to lose the more your fees will be. California divorce attorneys are the only kinds of lawyers whose fees are protected by the equity in your home. They KNOW they are getting paid. Do you think the case will take longer or resolve itself quickly when you have a lot of assets? Human nature being what it is, certain attorneys will make sure the case does not settle until there is nothing left to fight about. If you want more details, read Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. Nothing has changed since the 1800s.
The overwhelming majority of people know what they have. There are no hidden Swiss bank accounts in most divorce cases yet attorneys will spend thousands of dollars doing discovery, taking depositions and serving subpoenas. Why buy more than you need? Would you do that with a house or car? Why would you do it with a divorce? I am not saying mediation is for everyone but if the two of you are decent people who just want out, no one is trying to hurt the other one and both of you are honest and reliable about money with enough honor to keep your word, then you are the perfect client for mediation.
Divorce is a transition that has its challenges but an experienced mediator will help you in a way that is peaceful and respectful to both of you. Prices for mediation are determined by expertise and where you are located so make several calls, interview several mediators to make sure you are fully informed. In my own practice the whole process, on average, takes between 4-7 hours but there is certain homework that must be done prior to working with me. Ask the mediator what percentage of their cases settle and how many meetings did it take. In California the average cost when both sides have their own attorney is $40,000 so whatever the mediator charges will be a tiny fraction of that. The financial benefits of mediation are obvious but more importantly, you will be comfortable enough with your spouse to co-parent your children. This is the best gift you can give to your children. I ought to know, I was one of those kids caught in the middle. This is why I do what I do. Using mediation instead of litigation brings some sanity back into the divorce process because the adversarial system destroys families. So ask yourself, what kind of divorce do you want? Peaceful divorce is an idea whose time has come.