Divorce can be difficult, especially when children are involved. It can bring out the best and the worst in people. As a divorce attorney with decades of experience, I can attest to this. I have seen spouses completely blindsided by the actions of the person that they thought they knew best. However, a little preparation can prevent a lot of stress and disappointment.
My hope is that some of these tips will show you how to prepare for divorce so that you do not make some of the same costly mistakes I’ve seen so many divorcing spouses make.
If you have a child or children, take time to figure out a workable time-sharing schedule. Forget about “custody” and “visitation.” Those terms are out. Instead, think in terms of shared decision-making (shared parental responsibility) and time-sharing. There are many schedules to consider. It is not one size fits all. What may work for a friend may not work for you.
In the past, dads (usually) would get to see their children on alternating weekends and maybe have one night per week for dinner. This approach was rooted in the belief that a child needed a “primary home” so as to avoid instability.
Times have changed. The idea of a “primary” home has been softened a bit. The thinking now is that children (usually) will benefit from increased time with the “non-residential parent” (another term that is no longer in use in Florida).
Many judges are awarding equal time-sharing when the facts of a case warrant it. This was almost unthinkable 20 years ago. This doesn’t mean, however, that equal time is best for you. In fact, think about what is best for your children before you think about what is best for you.
If you live far from your spouse, then a schedule that requires that the children be exchanged during the school week may force the children to get up at unrealistic times in order to get to school on time. Think too about the effect on your children of having to go back and forth between homes. Some kids can thrive in this environment. Others cannot.
If your children will find going between homes difficult then a schedule which provides that the children reside primarily in one home during the year can be tweaked to allow the children to equally split the summer and winter breaks from school (many couples elect to have the children spend one week at a time with each parent during these breaks).
Before you decide if this will work for you, think about the implications of having your children stay with you during these long breaks. Will you need a sitter? Will you need to enroll them in camp?
After giving some thought to the time-sharing schedule which you think would best serve your children, turn to the financial aspects of a divorce.
It is vital that you obtain all relevant financial records so that you may present them to your attorney. These will form the basis for completing your Financial Affidavit, arguably the single most important document in your case. To name just a few, you will need to obtain the following:
In addition to providing financial records, you must also safeguard what you have. If divorce seems inevitable, and if you believe that your spouse might pull funds out of the bank (this concern is known as dissipation), then act first. Take out ½ of all available funds. Be sure not to take all the funds or you’ll risk having your spouse file an emergency motion to restore those funds. Please note that this action should only be taken if you fear your spouse will take all the funds in midst of a divorce and you should consult your attorney before taking this action.
If you have traditionally been the one to pay the bulk of the bills. Keep doing it. Try to maintain the status quo.
This might be a good time to check the beneficiaries on your accounts. If you die in the middle of a divorce, then you died married and your spouse may inherit something you may not have intended your spouse to receive in light of your divorce. This is especially important if either you or your spouse have children from another relationship. Advise your attorney and follow the advice.
Your attorney went to law school and has years of experience (I’m going on 26 years myself). The point here is to listen to and follow your attorney’s advice. This may seem obvious, but we occasionally see clients who expect certain results because “That’s what my sister got in her divorce.” The problem is that while cases may be similar, they are not identical. Do share information that may be helpful with your attorney but ultimately, you are paying for advice from an experienced attorney. Does it make sense to follow the advice of a non-attorney who went through something similar?
On the subject of communication, watch carefully what you say to your spouse. Even a statement made in jest can come back to haunt you. If possible, limit your communications to essential non-divorce-related matters and matters concerning the children. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to discuss settlement at mediation.
In a divorce setting, your spouse is your adversary. This doesn’t mean that things need to be nasty. Just be careful what you say.
Be careful what you allow others to say as well. If you have minor children, don’t allow them to refer to your current significant other as “mom” or “dad.” Advise your significant other to correct the children when that occurs. Similarly, don’t allow anyone to say derogatory things about your spouse in the presence of the children. Make a point of standing up for your spouse even if you don’t think it’s deserved. This is the mother or father of your children and it is damaging and hurtful to them to hear their beloved parent being spoken about in this way.
Social media can be a real minefield in a divorce. Resist the urge to post drunk photos of yourself or to post photos of you doing irresponsible things. A judge may not take kindly to a posted photo of you “wasted” when your spouse says that you have a drinking problem.
Scrutinize all of your social media as though your case depended on it. It just might. Better yet, just shut it down. Better to do that than run the risk of having even an innocent photo of you or your friends used against you in Court.
While you’re at it, consider changing your passwords. There is nothing worse than to allow your spouse to know what financial transactions you are making, except maybe letting him or her read the confidential emails between you and your attorney. Email accounts are free. Consider getting one just to communicate with your attorney to ensure that no one else sees it.
Don’t just change email and bank passwords. Change the login to your computer too to prevent any spyware from being installed. Do the same for your cellphone and tablet device. If you have any doubts, have your computer checked out. If you suspect that your spouse may be spying on you, have your car checked out as well. Be suspicious if your spouse “accidentally’ shows up where you are with seemingly no reason.
Keep in mind, you know who you married but you don’t know who you’re divorcing.
Can I Get Divorced Without a Lawyer in Florida?
How Child Custody in Florida Has Changed to Level The Playing Field for Moms and Dads
How to Formalize a Domestic Partnership in Florida?
What is Equitable Distribution in a Divorce? Who Owns What and Who’s Liable for Debt?
How Child Support is Calculated in Florida
Can You Change Child Support Payments in The State of Florida?
What is Alimony?
4 Different Types of Alimony Explained
What Happens When Your Spouse Dies During a Divorce in Florida?