I Want A Divorce

You have decided that you want a divorce so the next step is to decide if you want to represent yourself (pro se) or hire an attorney. If you own no property, have no children, and have no retirement funds, you might consider pro se or hiring an attorney to fill out the paperwork for you. You will save money choosing either of these options but it also means you are responsible for complying with court rules and deadlines. Most people do not feel comfortable accepting this level of responsibility for a significant life action. If you have very little money, you can see if you qualify for free or low-cost legal representation – check with the Bar association in your county or city.

When you do decide on legal representation, there is fact finding to be done before you submit your divorce complaint to the court. Depending on the law in your state, there may be a waiting period that requires that you must live separately (completely apart from each other and no spousal sex) before you can file. This waiting period will give you an opportunity to gather information but don’t wait until you visit the attorney to gather your financial information (debts, credit cards, car and house loans, title to property, stock and bank statements, and workplace benefits plan info., etc.).

Divorce is an emotional roller coaster so begin to gather the information for your case while you’re still getting buckled into the roller coaster

Custody

Some day there will be a better word for “parenting after divorce” than custody. Custody makes me think of property. Children are not property but many parents fight over them as if the kids are property. Really the kids are pawns in a vicious chess match between the parents. How does it help to say to your child,”Your Dad’s a jerk,” or “Your mother is crazy and that’s why we’re not together.”  Checkmate!! You may think you’re the winner ( you’re so proud of your zingers) but your child is the loser in your game.

You’re not together because some time ago you fell out of love or lust with your partner(abuse  is a different situation not addressed in this article), however, that love relationship produced your love child or children. There was a time when that child was your most precious gift and now you treat that child like a spoiled sponge only there to soak up parental taunts.

There is Joint Legal Custody, Physical Custody, and Joint Physical Custody. With Joint Legal Custody, each parent has an equal voice in making the long range plans and decisions about the child and neither parent’s rights are superior to the other parent. The day-to-day decisions are decided when the child is in the physical custody of a parent.  That being said, parents should agree on bedtimes and other common factors so that the child has a common expectation between homes.  These types of “environmental”decisions can be spelled out in a parenting agreement.

Physical Custody is when the child lives with one parent and the other parent as “child access” or what we used to call visitation. This type of physical custody is still the gold standard.

Then there is Joint Physical Custody which is divided custody. With Joint Physical Custody, the parents share the child by the day, week, month, or a combination of these opportunities. If this arrangement sounds like tug-of-war, that is exactly what it is.  For this type of custody to possibly work, the child should be in high school and the parents must reside in the same school district. Also, the parents must be able to talk to each other in civil tones. Joint physical custody is not good for young children who must have consistent emotional support in order to thrive.

The Court awards custody predicated upon  the “child’s best interest” standard, not the parent’s best interest or what the parent wants. You’ve been fighting over the china wedding present from Great Aunt Mildred but your child is far more precious that the china(which you always hated!!) and there should be no fighting here. It’s time to set your ego aside and do what’s best for your child.