The best thing you can do, early on in your divorce, is begin to plan for the kind of divorce you think you want to have. A lot of the choices you make in the beginning set you up for the way things are going to move forward later, and you’ll want to do some thinking now about where you envision yourself in a year when your separation period is up and you can finally get divorced.
How do you envision things happening for you? Most women tell me they want to keep things amicable, especially if they have small children at home. But then they tell me that they want to pursue some fault-based allegation or other, and that raises red flags.
You’re not happy with your husband, or you wouldn’t be here. And it is very likely that part of the reason that things aren’t working out is because he hasn’t always been a super nice guy. You may find that his behavior falls under one of the headings for fault based divorces that we’ve talked about on our site, in our free book about divorce, or at one of our seminars.
I can understand the appeal. He’s wronged you, and you want your divorce to reflect that wrong. If you see that he falls under one of the fault-based categories, you may not even think about filing a no-fault divorce instead. After all, no fault is what people do when they don’t have fault based grounds to back them up, right?
No, not exactly. These days, most divorces are ultimately filed (and granted) on no fault grounds, and not because none of the people filing for divorce have fault based grounds to use. They file on no fault for a number of reasons. For one thing, fault is hard to prove. To prove it, you have to go to court and offer evidence. For another, that proving fault business is expensive. It takes time and costs money in attorney’s fees. For another, it rarely makes a difference in how the judge would divide the property anyway. (To know for sure whether his fault would affect property division in your unique situation, though, you should meet with an attorney on your own to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your case.) Not to mention, it’s hard to keep your divorce friendly and amicable if you’re hurling allegations about why he was such a horrible husband across the courtroom.
To really make a decision about what’s necessary in your case, you should meet with an attorney early in the process, and come up with your case strategy. It’s critically important to take the time to talk things out and come up with a plan that suits your goals for the future. Think about where you want to end up and how you want to feel when this is all over. Think about exactly what you want out of your divorce, and strategize with your attorney about how to make it happen. In most cases, no fault divorces are settled with something called a separation agreement—a legal contract that divides the assets and liabilities of the marriage between the two of you. If you’re able to cooperate and work together, he’s more likely to work with you as you try to reach a resolution that both of you can feel good about. If, on the other hand, you fight tooth and nail about every single little thing, coming to an agreement on anything will be that much more difficult (even if neither of you really cares).
Remember: this is your divorce, and you should feel free to go about it in a way that feels natural and productive for you. Remember: the ultimate goal is to come to a resolution that allows you to get the best, freshest new start possible. Remember: you have a lot of control over how this all happens, and you should use that control to affect positive change.
I’m not saying that you should just give up the farm to make peace. I am saying, though, that how you behave and the choices you make really do affect the outcome of your case. You’ll get divorced no matter what (assuming, of course, that you both want to), but there can be dramatic differences in how much time and money will go into your case before your final decree is ultimately entered.
Of course, before you make any decisions, you should talk one-on-one with a divorce attorney so that you can come up with an individualized plan for how to proceed. That way, you’ll be able to identify your goals, visualize your ultimate outcome, and then structure your plan for how to make sure that you’re able to make it happen. The game plan isn’t the same for every woman, so you should go into your initial consultation with an open mind. Ask questions, take notes, and make the best decision you can for you and your future.