Preparing for divorce is difficult. Not only do you have to concern yourself with several different topics in subject matter areas related to your life, but the process of doing so is uncomfortable and unpleasant, to say the least. Preparing for a divorce has to be a little bit like preparing for your funeral. Ultimately the result of your preparation will be something that you never wanted to have to do. However, preparing for your divorce has the opportunity to improve the lives of those around you, especially your children.
I can tell you from experience that the divorce cases that go the best typically involve a person who has acted intentionally and planned. What does it mean to act intentionally and plan for a divorce? It all boils down to what you are willing to do to avoid surprises and set yourself up well with key points in your case. It is impossible to be able to anticipate every twist and turn of a divorce. Still, by thinking through every decision you make, you can avoid many problems along the way.
I realize that this all sounds great, but ultimately, we need to figure out how you can go from being a person who is unprepared to a person who can proceed on a divorce case seemingly thrust upon you at the drop of a hat. Make no mistake; unless you have a developed plan in place to look into the future and decide when your divorce will be filed and how the divorce will proceed as far as service on your spouse, you will not have a great opportunity to prepare for this divorce. Your spouse may be preparing for divorce right now without your knowledge. It should not frighten or intimidate you, but it should cause you to want to take action to be as prepared as possible.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
despite the heartwarming commercials, new segments, and other stories we hear about coming together during this pandemic, I don’t hold such a rosy view. My view is that, although there have been heartwarming stories here and there about people putting aside the difficulties of this pandemic to do what is right, most people have receded into themselves during this pandemic. Some of this has been brought about by the stay-at-home orders, social distancing mandates, and other efforts led by our governments to curb the spread of the virus.
Some of our distancing has been more emotional in psychological. Single people have had fewer opportunities to be around others in a social environment. Children have been forced to stay home. Ann lost a lot of socialization at school. Married people, even though you may live in a house with your spouse, may have been so caught up in the news and doom scrolling on your phone that you have neglected your marriage. In an era where we are told that you can do no wrong if you are self-medicating and looking after yourself primarily, I am here to tell you that your marriage can and will suffer during this pandemic if you have not taken steps to connect with your spouse.
Ask yourself when the last time you and your spouse had a conversation was. I’m willing to bet that many of us thought at the beginning of this pandemic that we would reconnect with our spouses if given more time with them because of the stay-at-home orders. We may have had optimistic plans to have meaningful conversations, spend quality time together, and generally reconnect. Now that we are over one year into this pandemic, I would ask you to consider whether your intentions have met your reality seriously.
For the most part, I feel that we have not used this pandemic to reconnect with our loved ones. Many of us are so paralyzed by fear and generally bummed out by the state of our world that we have receded unto ourselves and, as a result, have mitigated any beneficial effects of being near our family during this time. Rather than reaching across the couch to hug your spouse, you may be more likely to let your fingers do The Walking for you on your phone by spending on Amazon or doom scrolling on social media over negative stories put out every single day about any subject related to the coronavirus.
I’m not trying to pick on anyone, and I’m not saying that I’m not guilty of this myself at times. I am saying that we need to be honest with ourselves and consider our willingness and ability to prevent problems in our marriage before they occur or to repair broken-down aspects of our marriages before they lead to problems that could result in a divorce. The best way to prepare for divorce, in my opinion, is to never need one in the first place.
Simply being physically present with your spouse in the same home will not suffice when it comes to repairing or mending fissures with your spouse. Improvements in marriage do not simply curb osmosis more by good intentions. Rather, it would help if you had meaningful and purposeful conversations with your spouse about the problems in your life. I couldn’t possibly pinpoint the exact problems, if any, in your marriage. There are so many problems that can impact married people these days that to attempt to do so would be a waste of everyone’s time.
Rather, my advice would be to think about your marriage and what problems you see. This may be easy for some of us than others. If you have problems analyzing your relationship or anything, be honest with yourself about issues you have with your approach to marriage. This type of exercise may be nearly impossible. With that said, I would still make an effort to figure out the main problems in your marriage in an attempt to solve them with you and your spouse.
Once you have identified what you believe are the most significant problems, you can sit down with your spouse to have an honest discussion. A good sign that your marriage is in trouble is if your spouse is unwilling to consider this type of conversation. If they do not give you the time of day when it comes to talking about the problems in your relationship, then those problems may be more serious than you’d even considered. At that point, you may need to escalate the response to those problems with a marriage counselor or therapist.
Otherwise, if your spouse is willing to talk through these issues with you, then you should commit yourselves to have a discussion in the piece of your home with no distractions. It is so easy for us to become distracted with day-to-day issues like our work, our home, and even positive distractions like our children; however, while your children may be the center of your lives he that does not mean that they can’t be a distraction from having an honest conversation with one another.
Wait until the kids are in bed, turn off the television, and put away your phones. Commit to having an eye-to-eye conversation about these problems and what you can do to solve them. I would not go into an emotional and sometimes difficult conversation without a plan. When I have to have a difficult conversation with a client, I like to think about what I am going to say ahead of time. If you don’t plan out what you will say in a different conversation, you may say something that you regret or something to soften a blow on a person. To be unclear is to be unkind.
Once you have planned through what you want to talk to your spouse about the plan, be quiet. Having a conversation with a person means engaging in the give and take. It would help if you had enough trust in yourself and your spouse to be able to listen to the things they have to tell you, as well. Once you and your spouse have had an opportunity to hear what the other has to say, you should attempt to take concrete steps towards solving a particular issue that impacts your marriage. That may mean seeking out the advice or perspective of a counselor or therapist. That may mean talking to a priest, pastor, or another religious leader from your particular faith denomination.
Or, it may mean simply being available for your spouse from an emotional perspective. Again, just because you and your spouse eat dinner together each night and sleep in the same bed doesn’t mean a strong emotional connection between the two of you. Simply having emotional availability with your spouse can solve a lot of problems and a marriage. Issues with your kids, money, health and anything else can more readily be put into perspective if you and your spouse are well connected from an emotional perspective. Having a strong emotional tie with your spouse will not solve every problem in your marriage, but it will go a long way towards solving many problems.
What can you do if your divorce is inevitable?
This is all to say that not every marriage can be salvaged with a simple conversation. I want to think that more marriages could be salvaged through simply having a conversation with your spouse, but I have been working with families for too long for me to say that. The fact is that your marriage may be beyond the help of a simple conversation between your cells or even with a therapist or counselor. In those scenarios, you should consider what to do now that divorce appears more likely than not.
The first thing that I would recommend doing is to begin talking to your spouse about the process. Many people would enter into a divorce with little planning and perhaps even not by discussing the process with their spouse at all. I don’t recommend this. Rather, I would recommend that you work things out with your spouse as much as possible before the divorce to avoid a situation where you have to negotiate in litigate through every tiny issue once the divorce begins. The more you can sort out before the divorce begins, the better off you will be in the long run.
Another positive step you can take towards positioning yourself well for a divorce is to get organized for your property. At the very least, you should walk through your home and begin to document the location of any property that you think may be of issue in a divorce. There is a non-zero chance that you could end up having to leave your house at some point in the divorce. The last thing you want to do is delete your home and find out that property was taken or removed while you were gone.
Another step that you can take to be proactive would be to access financial documents on your home computer relevant to your divorce case. I’m thinking about retirement statements, bank account statements, home mortgage information, and anything related to your finances that could be relevant when your community estate is divided. With the Internet and cloud optimization, you may be able to access these sorts of documents from any computer at any time. However, if you have documents stored on the hard drive of your home computer, you should make copies or take precautions to ensure you will have access to the documents in the future.
Next, you should begin speaking with an experienced family law attorney about your case. Ultimately, if you have a substantial amount of assets in play in your divorce or have children, you will want to be represented by an attorney. There is no hard or fast rule when it comes to being represented by counsel in a divorce, but my feelings are well known that there is too much risk not to have a lawyer.
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week. These consultations can be had over the phone, in person, or via video. If you want to know more about the divorce process in Texas, the issues you will face in a divorce, and how to plan regarding your children, then one of these meetings could go a long way towards helping you sort through some of the more important issues in your life.
Part of meeting with an attorney is being able to afford to pay a lawyer. Lawyers will typically charge an upfront fee known as the retainer and then bill you by the hour for services rendered on your case. That means you need to have a somewhat substantial amount of money saved or set aside to pay for your lawyer at the beginning and then have money along the way to pay for the work that needs to be done. The amount of work that will need to be done depends upon the complexity of your case and the circumstances that arise along the way.
Finally, I would take an opportunity to talk with your children about the divorce. Quite a bit depends upon the ages of my children and their ability to consider information about your case. Please take into consideration their ages and have an appropriate conversation with them based on their maturity levels. Younger children don’t need to know the ins and outs of your entire case but would likely benefit from being able to understand some of the macro-level changes that will occur in their day-to-day lives as a result of your divorce.
Older children may be able to appreciate some of the more difficult aspects of the divorce and a preview of what to expect with the case and your post-divorce lives. You probably don’t need to share the nitty-gritty details of your relationship problems with a child of any age. If you feel the need to share your experiences or vent, having a support system like extended family and friends would be preferable instead of sharing that sort of information with your children.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material shared in today’s blog postcontact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn about the world of Texas family law and two find out how your families may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.