The most important thing you can do to minimize the potential conflict involved with ending a marriage is to plan for your divorce. You will have a much great chance of being able to utilize tools such as divorce mediation if you have researched and developed a game plan. Ending a marriage is a huge, complicated ordeal. It deserves a thoughtful, calculated approach. Here are some things you should consider doing in your planning process.
1) Research & Talk to Attorneys
You should become aware of what to expect when going through a divorce, and how much it is going to cost. Even if you hope to use divorce mediation and avoid a contested divorce, you should be aware of what is involved in a divorce proceeding. It is prudent to know your worst-case options, but aim for the best-case scenario. Divorce mediation is a voluntary process. Thus, if both parties do not agree to try it, or decide at any point not continue with it, then you would have to go through a court divorce proceeding to end your marriage. The good news is that most divorce attorneys do not charge for an initial consultation. You should interview more than one divorce attorney. This is a great way to get an overview of what to expect, as well as get a feel for different attorneys. Come prepared with questions. In a best-case scenario, your spouse will be open to divorce mediation. In a worst-case scenario, your spouse fights the divorce the entire way. You should especially understand the costs of your worst-case scenario. You do not want to be in the middle of a divorce battle and run out of money to pay your attorney, or the other expenses involved in preparing for contested hearings regarding property and children issues.
2) Research Housing Alternatives
At some point you and your spouse will need to separate. Being in separate spaces as you work through your ending your marriage is a good idea for a number of reasons. As a general matter, it is very difficult for spouses to negotiate the terms of their divorce when they are residing in the same space. Let’s face it, for most spouses this is going to be a very emotional time. You both need your space to think and deal apart from one another. However, you should consult a divorce attorney for advice regarding possible legal ramifications (especially if children are involved) of moving out of the marital home in your particular situation. Another good reason to separate is to reduce the conflict in your household. This is especially important if children are involved. I assure you your children will suffer and feel in the middle if you and your spouse engage in spitting matches in the home.
To this end, you need to carefully consider your options and have a plan, and backup plans regarding your housing. If you do not want to stay in the house, or are unable to (because the conflict is too much or because a temporary court order removes you), where are the possible places you could reside (with and without your children)? How much do the places cost? When are you able to move in? If you want to your children to be residing with you at least part-time, then you must have adequate space for them. This may be an involved process in you live in an area such as the San Francisco Bay area where housing is expensive and limited. This is all part of your alternative planning.
3) Access and Copy Documents
While you are residing in the same home as your spouse, you have easier access to the types of documents that you will need for ending your marriage –whether it is through divorce mediation or a litigated divorce procedure in San Francisco. You want to be able to access, and at least make copies of all the various documents that you will need. These include documents and statements regarding credit cards, mortgages, automobile loans, investments, bank accounts, etc. (See my previous posts for a more through discussion of the types of documents you will need).
For any questions regarding divorce mediation, please contact Lisa Nelson at San Francisco Area Mediation (SFAM) at (650) 556-8880 for a free initial consultation. SFAM provides divorce mediation services for clients in the Bay Area. Offices are conveniently located in San Mateo and San Francisco counties.