Preparing for divorce (Get your ducks in a row.)
As a divorce and custody lawyer I am approached by individuals who need advice on preparing to divorce. People often want to prepare emotionally and get their ducks in a row prior to initiating the emotional trauma experienced by everyone in a divorce.
Never say or write something you do not want to be read in court.
When a relationship ends emotions become frazzled. Hurt, anger, and fear replace love thereby causing people to do and say things they later regret. Never say or write something you do not want to be read to the entire world. You can never un ring a bell just like you can never unsay hurtful words or unsend that mean text. The recipient of your wrath often times sends text screenshots or ugly voice recordings to their friends, exposing your embarrassing lapse in good judgement forever. Not to mention your rants are often time used against you in court. Occasionally a vengeful parent will save all angry texts and recordings to show the children when they get older.
Were you cheated on?
Nothing hurts worse than to be cheated on but it is important to know that no matter how hurt you are, a judge will not prevent your child from seeing the other parent because of it. A judge will not even use your spouse's indiscretions against him or her in dividing the marital property or setting child support. It can and does affect alimony though which I will save for another blog.
Watch your emotions
This ties in to the previous two subheadings. When children are involved remember what's best for them. Do you hate your ex more than you love your child? The overriding concern in a custody determination is not what the parents want, but it is specifically what is best for the child. Will it hurt your child to never see the father he loves and looks up to? Will it distress your child to not be with his mother?
Remember your child has another parent
When you speak ill of the other parent for being a worthless human being who are you hurting? Your child overhears you and blames himself since he knows he is half the other parent. Take the high road for your kids' sake and don't do it. Your child will know sooner or later that you were the better parent for not being critical of your ex in their presence.
Collect copies of your assets and debts
The court will have to equitably divide your marital property and debts. To make things easier for your attorney, collect copies of marital deeds, and make your attorney a list of the property and debts you and your spouse have accumulated during the marriage. This will save you time and money.
Divorce litigation takes time. In Tennessee if you have minor children together, you have a mandatory 90 day wait from the time you file until the divorce can be granted. It's 60 days with no minor children. This is designed to give the parties a chance to reconcile. From the time the other party is served with the divorce pleadings they have 30 days to respond and you have 30 days to respond to their counterclaim. Automatic injunctions are filed preventing you from destroying assets, talking bad about the other party, allowing insurance policies to lapse, and just about anything else and upset person could do. When discovery requests are sent, the other side has 30 days to respond. Motions require 5 days' notice, weekends not included. Because of our low tax burden court dockets in Tennessee are clogged and it can be weeks or sometimes even months before the judge has the first open court date. Divorces sometimes take many months and it is not uncommon for one to take over a year to be finalized. Your lawyer is making every decision based on your needs and wants so be patient and understand the wheels of justice turn slowly.
In a divorce you are splitting the property of two people who under the law became one. That means the odds of you getting everything from the marriage is almost impossible. If you could keep everything you wanted you would be getting married not divorced. Avoid any lawyer who tells you in a contested divorce that you will get everything you want.
Hire a lawyer
In a world of do it yourselfers and online ‘legal' forms remember you are not a lawyer. You didn't learn the rules of evidence, the rules of civil procedure, and the voluminous amount of ever changing case and statutory law. It takes years of intense study and use just to gain a basic knowledge. That does not include learning the art of trial advocacy which is learned through years of trial experience. I could easily go to Walmart and buy a scalpel and Tylenol, and google heart bypass. Then I could attempt the procedure on myself. Would that be wise? Absolutely not!
Never ever go to court without a lawyer. Beware of anyone giving you 'advice' who is not a licensed attorney. All family lawyers have been hired at some time or another to clear up the damage pro se (self-represented people) litigants cause when they try to do it themselves. Sometimes the damage cannot be undone and you must learn to live with the poor mistake you made trying to do it yourself.
Avoid bargain lawyers
There is nothing more expensive than a bargain lawyer. By trying to save money on the front end you stand to risk much more in the long run. Consumers shop for lawyers now like they shop for a big screen TV, groceries, or automobile gasoline. They go for the lowest price possible not realizing all lawyers are not alike. You want a lawyer who has practiced family law for several years and has successfully tried divorces, terminations of parental rights, adoptions, child custody disputes, and child support cases. If you cannot afford an extended legal dispute you may be entitled to temporary spousal support which can be used for your legal defenses and temporary child support.
I am James M. ‘Jim' Judkins and for a decade family law has been a big part of my practice. Located in the heart of Murfreesboro and in Smithville Tennessee I represent clients in family law situations all through Tennessee. I love being a family lawyer. Helping people successfully through the most turbulent times of their lives gives me a great sense of accomplishment.
Copyrighted 2020 James M. Judkins all rights reserved