This is the second in a series of three posts about transitions one can expect and decisions to consider during divorce.
After you’ve sorted out your priorities and determined what is most important to you and what is least critical, you might find that there is a bit of a waiting period while papers get filed, petitions get reviewed and responded to by your attorney and your ex and his/her attorney. While this is a waiting time where the legal process is concerned (sometimes hearing dates are booked six months or more in advance), it is also a time of setting up how your future without your ex will operate. It is also a critical and foundational time, because during this period you are setting precedents that might come to bear if and when your case goes to trial. I call this Phase 2.
Phase 2 –The Process of Separating
Once papers are filed and served, the process of actually separating begins. There are the terms of the physical separation which need to be negotiated. There is also an emotional separation that must begin. During this phase, partners are defining boundaries, establishing new rules and ways of addressing each other and deciding how children will be exchanged for parenting times determined by the court during this interim. How this looks between couples varies widely from couple to couple.
This is often where much of the battle takes place. Much has to be decided during this phase. Where will each of you live? Who gets the family home, who gets which of the family possessions, and how will the money and assets be divided? These decisions are not to be taken lightly as they will in some fashion determine your lifestyle after the divorce is final.
The next consideration is how to parent the children. Consider these questions:
- What kind of parenting plan will you develop?
- Will you have shared custody or not?
- How will you help the children transition through these changes with a minimum amount of tension?
What the two of you negotiate for a parenting plan will in many ways determine your lifestyle after the decree is signed. This is where being very clear about what you want your future to look like is important. It might not always turn out exactly your way, but the likelihood of you getting more of what you want is greater if you go in with a plan. It is wise to consider how workable the plan really is. Additional questions to consider include:
- Does the parenting plan allow for some reasonable boundaries to be implemented so you have some privacy and distance from your STBX (soon-to-be-ex) while the children are with you? Or…do you prefer something more fluid, with your STBX coming and going on your property as before?
- How about the children? Consider what is in their best interests, not just the meeting of your own needs as parent.
- Does the parenting plan make the most of a bad situation by giving you some time for yourself if you are the custodial parent.
- If you are not the custodial parent does the plan give you ample time to invest in and parent your children?
In every case, it is best if parents can nail this down and agree upon it before it goes to trial. If you leave it up to the judge, it it less certain how things will turn out. A judge is not likely to intervene in a parenting plan if both parents are in agreement. Again, discussing this, and everything else, with your attorney is the wisest decision you’ll make. Your attorney will be familiar with the laws, procedures and judges in your area. (Please do your research and retain an attorney that has an excellent reputation and find someone you can trust to be direct, professional and who will advocate on your behalf.) Tap into that knowledge and expertise as you make plans that will daily impact your future.
Phase 3– Limbo Land: Waiting Around To Make Sure The Dragon Is Really Dead
The next phase is the phase after the trial while awaiting the final decree to be signed, stamped and recorded. I call this waiting around to see if the dragon is really dead. For me, this was a period of about three weeks. My attorney had to formalize the final documents, I had to review them and then they had to be sent back to the judge for signing. Since my trial occurred the Friday after Thanksgiving two years ago, I was waiting on pins and needles to find out if my divorce would be final before the end of the year. In my state, if I’m divorced before December 31st, I can file single on my tax returns. This was important to me, because, I knew my ex hadn’t had his taxes withheld all year and I knew that on my own I would get a return. I also did not want the hassle of having to negotiate yet another issue with this man. I was living in the transitional world of being free, knowing the outcomes, but I didn’t have a signed document yet. I remember the overwhelming feeling of relief I experienced when my attorney’s assistant called to inform me that the document had been signed by the judge on December 21st. My dragon was finally dead.
To be concluded…in the next post.