The gauzy pictures of a beautiful bride and her dashing groom fray around the edges. The colors fade into a sepia tone. A day that was filled with promise and hope gave way to the pain of small wounds thoughtlessly inflicted. Most marriages don’t end as the result of THE BIG SIN, regardless of what the novelists tell us. They end under a mountain of small sins, each seemingly inconsequential at the time. When do these marriages end? A disproportionate number collapse in January. In fact, Jan. 2 is the most divorce-filed day of the year. We hope, this isn’t the case, but Gildshire knows that, statistically, there are readers for whom this is the case. That’s why we wanted to offer some thoughts on the topic. Impending divorce can paralyze the most-capable individuals. Unfortunately, inaction is the worst kind of action. So, what actions should a person take?
1. Make Sure the Path to Save the Marriage Was Traveled: Did you leave any stone unturned? The first year will be hard enough, without the nagging pain of “Maybe, if I…” Did you seek couples counseling? There are free services through the community. Many local clergy members will help out, even if you are unaffiliated with their church. Try hard, before you stop trying!
2. Are You the Leaver or The Left? This is an important one. If you are the leaver, have a bag packed and a place to stay if either one of you feels that you need to spend some time alone. If you are in an abusive situation, please seek professional help to advise you. Should you be the left, remain calm. “I’m leaving” isn’t necessarily the end. In fact, more than 50% of the time it isn’t. How you react, though, can make it the end. Hold your temper and your tongue. Listen.
3. Cry, and Then It’s Business: Too many people choose one of two routes. They play the victim. “I don’t want anything.” Or, they play the vindictive Hand of Vengeance. “I’m going to get it all!” Sit down alone, and make the choice to play fairly with yourself and your soon-to-be-ex. Hiding your assets is one way to come out ahead in a divorce. It’s also illegal, and, if your attempts to deceive your spouse are discovered you could face stiff penalties and fines. You’ll also lose all credibility in the eyes of those adjudicating the settlement. A better tactic for protecting yourself and your property is to declare all assets upfront.
4. Don’t Try and Do This Alone, Though: “I can’t afford an attorney.” You can’t afford to go it alone! Every attorney in town will give you a free session to evaluate where you should go from here. Research at least three different attorneys. Avvo.com can help. Find one with whom you are comfortable and give yourself into his/her care. Your ex will have an attorney and you’re helpless without one.
5. Step Away from the Bar and the Pipe: It hardly seems fair, does it? The time when you most need a drink or a toke, and we say this. Self-medication is not the answer. You’ll reach a better settlement as a result of staying in control. This is a time for clear eyes and cloudless brains.
6. Be Objective About the House: For sure, there are emotional attachments to the house, but keep a clear thought process. You may discover you are giving up too much in order to stay in a house that is too big for your needs and too expensive to maintain.
7. Get a Post-Office Box: Don’t allow any funny business to take place with the mail. All of your divorce paperwork should go to your P.O. Box.
8. Figure Out the Health Insurance: If it was obtained through an employer, both spouses can stay in it for three years, or so. However, someone is going to have to pay the premiums. These days, this may be the most important financial consideration of all.
9. What about the Kids? This is the biggest question of all, isn’t it? First of all, while they won’t like what is taking place, kids are remarkably resilient. They have friends who are going through the same thing. Most importantly, decide if divorce needs to take place and don’t allow your children to take away your decision. Then, make the transition as easy as possible. Draw up a schedule of visitation. (Make sure it is a generous one. That’s the way to be fair to the kids.) Also, assure them that both parents will still attend performances, games, and events. You may be surprised. Even if only one parent has been attending events, both parents may in the future. Mostly, know that the other parent was someone with whom you chose to have children. Trashing him/her will only make you look petty and like the bad guy.
Best of luck from all of us at Gildshire. While this will not be easy, there is a down the road awaiting you.