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The Anatomy of a Divorce,
Part 1: The Divorce Plan

The tumult of divorce does not mean that your world has to spin out of control. You can improve your prospects for a just outcome and reduce your vulnerability to your spouse’s tactics by committing to the discipline of planning your divorce.

John McKindles

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Mesa Arizona Divorce Attorney John McKindlesIf you are seriously contemplating a divorce, you may be about to experience one of the most emotionally and financially tumultuous seasons of your life. However, the tumult of divorce does not mean that your world has to spin out of control; you can significantly improve your prospects for a just outcome and reduce your vulnerability to your spouse’s tactics by committing to the discipline of planning your divorce.

Like most things in life, the outcome of your divorce will be directly related to the effort you put into it. In the absence of a divorce plan and a commitment to it, you are more susceptible, at the most crucial times, to making disastrous concessions just to “get it over with” – concessions that you immediately regret and that have long-term consequences.

In most divorce actions, there are five fundamental issues:

  • asset distribution,

  • debt allocation,

  • child custody (officially termed "decision-making authority") and parenting time,

  • child support, and

  • spousal maintenance.

(Responsibility for the payment of attorney’s fees often lurks as an additional issue, but it is generally not subject to planning by just one party.)

Future articles will dissect each of these areas in more depth. For now, we will focus on planning steps that you can take before a divorce action is filed and that will improve your position as the divorce moves toward the issuance of a decree.

Become Informed about Your Finances

In most marriages, one of the spouses does the lion’s share of finance management. If you are not the financial manager, it is important that you become reasonably familiar with your family's finances – the nature of your assets and liabilities, how accounts are titled, who has signatory control, how money and debts are managed, and how bills are paid – prior to separation or further polarization of the parties.

Be Prepared to Reduce Your Standard of Living

Two households will cost more than one. Something has to give: In all likelihood, you will need to generate more income to sustain your current standard of living, or you will need to rein in your lifestyle.

Start Preparing Your Children

Children can be very resilient to change, especially if they are informed and feel secure. Generally, children are more traumatized by emotional shifts than physical shifts; changing logistical living conditions may even be a relief for children, particularly if the current living arrangements are volatile or unsafe.

Depending upon a child’s maturity level, consider how and when to tell them what is going on – but not necessarily why it is happening. Explaining “why” may unfairly cause a child of any age to self-impose blame for your breakup and to try to correct the problem. Further, by the time divorce is seriously contemplated, children generally have at least a vague grasp on why their parents are splitting up.

Obtain Professional Advice

Counseling professionals, clergy, accountants, attorneys, business consultants and other objective professionals can be excellent resources in helping you put together the puzzle pieces of divorce planning and create a comprehensive plan for your future. Even if you don’t specifically follow their advice, seeking input from a qualified disinterested party can be beneficial as you formulate your plan or tweak some of its finer points.

Remember: If you don’t have a plan for your life, to some degree you are placing your future in the hands of someone who may not have your best interest at heart.

Act

Ultimately, you will choose your direction, whether through action or inaction. The best conceived plans are useless if not implemented. By starting sooner rather than later, you buy time to test your plan and to make course corrections before your divorce takes on a life of its own.