Getting divorced is just as big of a decision as getting married. Both require you to decide whether you want to be legally, financially, and emotionally tied to a certain person for the rest of your life. However, while it’s possible to rush into a marriage, California law doesn’t let couples speed through divorces in less than six months.
That’s because hasty decisions during your split can have an even greater impact on your life than marrying the wrong person. It’s worthwhile to heed the state’s warning as you end your marriage – if your emotions guide your decisions, you could face significant legal and financial consequences.
Instead, take the time to prepare yourself to make informed decisions. While it may not be easy, finding some emotional distance can help you view your split more objectively, make better choices while negotiating your settlement, and achieve a better outcome.
The Importance of Making Informed Decisions During Divorce
Breaking up is hard to do, according to decades of music. Most couples get married to stay together forever, so it’s no wonder that divorcing is emotionally harder than the average breakup. The problem is that divorce isn’t just a breakup – it’s also the end of a legal and financial contract.
If you allow your emotions to guide you, it’s easy for your split to turn into a back-and-forth battle over little details in your settlement. Some people try to use the process to “get back” at their spouse for hurting them, while others don’t want their spouse to “win” by getting particular assets or spousal support. Unfortunately, this behavior usually drags out the legal proceedings, costing both parties money, time, and stress, without making an appreciable difference to the final settlement.
That’s why it’s best to keep your emotions out of the legal process as much as possible. Working with a skilled divorce attorney and other professionals as necessary can help you make informed choices instead. By consulting these experts, you’ll have the information to pick your battles according to your priorities. In other words, knowledge is power – the power to shape a better future for yourself.
Preparing Yourself for Divorce
Of course, keeping your feelings out of the decision-making process isn’t as easy as snapping your fingers. It takes mental and emotional preparation and often some outside assistance. Here’s what you can do to prepare yourself to make better choices while negotiating your divorce settlement.
1. Mourn Your Relationship on Your Own Time
Before doing anything else, it’s important to acknowledge how your marriage’s end makes you feel. Pretending your feelings don’t exist won’t make them go away – they’ll just guide your choices without your conscious awareness.
Take the time to mourn your relationship in private. Vent to family and friends, journal, take up a physical hobby, or talk to a counselor. Give yourself an outlet that doesn’t involve your soon-to-be-ex so you can express your feelings without impacting your financial future.
2. Determine What’s at Stake
You need to know what’s involved in your split before you can make any decisions about it. Collect documentation about your marital assets and inventory your collective possessions, income, and other assets. If you have children, think about their futures. These issues are what’s at stake in your split.
3. Understand Your Rights
California is a community property state, which means spouses have the right to 50% of the marital assets in a divorce. You may also have the right to spousal support if you were married for a long time or have a significant income discrepancy. If you have a prenuptial agreement, though, it may alter your property and support rights. You also have the right to retain custody of your children unless it is determined to be against their best interests
4. Identify Your Priorities
Negotiating a divorce settlement requires you to compromise and make concessions. That can be difficult to do if you don’t have clear goals. Take the time to list your biggest priorities for your split, such as keeping the family home or maintaining ownership of your intellectual property. This list can help you focus your negotiations on what matters to you instead of getting caught up in arguments about who keeps your least-favorite table.
5. Imagine Your Worst, Better, and Best-Case Outcomes
Any good negotiator will tell you that you always walk into the room with your worst- and best-case scenarios in mind.
Your worst-case situation is the minimally acceptable outcome for your settlement – the bare minimum you’ll accept to avoid having a judge decide matters for you. Your best-case scenario is your dream settlement, where you get everything you want.
You should also consider a midway point between these outcomes, a realistic settlement that meets most of your goals with a few concessions. Preparing for these outcomes will make it easier to stay on track during negotiations.
6. Practice a Professional Approach
It’s possible to practice keeping a calm and professional attitude before you face your spouse. You know them better than anyone, so you can make educated guesses about what they might do to annoy or hurt you during your divorce. List actions that would get under your skin, then plan how to respond if they occur. When you have a plan for keeping cool if your spouse insults you or does that thing you hate, it will be much easier to ignore their behavior instead of making impulsive decisions.
Get Expert Legal Counsel for Your Divorce
The best thing you can do to keep your divorce on track is to work with an experienced attorney. Your lawyer will counsel you on the best tactics and opportunities to achieve your best-case settlement. Heeding their advice will help you avoid common mistakes and lead to a more efficient resolution. Your first stop for a California family law attorney should be the Law Offices of Diane J.N. Morin Inc. Our Palo Alto divorce attorneys have decades of experience helping clients achieve amicable divorce settlements despite strong emotions. Schedule your consultation to talk about your situation and learn more about how we can help you make better choices during divorce negotiations.