If you are considering filing for divorce in the near future, you aren’t alone. The month of January has long been marked down in the calendars of family law attorneys as “Divorce Month,” with many firms seeing an increase in the number of consultations upwards of 30 percent beginning the Monday after New Year’s.
This trend will likely continue into the spring, with many filing early in an attempt to finalize the divorce before the end of the year.
While the factors contributing to this increase vary, the fact remains that many couples will begin this year with a resolution to end their marriage.
No matter the reason, there are many things that anyone looking into divorce for the first time needs to know that will help them get through the process smoothly while protecting their rights.
Do not move out of the marital home
This is essentially the mantra of Men’s Divorce, as readers will find this phrase plastered across the site. However, that is for good reason and bears repeating once again for anyone considering a New Year’s divorce:
If you wish to keep yourself in a good position to obtain a fair custody arrangement and also want to mitigate potential financial burdens, do not pack up and move out of the marital home. This is one of the top mistakes that men continue to make, and it can start y0u off at a disadvantage out of the gate.
One of the most influential factors with the court when it comes to determining custody is the role each parent plays in the day-to-day care of children. If you move out of the home and your children stay with your wife, then the court will see that for the months leading up to your hearing that your wife has been the primary caregiver. Once that status quo has been established, it can be hard to convince a judge it should change moving forward.
You can also be hampered with additional expenses while the divorce is proceeding, such as temporary child support or alimony, still having to pay the bills on a home or vehicle you are not using, etc.
Research divorce laws for your specific state
There are very few, if any at all, states that have identical laws regarding the various aspects of divorce. You will want to do plenty of research over areas that you know may come up if you and your spouse decide to split specific to your local jurisdiction.
Have lots of real estate or a large pension? Figure out how your state divides property. Have a couple kids? Every state will be different with how they handle custody and child support. Do you or your wife not work? Brush up on your state’s alimony laws.
You must also be aware that everything you read online will not necessarily be up-to-date or even accurate to begin with. Don’t take DivorcedGuy558’s answer on a forum thread from six years ago as gospel, but if you can verify something across several seemingly credible sources, it may be worth noting for when you…
Set up a consultation with an attorney (or four)
Even if you aren’t certain you will need to retain an attorney or that you will even end up filing for divorce at all, it is a really good idea to meet with an expert familiar with your state’s divorce laws. Many attorneys and firms offer free consultations, though even when there is a charge, it is well worth the fee to get accurate information you can trust.
During a consultation, a lawyer can explain many of the complexities of family law in a way that is much easier to understand, as well as give an overview of how the divorce process works and advice on how to best proceed based on your unique circumstances.
If you feel retaining an attorney is in your best interests, it is also a good idea to meet with several to determine who the best fit is and who you are most comfortable with moving forward.
Familiarize yourself with alternative dispute resolution methods
Litigation is something you should strive to avoid at all costs. A divorce becomes far more time-consuming, contentious and expensive if you are unable to come to an agreement outside of court.
Negotiating your own settlement is almost always preferable, and the majority of divorce cases tend to end up settling without needing a judge to decide the case for them. There are many options out there to help you work out a fair deal, including mediation, collaborative divorce and arbitration.
Look into the various courtroom alternatives at your disposal, as many of them can help you come to an amicable solution that is more often than not far better than letting the court decide your future. You may be surprised how effective these methods can be, even for couples who can barely stand being in the same room as one another.
Divorce is never an easy decision to reach, but when a marriage hits its breaking point, your best option is to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible to protect your rights. If you are one of the many people out there considering starting off the New Year with a divorce filing, spend plenty of time doing your homework — it will help you greatly in the long run.
Mat Camp is a former Lexicon Services Online Editor, who focused on providing a comprehensive look into all aspects of the divorce experience. On MensDivorce.com, he concentrated on issues, such as parenting time, custodial rights, mediation, the division of assets, and so much more.
Mr. Camp used the wealth of experience of Cordell & Cordell attorneys to bring tangible answers to reader questions in Ask a Lawyer articles, as well as offer a step by step process through the divorce experience with Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joseph E. Cordell in Divorce 101: A Guide for Men.
Mr. Camp used thorough research to highlight the challenging reality that those who go through divorce or child custody issues face. He helped foster the continued success of the Men’s Divorce Survival Guide, the Men’s Divorce Podcast, and the Men’s Divorce YouTube series “Attorney Bites.”