HOW TO SUCCEED AT YOUR DIVORCE RESOLUTION
Happy New Year! By the end of next week I will probably have received at least half a dozen phone calls from prospective new clients eager to see me. It happens every year. In the past I thought it was simply a matter of timing. Unhappy couples wanted to get through the holidays and hence, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve, we divorce attorneys typically are not busy commencing divorce proceedings. Reflecting on my upcoming week, I started to think that perhaps there is something more to this specific timing. Yes, perhaps those unhappy couples were riding out the last few weeks of their miserable existence for the sake of the kids, family, or whomever else they wanted to appease (including themselves), but more likely than not, I have concluded that like all the other “resolutions” that top the list, getting a divorce is one of them.
From the research I have done, resolutions are all about improving quality of life. Among them are losing weight, quitting smoking, drinking, organizing finances, the home, and simply enjoying life more. Statistics tell us that half the population makes resolutions, and half of them fail.
If getting a divorce is your New Year’s resolution, how can you succeed?
First, make sure you are ready. Yes, I know, you have waited patiently all year for this day to come, but even now you may not be ready. A New Year’s resolution does not have to begin on January 1st. Perhaps January 1st is the day you start doing your “prep work.”
Next, do your homework, aka prep work. I cannot tell you the number of people that I see each year who cannot answer the most basic of questions such as what did your spouse earn last year? You are going to have to snoop around. You need to know where your tax return is and have a copy of it. You are going to have to know what bills you have and what bank accounts there are. If you do not know, start checking the return addresses that come to the house on bills or statements that are not in your name. This is getting harder now in the world of the internet where almost all bills and records are electronic, but you may still find documents and information around the house or in the car.
Ask for an attorney referral from a friend, family member or colleague. This is the hardest part. Attorney advertising is rampant on the internet, and everyone is a “super star” on the web. It is hard to figure out who really has the credentials and experience you want. Years in practice is not the best barometer for choosing. It’s quality not quantity that you want. From the minute you place the call you should feel good. How is the person on the phone who made the appointment? Was he or she helpful or did you feel like just another caller? Were you able to get an appointment within ten days? Unless the attorney is on vacation, if he or she is too busy to see you within a week or thereabout, that attorney may be too busy to give you the quality of time you need. Was the attorney prompt for your meeting? Was the attorney focused on you or did his or her assistant interrupt your meeting on one or more occasions? You can have “the top” attorney on your case, but if you don’t feel like you have a relationship with him or her and feel good when you leave that office, then I assure you the feeling will be exactly the same at the end of the case, and you will not be happy.
Get emotional and financial back up. A divorce is not easy and it is not cheap. Unless you are in therapy or find a good support group, you are not going to be able to focus on yourself, your children, your work, or anything else for that matter. While a divorce may feel like it is your whole life, it is not. Your divorce will end at some point, and the time you lost, and people or things you neglected or lost cannot be replaced. Do not let your divorce consume you, especially if this was YOUR resolution. By definition a resolution is a “firm determination.” You must be willing to hold your ground and not let everything else around you- especially yourself- fall apart. As for the finances, most people do not have thousands of dollars stashed away to fund a costly divorce. If you are fortunate enough to have family that can help you, you will need to sit down with them and explain to them what your needs are and how you will repay the debt. If you do not have family to help you, then you will need to start saving. Again, perhaps your resolution begins by saving money. If you cannot save, then you may have to resort to a credit card or loan. Harsh as it may seem, reality is that divorce is costly, even if it is amicable.
Set goals and deadlines. Get yourself a pocket calendar or use your phone to calendar your goals. For example, you may want to get three names of lawyers by January 15th and see at least two of them by January 30th. This is a very simple example, but you get the picture. I am a big believer in writing things down. This includes goals and deadlines- even if they are imaginary when you first write them down.
Stay resolute. If getting a divorce is what you really want, then you must stay focused on getting there and how you want the outcome to be. No, the outcome is not fully within your control but much of it is, as is your mental state as you go through the process. There will be many people, events and issues that may cause you to want to throw in the towel, and if that is what you want to do, then it’s okay as long as that is what you choose as best for you. However, if you are truly ready and fully prepared, then you will be able to meet all those challenges that lie ahead and keep your New Year Resolution.