Even in the best of circumstances, divorce is one of the most stressful events someone can go through. And with the problematic issues of visitation, child custody, debt, division of assets, and various other legal topics, things can get even more difficult.
For those filing for divorce in Lancaster County, some basic measures can make the divorce process far less stressful and traumatic for both partners (and the rest of their family, too).
Get a Separation Agreement Before Divorcing
Although Pennsylvania doesn’t recognize legal separation in the same way that some states (such as California) do, it’s still possible to draw up a legal separation agreement. This is essentially a binding contract that clearly outlines the responsibilities, rights, and duties of each partner. A separation agreement will clarify all sorts of details, such as child custody, division of property, and spousal support.
The advantage of a separation agreement is twofold. First, it provides a sort of “pre-divorce” road map. The divorce process is sometimes straightforward and over quickly, but it is likely that the situation is more complex than either partner realizes. Verbal agreements simply are not sufficient, because people can misremember or misinterpret them.
The second advantage of a separation agreement is that it handles the details of divorce before the divorce is finalized. With a separation agreement in place, partners can move out and do other things, as if they were formally divorced, before the finalization of the process.
Separation agreements can address:
- Who bears responsibility for debts like credit card bills, student loans, and mortgages, and who will pay debts
- Tax information, including who will claim dependency exemptions and who will receive which tax refunds
- Living arrangements, such as who remains in a home owned before separation
- Custody issues, such as how children will divide time between parents
- Child support responsibility and decisions about raising children
Don’t Make the Divorce About Revenge
When marriages end, even if the fault lies heavily on one partner, there has usually been wrongdoing to some degree by both spouses. It is expected–and sometimes even healthy–to feel hurt, upset, or angry. However, taking revenge on a partner doesn’t eliminate issues and may provide short-term gratification at a high cost. Making things hard for the other partner can often provoke retaliation, causing an escalating and drawn-out divorce process. That means more time, energy, and resources.
A protracted and mutually hostile divorce will make an already exhausting and stressful situation even worse. If there are children involved, this makes it more traumatic for them, and it can cause an array of problems. Parents should be wary of common custody mistakes to ensure they do their best to protect their children during this already difficult process.
Be Cautious on Social Media
Social media is neither private nor secure. In Pennsylvania, anything posted can be used as evidence against a spouse in divorce proceedings. People going through a divorce might even consider taking a break from posting during the process. Here are some common social media mistakes:
- Posting photos of expensive items or events while trying to claim financial support. A new car may look great on Facebook, but it looks even better to an ex-spouse’s lawyer when they’re negotiating child support or spousal support.
- Posting anything off-color when trying to gain custody. That post about getting a DUI and how good it feels to be sober may have seemed like an excellent way to vent and encourage others to open up, but it can backfire when lawyers use it to argue about which spouse is fit to be a parent. Things can be taken out of context, and courts are especially sensitive when it comes to child custody.
- Posting about the divorce itself. Again, it can be tempting to vent or call out an ex-spouse on social media, but it will not reflect well during the proceedings.
When going through a marriage breakup, the best use of social media is not to use it–or at least not post–at all.
Aim for Amicability
Divorces are usually pictured as expensive, adversarial affairs in which a couple fights in court over petty possessions and traumatizes their children. But that doesn’t have to be the case. An amicable divorce–where both parties mutually agree the marriage is over and work together to settle things in good faith without the oversight of a judge–is a less stressful way to handle the situation. In fact, aiming for an amicable and uncontested divorce is by far the best way to reduce stress.
Hire a Committed, Experienced Attorney
Whether things are amicable or not, an experienced lawyer can achieve a fair outcome and protect their client’s interests, which immensely helps reduce stress. Seasoned legal counsel can guide people through the process, help to create custody agreements, secure the alimony or child support they deserve, protect assets, manage deadlines, translate the legal jargon, file motions and Protection From Abuse requests, handle documents, and advise on critical decisions.
The Law Office of Going and Plank offers calm and professional support to help relieve the stress of divorce and help families achieve fair settlements. Contact the divorce attorneys at Going and Plank, located in downtown Lancaster, for a free consultation.
What to learn more about preparing for divorce? Check out the articles from Going and Plank: