Legalese with Daniele Johnson…Can we talk about how to “Win” a Divorce
Deciding to end a marriage is a life-changing event for everyone involved. It affects not only the parties and the children, but divorce forever changes the dynamics of friendships and family relations developed during the course of the marriage.
Once you have made the decision that the marriage is broken beyond repair and you have identified the anticipated issues that may arise in your divorce action, there are a few things that should happen fairly early in the process:
1. If there are going to be custody and parenting time issues, start keeping a dairy of the daily activities, noting which parent typically takes lead on such things as taking the children to and from school, meal preparations, homework, and anything else necessary to actually raise a child.
2. If you feel your spouse should not have unsupervised or overnight parenting time due to behavior that puts the child’s safety at issue, such as drug or alcohol abuse, be prepared to present evidence of such abuse to the judge. Photos of empty alcohol containers, drug paraphernalia, or recordings of your spouse under the influence of drugs or alcohol, for example, would be helpful.
3. If there is physical, emotional, verbal, financial, or any other form of domestic violence occurring in your marriage, prepare a diary of what has happened in recent past, what is ongoing through the time you actually file, and what happens while the divorce is pending.
4. If spousal support or alimony will be an issue, start gathering information to prove what amount of temporary and permanent financial support you actually need. Gather mortgage statements, leasing agreements, car note statements, utility bills, and any other monthly expenses. Then start gathering proof of your spouses’ ability to pay these martial expenses, such as paystubs, tax returns, W2s, credit card statements, and bank statements. Try to go back at least two years.
5. The court can consider the cause of the breakdown of your marriage when making a debt and property division. If you name grounds for the divorce, such as adultery, begin gathering your evidence. For example, you can prove adulterous behavior by circumstantial evidence such as phone records, Facebook postings, or inexplicable hotel charges on credit card or bank statements.
Contrary to widely held belief, “winning” is not defined as squeezing as much as possible from your spouse without compromise and punishing your spouse for any wrongdoing you think he or she has done. Such approach is driven by emotion, not reason. An emotionally driven divorce will accomplish nothing but disappointment, unnecessary delay, and an exorbitant amount of attorney’s fees.
Instead, you should treat your divorce like a business transaction. Just like anything business, the first thing to do is to identify your goals. Secondly, strategize and collaborate very closely with your legal team towards achieving those goals. Thirdly, remain focused on the task at hand without distraction until your identified goals are reached. In short, “Winning” a divorce means that you reach your identified goals as painlessly, economically, and expeditiously as possible.
Daniele Johnson is a Family Law Attorney and resides in West Cobb with her family.
Daniele is also a Candidate for Cobb County Superior Court.