People faced with separation and divorce find it terribly difficult to make sound decisions. We all make mistakes, but people facing marital separation and divorce tend to make the most. Even the most rational and level headed among us often lose all sense of reason when faced with the complex and painful emotions that accompany decisions in a divorce. As a Raleigh Divorce Lawyer for over sixteen years, I have discovered that there are essentially three basic principles, which if followed, will help anyone make better decisions when facing the painful questions involved with separation and divorce.
- THINK FIRST. Sounds simple I know, but it’s not easy. Many good decision makers have learned to trust their own instincts and tend to make quick decisions. The ability to make sound and instinctive decisions quickly can indeed be the signs of a good leader or business person. The problem is that in a divorce, when you are dealing with issues involving your children, your financial future and painful personal emotions, our instincts (and initial reactions) will quite often betray us and lead us to terrible mistakes. This principle stands for the proposition that every real decision in divorce deserves a period of thought and reflection supported by real knowledge and information. Avoid responding to that hateful text or email immediately. Do not reject offers or requests immediately because you are angry. Avoid storming over to an estranged spouse and starting a confrontation when you are upset. Think about what you are going to say and why you are saying it. Never express frustration or pain in any fashion that involves your children (understanding we are all human.) Take some time, get some advice from a trusted source and think about what you are really trying to accomplish with any act.
- GATHER INFORMATION. Information is the decision maker’s greatest ally in any situation. Without reliable and accurate information, decisions become little more than educated guesses. When you are dealing with the future of your family and your finances in a divorce, you must put yourself in a position to make the best decisions possible. Gather your family financial information together. Know what you have, what you owe, what you make, and how much you will need going forward. Meet with and obtain advice from an experienced North Carolina Divorce Lawyer. Consult with more than one divorce attorney if you need to. Do not simply rely on the internet or stories from friends or relatives. Get real information and avoid drama or putting stock in embellished and hazy personal histories from others. Talking to others such as counselors and friends/family for emotional support is a very necessary and helpful thing; however, avoid the temptation to surround yourself with cheer leaders or negative influences who will affect sound decision making.
- THINK PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE. After we have learned to avoid snap decisions in the heat of the moment, and gathered all of the information and legal advice possible, we are ready make some long term decisions. Child Custody, Child Support, Property Division, and Alimony are all things we now have some familiarity and understanding of and we know what applies to our separation and what does not. We are familiar with what we have, what we owe, and what everyone really makes. We know how much we spend, and how much we will likely need in the future. In considering the past, present and future, it is crucial not to base decisions on any one of these considerations alone as well. Thinking about the past may bring only anger, or it may bring on a sense of nostalgic trust. Neither of these feelings are particularly helpful to effective long term decision making, as they affect our rationality. What considering the past helps us with, however, is having some perspective of what problems will likely occur in the future. For example, if a party is bad with money during the marriage, they will likely be bad with money after. If they are poor care givers during the marriage, they will likely be poor care givers after the marriage, and so on. When considering the present, we recognize and understand the immediate problems and consequences of the separation and that there will be a period of adjustment that almost always follows. Because you are going from one economic unit with shared expenses to two separate economic units with extra expenses but likely still have the same amount of income to meet the now two household’s needs, it is very hard to get a true idea of what financial and family life is really going to look like in a year or five years from now. This is why we don’t make decisions based solely upon the immediate situation as transition periods are not very predictive of the longer term future; however, we cannot avoid the now so it must be considered. This leads us to really thinking about our future and where we want to be. Setting real and achievable goals and creating a divorce settlement that reflects those goals is essential. If you want to move, buy a new house, get a new job, go back to school, or just adjust to your new life, you must give serious thought into how that will look and factor that into all decisions.
In our Raleigh Family Law Practice, we counsel our clients to do their best to avoid snap decisions that could have a negative impact on their life or legal situation, to obtain all the information possible, and to consider what has happened, what is happening, and what we want to happen in the future. With these simple steps, we can then identify what has to be done legally to ensure a positive new start towards a happy and fulfilling future.
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