Comprehensive & Compassionate Divorce
A thoughtful Divorce Plan for the Family
By Leslie Craig Henderzahs
When wives and husbands decide to divorce, it is emotional, fraught with questions to answer and choices to make. Compounding the stress is the fact that the dissolution of a marriage requires legal action. Entering this formal uncharted territory often leads parties to take an adversarial position — choosing sides and gearing for a fight. For the sake of the entire family, it is key to turn the lawsuit from an contentious family dispute to a more compassionate, problem-solving resolution process so that the family can continue to function even though members are living in separate households.
In 1970, California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the first state legislation in the country establishing no-fault divorce. Many states, including Indiana, followed. In Indiana, a dissolution of marriage can be granted merely because one party asserts “the marriage is irretrievably broken.” No wrongdoing or allegation of wrongdoing on the part of either spouse is required. This means the divorce will eventually happen even though someone in the marriage may not want it.
In a dissolution, so long as the parties are forthcoming with information, there are two overarching questions to answer.
1 How are the parties going to divide their property?
This should be simple because Indiana starts with the presumption that the property divided evenly between the parties is just and reasonable. However, there are factors that a court can consider that can result in one spouse receiving more property than the other.
Those factors include things like how and when property was acquired and by whom, the economic circumstances of each spouse, the conduct of the parties during the marriage, and the earnings or earning ability of each spouse. Nevertheless, the law-provided protection is that an equal division of the marital property between the parties is presumed just and reasonable.
2 How will the parties share their children?
If the couple has children, this is the most important issue to consider in a divorce, comprised of three overarching questions:
Who will make decisions for the children (aka legal custody)?
Where will the children primarily reside (aka physical custody)?
How will the children spend time with both parties (aka the parenting time plan)?
Indiana requires these decisions to be made in a manner that promotes the best interests of the children. Sounds simple, right? The complicating factors and those that can rip most parties from the calm of logical thinking and decision-making are the emotional and psychological ups and downs. If women and men are making life-changing choices without guidance and assurance that they are moving forward in the best direction, they struggle and grow more combative.
The single greatest complicating factor in a divorce is the fear of the unknown.
Divorcing wives and husbands should not be expected to have the psychological or financial knowledge to make decisions about property division or the future of the children on their own. Relying on professionals for information and insight can relieve the inevitable anxiety felt during the divorce process. Thus, when a party is able to assemble a supporting team with experience in areas that must be dealt with during a divorce, the emotional and psychological aspects can be managed and actually provide an opportunity for a spouse to learn and gain independence.
Cooperating and collaborating with a team of professionals, whether you sign a formal contract or not, promotes control over the process. Having professionals to guide you enables both parties to create agreements to be incorporated into the final resolution for the benefit of the family, as opposed to a mandate from the court, which may not benefit the family.
Focus on dissolution resolution.
If you or a friend is preparing for a divorce, consider these five tips we recommend them to our clients:
- Prepare for and expect emotional and psychological reactions and experiences from both you and your spouse. They will happen, so be ready to face them when they arise.
- Focus on being the best you can be rather than focusing on the shortcomings of your partner.
- Accept that the divorce will happen and work with professionals to assist you in the areas of emotional health, best interests of children, and financial decision-making. Use your advisors to assist you in the decision-making process. You are not alone.
- See challenges as opportunities for new experiences, new friends, education and independence. You can grow from this.
- Take an active part in and control of the process by working with the other party to agree on little things like dates to exchange information, dates to arrange meetings and settlement conferences, and sharing achievements of each of the children. Bright lights, however small, can add up during this stressful time in your life.
The decisions made during the divorce process affect families well into the future, so now is not the time to misstep. Instead, it is the time to manage the unknown with professional guidance, be ready for the ups and downs, and do what you know is best.