This is part I of a two-part series on when and where to divorce. Part II will address how to decide what jurisdiction to file for divorce.
Once the decision to get divorced is made, carrying out the process in a favorable and cost-effective manner should be the next priority. This includes when to initiate the divorce process.
There are five key factors every spouse should consider on the question of “When?” Depending upon your situation, each of these factors may weigh more heavily (or lightly) in favor of moving forward. Life is imperfect, so rarely will all of these factors be in alignment for you.
Generally speaking, if you can align three or more of the below factors in your favor, you can best position yourself for success in the process, both in terms of cost and outcome.
1. Your Safety (and the safety of any children): Safety and health are paramount considerations. If you or your children are in danger of ongoing physical or emotional harm, then waiting is not an option, unless it is brief and to facilitate removing yourself and your family from the unhealthy environment.
2. Your Spouse’s State of Mind: Is your spouse agreeable to a divorce and willing to cooperate in a non-adversarial manner? If not, could your spouse arrive at that place if given additional time to come to terms with what is happening? The answer may be NO to both, but it is worth considering and discussing.
3. Your Children’s Age(s) and State of Mind: How old are your children? Are they aware that their parents are not getting along? Are you seeing changes in their academic, athletic, or behavioral performance since you and your spouse moved into separate bedrooms?
Are you unable to meet your children’s needs due to the impacts of the demise of the marriage on you? Are you really masking your pain and diminished state such that your own children cannot tell?
Most potential clients respond in the negative to the last two questions. Not all of them are correct in their assessment of the situation. This is where leaning on your support network to help you objectively evaluate your situation could come in handy.
4. Status of Employment: Are both you and your spouse gainfully employed? Is your spouse’s business experiencing a sudden downturn in business? Is your spouse struggling with addiction so much so that it is affecting his or her employment? Do you or your spouse need a few years of education before you’ll be in a position to support yourself? Is your spouse contemplating early retirement?
Depending upon whether or not you are the dominant or non-dominant wage-earning spouse, the above considerations will matter more or less to you. Regardless, they represent reasons for or against moving forward with a divorce now, as opposed to in a few months or years.
Some of the above issues can and likely will resolve with the passage of time. Others will require pro-active intervention. If impediments to success can be resolved before the divorce is initiated, there will be less uncertainty concerning outcomes and cost (as less will be in question). This is where consulting with an experienced family law advocate could make all the difference.
5. The Economy: Are real estate and investment portfolio valuations up or down? 401(k) valuations? Does that benefit or hurt you? How is the economy impacting the job market and family cash flows?
Marital property is valued at the time of divorce, before it is equitably divided. If the economy is in an upswing, capitalizing on that could prove fruitful for both sides. The converse is true in a down market, particularly if you’re the spouse of a business owner whose business will be valued at the time of divorce.
For those that are willing to assume risk, a down market could create opportunities to buy low on distressed assets like a home or business. Here, it isn’t the state of the economy alone that should be your concern. It is whether you, the client, are in a position to benefit from state of the economy in the divorce. Again, this is where consulting with an experienced family law advocate could make all the difference.
Stay tuned for part II on where to file for divorce.