Broken Trust: Advice About Estate Planning During A Divorce

by Meredith L. Brown, Esq.
Brown & Brown

Many couples prepare Wills and Trusts in connection with a happy life event, such as the birth of a child. Frequently these documents are placed in a safe deposit box, never to be updated or even thought about again.

When the unfortunate life event of divorce happens, couples often opt to defer consideration of their old estate planning. No one wants to think about their mortality on a good day, much less when divorce is on their mind. This decision is understandable, but it is probably unwise and potentially costly.

First, a note of caution: if a Petition to dissolve the marriage has already been filed, the law requires that specific steps be taken before changes are made to Wills and Trusts. Similarly, there is an automatic restraint against making changes to beneficiary designations on any insurance. Couples must be sure to comply with these rules.

Family law does not place restrictions on changes to your Advance Health Care Directive after you have filed for divorce. Most couples designate their spouse as their legal voice when it comes to treatment and end of life decisions. Even in divorce situations where couples are amicable, it may not be appropriate for a soon-to-be ex spouse to make these decisions in the midst of a divorce.

How do you decide whether to change your existing estate plan?

The first (and obvious) step is to read and understand your documents. Most couples prepare documents that leave the estate to the survivor between them. Then, ultimately, the estate goes to their children. But this is not always the case, particularly in second marriages.

If you acquired assets after your Trust was created (for example a new home), determine whether title was taken in the name of your Trust. If you hold assets outside of your Trust, you could have the cost of a probate proceeding.

Even if you haven’t done any estate planning but own real estate or other titled assets with your spouse, be sure to check the deed or other title documents. Certain forms of title such as joint tenancy carry with them an automatic right of survivorship. You should consider whether you wish to change the form of title to one without survivorship rights. But before you make any changes, be sure to comply with the notice requirements mandated by law.

Second, ask yourself:  if you were hit by the proverbial truck before your divorce is final, would you want your spouse to receive your share of the estate? If you have children, do you trust that your former spouse will preserve your share of the estate so that your children ultimately receive everything? Would you feel differently if your former spouse sold the marital residence? What if he or she remarried?

Keep in mind that even if you decide to change your estate planning by preparing new Wills and Trusts, your former spouse may still have control over assets you leave to your children, if they are still under age 18. If you do not wish for this to happen, you will need to designate someone else as the guardian of the estate of your children.

As you may guess, determining how your assets are distributed upon your death can be complicated like many other aspects of your life when you file for divorce.  But this is something you need to address for the well-being of yourself and your children. You don’t have to go it alone.  Investing in the advice of an attorney with expertise in estate planning as well as a skilled financial specialist is an investment well worth making.

If you pursue a Collaborative Divorce, a financial specialist is part of your divorce team.  This can be extremely helpful if you are also working through a complex estate plan. It’s another smart reason to consider the Collaborative Process for your divorce.

Collaborative Divorce Can Help You Capitalize on the Holiday Season Spirit

San Diego family law attorney Colleen Warren

by Colleen A. Warren, Esq.
Certified Legal Specialist – Family Law, LEWIS, WARREN & SETZER, LLP

San Diego family law attorney Colleen WarrenWhat did you do during the holiday season? Most of us enjoyed spending time with family and friends. Many people put their differences aside during the holidays and attempted to live together harmoniously for the sake of the children or their family, or to ensure no one else knows they are unhappy in their marriage.

Many people wonder, “Now that I have made it through the holidays, is it the right time to tell my spouse I want a divorce?” Those same people do not want to disrupt their family life by separating or divorcing.  However, now may be the best time to have this most difficult conversation and capitalize on the feel good spirit enjoyed during the holidays.

If you have children, Summer Break is still six months away, and the next holiday season is a little less than a year away.  If you are worried about how a divorce or separation will impact you financially, you are likely to know, or at least have a better sense of, what you and your spouse earned last year, or how your investments fared over the last 12 months.  Now is the time to resolve your differences, rather than waiting until quick decisions must be made.

Rather than start a divorce or separation with fighting, posturing, or all-out war, Collaborative Divorce can help you and your spouse capitalize on the holiday spirit, resolving issues in a manner where each party feels supported.  You and your spouse will work with a team of expert attorneys, coaches, and financial advisors, to reach agreements that are beneficial to both parties and their family, all without going to court.  Imagine resolving all the issues in your separation without seeing a judge, without exposing the most intimate details of your life in a public court? This type of resolution is promoted and highly successful through the use of Collaborative Divorce.

The professionals in the San Diego Collaborative Family Law Group are here to assist you to resolve the issues between you and your spouse without traditional litigation. See our “Contact Us” page to find someone to answer the questions you may have about whether Collaborative Divorce is right for you.

Collaborative Divorce Offers Alternatives to “Divorce Corp.” Documentary

January 20, 2014
Contact:
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR
619-997-2495 or gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

 

(SAN DIEGO) – The release of the new documentary film “Divorce Corp.” has generated renewed attention and focus on family law court proceedings involving divorce, child custody and child support issues across the United States.  While the film offers a critique of the way that divorce is commonly handled in the United States, it does not discuss a critical and viable alternative for many families: the Collaborative Divorce process.

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego (CFLG San Diego) is a non-profit group of legal, financial, and mental health professionals trained in the Collaborative Process offering  an alternative to litigated divorce.

Julie Mack, CFLS, attorney and President of CFLG San Diego, says the film presents the opportunity for fresh dialogue, which will allow couples, especially those with minor children, to learn more about Collaborative Divorce.  “Long before the film ‘Divorce Corp.,’ many couples, discouraged by the prospect of an expensive, adversarial divorce, started looking for an alternative way to address their family law issues that did not involve confrontation or handing over decision-making regarding their lives to family law courts. For many, the alternative is Collaborative Divorce.

“Thanks to the attention generated by this documentary, we have a new platform available to introduce the many benefits of the Collaborative Divorce process. When people learn that going to court is not inevitable, they eagerly embrace this positive, respectful approach to resolving issues in a way that avoids litigation, including the time and expense, to say nothing of the lasting emotional turmoil,” said Mack.

“The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego is eager to let people know we offer them a range of choices for legal, financial, and mental health services all with the ultimate goal in mind of preserving the health and well-being of the family.  “We urge divorcing couples or parents wrestling with child custody or support issues to give the Collaborative Process a chance. Even if they are skeptics, they have nothing to lose by giving our alternative a try,” said Mack.

CFLG San Diego’s members work together to learn, practice, and promote collaborative processes for problem solving and the peaceful resolution of family law issues, with an eye toward preserving the emotional, as well as the financial, assets of the family. Its goal is to transform the resolution of family law issues through respectful, collaborative processes that protect the integrity and health of family relationships and eliminate the need for families to resort to litigation.

CFLG is online at www.collaborativefamilylawsandiego.com, and LinkedIn.

See the trailer for the documentary “Divorce Corp.” here.

CFLG San Diego in the News: San Diego Daily Transcript: January 3, 2014

The San Diego Daily Transcript published a story about the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego’s outstanding membership growth in 2013 in its January 3, 2014 edition.

You can access the article at this link, or see a screenshot of the online version of the article below.

Interview: Tips For Successful Holiday Co-Parenting

Divorce, Holidays and Children

Divorce, Holidays and ChildrenThe holidays aren’t always happy when you’re a single parent trying to work with your children’s mother or father to accommodate everyone’s schedule, see relatives, and spend special holiday time with the kids.

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego members Shawn Weber, attorney with Brave Weber Mack; and Justin Reckers, director of Pacific Divorce Management, recently appeared on “Real Estate Radio” on AM1700 to talk about the holidays and divorce. The pair offered tips for successful holiday co-parenting in divorced and separated families.

You can listen to the podcast on demand at this link.

 

 

Tips for Handling the Holidays When Your Marriage No Longer Feels Like a “Gift”

Ginita Wall Divorce Financial advice San Diego 858-472-4022

by Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP®, CDFA

Holidays are usually a time for reconnecting, but if you are married — and not so happily — seasonal preparations and celebrations can put a major strain on relationships that are already teetering on the brink. So how do you celebrate the holidays when you don’t think your marriage will make it?  Here are some tips for getting through it all.

Ask for help from friends and family. If it looks like getting divorced will be one of your New Year’s resolutions, but you and your spouse are still together, you may want to confide your situation to a friend or family member. But limit what you share to just one or two people. If you blab to everyone, your spouse could hear of it, your marriage will suffer even more, and your holiday will explode into ruin for everyone – especially if you have children.

Curb holiday spending. Heading into divorce deeply in debt complicates everything, so don’t drown your guilt or sorrow in shopping. This may not be the most picture-perfect memorable holiday season, and that’s okay – right now, you are just trying to get through.

Lighten up your expectations. Holidays are about getting together, but divorce is about breaking up. Get through this pressure-packed time of year by focusing on others.  Maintain a gracious spirit and be grateful for every good thing you have. Consider what’s most important to yourself and your family, and pare celebrations down to just those things.

Don’t let marital storms destroy your joy. Think of your marital problems the same way you would a big storm during the holidays. You might have to change your plans a bit, re-arrange schedules and deal with some unpleasantness. But you can still figure out ways to celebrate without the downpour derailing your holiday. Find and share every little joy you can this holiday season.

Don’t squabble with your spouse. Keeping your emotions in check is key, so resentment doesn’t overcome you during the holidays.  If you act in anger now, you may ruin your chances to get to a peaceful divorce settlement with your spouse in the New Year.  And, fighting in front of the kids is never a good idea. Children learn what they see at home, and they will take to heart things you say in anger.

Take your time. When the holidays draw to a close, don’t rush headlong into divorce. Take as much time to plan your divorce strategy as you devoted to shopping and decorating for the holidays – this preparation will pay off for an entire lifetime, instead of just one season.

Think peace. The more peace you can bring into your life, now and in the coming year, the more centered you will feel, which will affect your entire family. You have many options available to you as you end your marriage: negotiation between you, mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigation. Choose the avenue that will bring the most peaceful resolution for you and your spouse.

 

Nine Holiday Tips For Divorced Moms, Dads, and Kids

Family Christmas Fun Divorces

Family Christmas Fun DivorcesFamily holidays are held up to impossible standards by the media and our memories. Gatherings, gifts, meals and events are all expected to be picture perfect. Who could possibly live up to these standards?

Add the realities of separation and divorce and the holidays become that much more difficult. As families start wrestling with custody and visitation schedules, winter vacations and even gift-giving, the phones start ringing off the hook in family law offices all over the country.

Most attorneys do not put rushing into court to file emergency legal documents at the last minute during the holiday season at the top of their wish list. Courts are busy. It’s never a good time to ask the legal system to do the thinking for you.

Members of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego encourage you to think ahead. Consider these tips provided by attorney member Myra Fleischer so you can enjoy your holiday season with minimum stress for you and your children. Bonus: you’ll avoid the added financial expense of legal bills.

 

Claiming ‘Head of Household’ Status, Dependent Children During Divorce

by Alex Kwoka, Attorney at Law, Law Office of Alexandra M. Kwoka

If you are considering separating or divorcing,  and/or moving from the marital home with a child or children, thinking about how you will file your tax return is important.

First:  When will you separate into two households?

If you move out after June 30 in the tax filing year, you will not be able to claim either “Head of Household” or “Single” tax status, which means your tax rate may be greater than when you were married if you filed jointly.

IRS regulations permit parents who are not yet divorced or separated under a Judgment to file as Head of Household (if they meIRS 1040 Tax Formet certain requirements).

HH status is  a benefit to a parent, because filing as HH generally results in taxation at rates lower than “Married filing separately” or Single.

To file as Head of Household, at least one child must live with the taxpayer. The taxpayer must “maintain the household” by paying for housing, utilities and food.  The household must also be “the principal place of abode” of the child, which means the child must live with the parent for more than half the year according to IRS Regulations.

Because of this, be cautious in describing your custody arrangement if you are thinking of sharing custody of a child or children. If you are planning on being the Head of Household, as a parent  you may need to prove that you maintained a household for a child AND had approximately 51 percent of custody time. If you and your spouse share time equally or 50/50 you may not be able to qualify for HH status.

Even if there is no Court order determining custody, if you and your spouse are NOT living together for the last six months of the year, and you maintain a household for a child or children, you may qualify for HH status AND a child care credit if you file a separate return and meet the other requirements.

California law permits a taxpayer to claim a “joint custody Head of Household credit” if parties have lived separately for an entire year, AND a child lives with a parent no less than 146 days and no more than 219 under a written agreement or a Judgment or order. The law may be different in another state.

Second:  Who will claim your child or children as dependents?

IRS Regulations permit parents who have elected to separate or divorce (and taken steps to separate/divorce by moving to separate households) to not only claim one of several tax status when tax returns are filed, but also to decide who will claim a child or children as a dependent.

Claiming a child as a dependent means you claim a “dependency deduction,” also called a  “dependency exemption.”

The deduction/exemption means that the amount of the dependency exemption is deducted from your income. It reduces gross income in the calculation to arrive at taxable income.

In tax year 2013, the eligible dependency exemption is $3,900 unless a taxpayer is subject to Alternative Minimum Tax; or the deduction is reduced because his/her adjusted gross income exceeds $300,000 on a joint return, $275,000 on a HH return, $250,000 on a single return, or $150,000 on a married filing single return.

This means if you are a taxpayer in the 28% bracket in 2013, a $3,900 exemption is worth $1,092.

To claim a child as a dependent:

  • The child must be under 19 as of 12/31 of the tax year OR be a full-time student under the age of 24.
  • The child must be a dependent – i.e., live with the parent for more than one-half of the tax year.
  • The parent must provide support for the child.

If a child lives with both parents, or one parent is the parent with physical custody  under a decree, order or Judgment but both parents claim the child as a “dependent,” the IRS determines who is the “custodial parent” by looking for proof.  The IRS will determine which parent was the one with whom the child resides for the greater number of nights during the calendar year.

A parent with custody can “release” a dependency exemption for one or more children to the other parent by signing and filing  IRS Form 8332. It permits a custodial parent to release the exemption for one year, for several and/or future years, and to revoke the release. The non-custodial parent can then claim the child as a dependent by attaching the signed form to his or her tax return.  IRS Form 8332 explains the rules for children of divorced or separated parents, and is available online.

The Child Care Credit

If a parent can claim a child as his/her dependent and if the parent has child care costs for this child (who must be under age 13) IRS Regulations also permit the parent to claim a child care credit if he/she is the custodial parent.

But a non-custodial parent  to whom a dependency exemption has been released can NOT claim on her/his federal tax return a child care credit.  The custodial parent alone may claim the child care credit.

The amount of the child care credit depends on the claiming taxpayer’s income.  And, expenses which can be claimed are capped: $3,000 for one child; $6,000 for two or more children.

Because these rules and conforming with them to the satisfaction of the IRS can be complex and involve a significant amount of tax savings, it is wise to consult your tax professional if you have any questions or concerns.

Top Nine Collaborative Divorce Tips for Success

By Shawn Weber, CA State Bar Certified Family Law Specialist
Past President, Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego
Board Member of Collaborative Practice California

My life as a family law attorney changed with my first Collaborative Practice case. I was moved by the idea of leaving the adversarial process that I found so harmful to families and children and engaging in the solutions-oriented, mutual and respectful collaborative model for families transitioning through the divorce process. I had seen too many situations in court where I felt we were doing more harm than good. While litigation is necessary for some, Collaborative Practice is a powerful tool to reduce the serious pain and collateral damage, from which families suffer in court.

In a collaborative divorce, both parties retain specially trained attorneys. Other professionals, including coaches, financial specialists, therapists and child specialists, are called upon to join the team and offer their unique expertise.

An important distinction of collaborative divorce is the agreement that the attorneys and other experts make to resign from the case if it veers toward litigation. This ensures that all who are involved are committed to a nonadversarial resolution of the case.  I love that it frees me, the attorney, from the temptation to posture and spin and moves me into a mode where I am working with the other professionals across varied disciplines to find solutions.

Since my first Collaborative Divorce case, I have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work.  Following are my top nine tips for success in a collaborative divorce.

Teamwork
1. Use a full team model.  It can seem daunting to think of adding multiple professionals to one’s divorce case. A full collaborative divorce team would be a coach for each party, two attorneys, a child specialist and a financial specialist. There is a temptation to think, “I don’t need all of these people.” Sometimes people fear that having a full team is cost prohibitive.

In reality, the different professionals bring efficiency through specialization. In other words, you aren’t paying an attorney at his higher rate to do mental health work that he is less qualified to do. Rather, you pay a mental health professional to provide coaching services with much greater skill. Use a qualified and well-trained accountant or financial planner for financial work. Specialization gives you a better product more efficiently obtained.

The shortcut of only using attorneys may seem cheaper or less complicated in the short-run. But in the long run costly mistakes can be made. The coaches and child specialists are excellent in helping parties and parents focus on the important things in the divorce process rather than on the “emotional noise” that is ever present in every family law case. Financial specialists are adept at watching for costly tax planning mistakes.  They do a tremendous job of making complex financial issues more accessible. Going into a collaborative case with only part of a team is like mountain climbing with only half of your gear. You might be able to get to the top of the mountain, but it will take longer and be a more miserable journey. You might not make it at all.  So, be sure to have all the tools available.

Once you have your team in place, make sure you use your team members. Use the coaches to help when things are emotional. Use the financial specialists to figure out the money. Use the child specialist to make sure that your kids are OK. Don’t set up the team and then not use it. It’s like filling up a tool box with a full socket set, but only using one wrench.

See “Collaborative Practice Saves Money” by attorney Sandra Joan Morris.

2. Make sure that you are working hard. Getting divorced is very hard work.  I advise my clients that they will work harder than they ever have at anything in their lives.  Divorce is complicated and extraordinarily emotional work. You will get a lot of homework to complete between collaborative meetings. This may involve producing financial records or learning how to work out parenting disagreements with the other parent. Just sitting in a room and trying to be constructive with a spouse you are divorcing can be exhausting both emotionally and physically.

I can predict failure in a collaborative process when I am working harder to settle the case than my client. There should be no illusions. A lot will be asked of you. Don’t expect your team of professionals (as capable as they are) to do all the work for you. Ask often what you can do to move the ball down the field.

Do your homework

3. Get your homework done on time (maybe even early). You will be given assignments between sessions like gathering financial data, preparing forms or working with your children. If the homework required for a scheduled meeting hasn’t been done, the meeting will be a waste. Your divorce will take longer. If you get your tasks completed on time, or even early, the meetings will go smoothly and your case will likely conclude on time.

4. Disclose Everything.  That we are trying to be more informal and friendly does not relieve you of the responsibility to be completely truthful and open. The legal requirements for disclosure remain whether the case is collaborative or litigated. That means you disclose everything. That’s EVERYTHING.

Trust is the great lubricant of settlement. Collaborative practice relies on mutual trust and consensual resolution making openness essential. Completing the financial disclosures on time enables better trust. Without trust and openness, you probably won’t be able to settle and you will end up in court. Besides, the law is very clear that disclosure is required. Suffice it to say that the California Courts have broad power to punish a non-disclosing party. (For a primer on California’s strict disclosure rules, click here.)

5. Be patient.  You will not solve every issue in your first meeting. The first several meetings often only set the stage for settlement later. There is a reason for this.  Information needs to be gathered. Emotions need to be controlled. Children’s concerns need to be addressed. Divorces are complicated with many legal issues and difficult emotions. If you are patient, stick to it and rely on your team, your chances of success increase.

6. Relax and don’t panic. Legal disputes are frightening. Legal disputes about your family are paralyzing. Sometimes individuals succumb to “fight or flight,” that tremendous adrenaline response that saved our ancestors from being eaten by the saber tooth tiger. That’s great when you are trying not to be eaten. It’s not so great when aiming for a peaceful settlement.

When things get difficult, it’s easy to panic and run to court. Instead, engage your team when things get difficult. A skilled collaborative team can help you find a solution to a difficulty much faster and more creatively than court ever could.

See “The Emotional Roller Coaster of Divorce” by Pauline H. Tesler, M.A., J.D., & Peggy Thompson, Ph.D.

7. Talk Less. Listen More. To find a settlement, it will be important to hear and understand what your spouse is saying and feeling. You should get your story out.  But don’t do it at the expense of missing your spouse’s point of view. Looking at the world from your spouse’s point of view will help you find a solution that works for both of you.

Importantly, don’t forget to listen to your professional team. They have been through a lot more divorces than you and will have suggestions that you may not think of on your own. Take time to hear and internalize what is being said.

Solutions

8. Don’t think win or lose. Focus on solutions.  The terms “justice” and “fairness” mean different things for different people. You don’t have to win everything. Divorce doesn’t need to be a competition. Rather, divorce presents problems for which there are solutions. The challenge is to find the solutions.

Instead of “fairness” or “winning,”  try to make good business decisions. Settling your case is its own victory. Taking the decision away from a judge and keeping it with the parties is empowering. Ending conflict is liberating.

9. Have an open mind.  It’s easy to get locked into preconceived notions. In all collaborative practice cases, time is spent brainstorming to find creative solutions.  In brain storming, there are no bad ideas. It’s a great way to find many possible and more creative options.

One old parable involves two women fighting over an orange. Foolishly, the two women simply cut the orange in half to settle their dispute without considering what each wanted from the orange. This was a poor solution as it failed to address each woman’s real interests. One woman wanted to use the zest while the other wanted the pulp for juicing. Had they sought a solution that truly addressed their needs rather than taking the most obvious option, they would have found a better way.

Collaborative Practice takes openness, hard work and a good team. Collaborative Practice helps people move forward with dignity. The strategies listed above can help you to successfully settle in a respectful and dignified process. Here are some links with more information about collaborative practice:

Why I absolutely love Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego

Collaborative Practice California (CPCAL)

 

 

 

What You Can Do to Reduce Attorney Fees and Costs and Finish Your Divorce Sooner

by Susan Rapp, CLS-F, Family Law Attorney

There are a number of ways to resolve parenting, property, debt, and support issues in a divorce.  These methods include Collaborative Divorce, hiring an attorney and attempting to settle issues outside of court, going to court and litigating unresolved issues, and working with an impartial mediator, with or without attorney involvement.

I have been a family law attorney for over 25 years.   No matter which approach you take,  there are several thingSusan Rapp, CLS-F, Family Law Attorneys you can do to reduce attorney fees and costs, minimize feelings of a loss of control over your life and the divorce process, and reduce the amount of time it takes to complete the divorce.

Here are some of the things I have found will help you achieve these goals:

(1) Determine at the beginning of your case, what income, asset, and debt documentation will be needed. If you are working with an attorney or mediator, ask for a list. Whenever possible, pull together and organize the documents yourself.  Otherwise, you are going to pay your attorney’s office to do it. You will likely be asked for documentation of earned and unearned income for you and your spouse, your last two years of income tax returns, and documentation of assets owned and debts owed by you and/or your spouse, as of the date you separated.  Nearly all banks, financial institutions, and credit card companies make several months or years of statements available on line. When real property is involved, locate and copy your most recent deed, as well as a recent mortgage statement. If you or your spouse have retirement interests or investment accounts, obtain recent account statements.  Organize your information and documentation chronologically, and by account or debt.  Keep an identical copy of whatever you give your attorney, spouse, or mediator so you can readily access the information if there are follow-up questions.

(2) E-mail communications to your attorney and her or his staff are usually more cost efficient than phone calls.  Some divorces take several months or longer to complete.  Keep your e-mails to and from your attorney.  If you aren’t sure that you already asked a particular question or got an answer, review your e-mails before contacting your attorney’s office. You might find the answer in an earlier communication you’ve forgotten due to the passage of time.

(3) Unless you believe the matter is truly time-sensitive or an emergency, review, finalize, and transmit written communications to your attorney a day or more after you draft the communication.  In the interim one or more issues may resolve without attorney involvement, or you may find the answer to questions some other way. If you end up not contacting your attorney, you don’t get billed. When you review your drafts a day or so later, you may find a better or clearer way to communicate the information or ask the question. (This is also a good suggestion for attorneys).

(4) Have a written list of everything you want to ask or go over when you speak to your attorney or staff. Prepare a follow-up e-mail, or a memo to yourself confirming the important points of what you discussed.

(5) Buy and learn how to use an all-in-one printer, scanner, and fax machine. Scanned documents that are either e-mailed or “burned” onto a CD disk and sent or delivered to the attorney’s office are generally preferred. Preparing and transmitting documents this way will save you time and money.

(6) Request a periodic update from your attorney.  Determine what still needs to be done, and approximately how long will it take. Ask what you can do to keep things moving.

(7) Be open to settlement. Arrange a phone or office conference with your attorney a week or more before any settlement conference with your spouse and his or her attorney.  Verbalize your settlement preferences, and ask your attorney to identify the pros and cons of various settlement options.  Meeting with your attorney a week or so in advance of the settlement conference will give you time to think about settlement options and clarify your position on disputed issues.

(8) Last but not least, have a good outside support system.  If that’s friends or family, be sure they are objective.  Go to a therapist, even if you don’t think you need to go.  If there’s ever a time a therapist is needed, it’s when you’re getting divorced.

If you follow these suggestions, I predict you will achieve the goals identified.