Divorce Checklist: Steps to Consider for Child Negotiations
Divorce can be an overwhelming and challenging experience. Add children to the situation and the process becomes complex quickly. This divorce checklist can help you get your divorce started and organized.
Be sure to contact an experienced divorce lawyer before making any decisions.
If you have children and have decided to get a divorce, a major concern is the welfare of your children. The goal of any child custody negotiation should be to find the best situation for your children. In order to best prepare for these negotiations, you need to know your situation and what your end goal is. During a divorce with children involved, child custody and child support are two aspects that will affect all involved and should be carefully considered. Remember divorce can become complicated quickly, so be sure you are prepared.
1. Hiring a Divorce Lawyer
The first step to consider is getting a divorce lawyer to help you through this process. A divorce lawyer is someone who can keep all the details in check, make sure all options are considered, and all paperwork is filled out and filed correctly and on time. Divorces generally have many court filings, meetings with other attorneys, child custody hearing, child support hearings, and mediations.
2. Evaluate possible level of cooperation from both sides after divorce
Once you have a divorce lawyer on your side, take the time to be realistic with them about the levels of cooperation you expect from you and your spouse. You and your spouse know your situation better than anyone else, so being realistic about the outcome you expect is important for your lawyer to prepare for future conversations and negotiations.
3. Research the criteria your family court uses when awarding child custody
Family courts are going to make child custody decisions based on what they believe is best for your children. Most often they have specific criteria they will look at first during the decision making process. Ask your divorce lawyer about their experience and what they think is the best way to prepare for child custody proceedings based on the criteria looked at by the court.
4. Make a list of strengths and weaknesses for you and your spouse after divorce
This list is for the benefit of your child. Ask yourself, when it comes to parenting, what does everyone bring to the table? Being realistic during this process will only make for the best situation for your child and will help you in preparing/negotiating a parenting plan. Some things to consider in this list are parenting skills, finances, job, family background, and typical habits with your children. This list can help everyone in preparations for what might be to come during talks with your spouse.
5. Make a list of marital assets before divorceWhat kind of assets did you and your spouse accumulate throughout your marriage? Making a list of these can help both sides decide how to split everything without forgetting about any of them. These negotiations can go hand-in-hand with the ones for child custody, so preparation can help everyone involved.
6. List all future earning potential for both you and your spouse
Making a list of the future earning potential helps you to see the bigger picture. Each child custody negotiation is up for reexamination throughout the child’s life as they get older and their lifestyles change. In order to find a child custody plan that fits both now and in the future, it is important to look at how the lives of everyone involved might change. For example, if one spouse did not work while they were married, this may change now that they are living on their own.
7. Draft a ‘parenting plan’ for children after the divorce
Drafting a parenting plan to share with your spouse will help you prepare for the future and keep the arguments to a minimum after your divorce. It is important to leave the parenting plan open for reconsideration after it is made, because as your child gets older, the wants and needs of everyone will change as well. In the initial phases of the parenting plan, list everything you are looking for. This will provide you with a good starting point, even though you most likely will not get everything on the list. It will be a good way to lay all your desires out on the table and set the stage for negotiations and compromise.
Considerations for Parenting Plan
There are many things to consider when creating a parenting plan. The goal of a parenting plan is to avoid having to have future misunderstandings and arguments about what is best for your child. The following is a list to get you started.
- A typical week-to-week schedule
- Pick up and drop off schedules for moving between houses
- How the child will spend holidays, religious observations, birthdays, and more
- How to approach planning vacations
- Summer vacation schedules vs school year schedules
- Extracurricular activities
- Practices regarding communication with extended family
- Protocol for when the designated parent can not provide care during their scheduled time
- Medical appointments and how each parent should be involved or not involved
- Financial responsibilities, big and small
- Protocol for involving new significant others into the child’s life
- Overall protocol for communication between you and your ex
- How to address modifications when they come up
- Planned examinations of the the parenting plan over time
8. Prepare to compromise
The court wants what is best for the child, which often means finding the middle ground between both parents’ wants and needs. Preparing to compromise will help you to find what areas are non-negotiable for you and what ones you would be willing to let go of if needed. This will make the decision making much easier and less personal for each side. Hiring a lawyer to help you not only during the negotiations but also for the preparation part will be a big help to you. Talking through all the different negotiations points with an experienced divorce attorney can help you get a better sense for what your situation will allow for you and your child.
9. Prepare for court – the child custody hearing
Preparing for court is an important step, especially if you know you and your ex-spouse will not agree on some major points. Divorce is stressful and a very personal situation. Ending up in court to figure out what is best for your child is stressful. It can take the opportunity out of your hands to truly figure out what is best for your child. In order to prepare for a possible court appearance, having a trusted lawyer by your side is the first step.
You should be preparing for what your ex will bring up to use against you and how you will counteract that. Being open and honest with your lawyers will help them prepare for those situations in the best way possible. Another thing to consider is if your ex-spouse will lie about you. If so, what would he/she say? These conversations can also help you prepare with your lawyer. Lastly, prepare witnesses to testify on your behalf and about your parenting skills. Much like in a letter of recommendation, let them know what aspect of your parenting skills you want them to focus on and help them prepare for possible questions that will be asked of them. Acting as a witness can be a stressful experience, so make sure to give them adequate preparation before they do this for you.
What’s the best option for your child?
The most important thing to keep in mind throughout this whole process is what is in your child’s best interest. Making sure their life is not affected by your decision to get a divorce is our top priority. Divorce is personal, and adding children into the mix can cause for some very personal arguments between you and your ex-spouse. Bringing a divorce lawyer in on your side takes away from some of the more personal aspects and allows a third-party with less emotion to help in the decision making experience. Come in to Jeddeloh Snyder Stommes today for your no-obligation consultation to learn more about your options and how we can help you through this stressful time.