GETTING a divorce can be a challenging experience for both spouses, the children, family and friends. Here are some tips specifically for women to survive the divorce process.
1. The divorce is between two parties but affects other relationships. Keep your private affairs, private, between you and your spouse. There is no need to discuss the details of your impending divorce with anyone other than your lawyer. It is preferable for children to be told first that their parents are separating before the parents file the petition for divorce. We would advise notifying extended family and close friends next, once the petition has been filed and before the first court hearing. This should reduce the number of disagreements between the parties.
2. Make a plan for the children and property: Consider a custody agreement for the children which would also address maintenance. Any property that was purchased during the marriage is likely to be community property, thereby belonging to both spouses. Therefore, a decision should be made on how the property will be divided. These matters referred to as ancillary relief ought to be discussed in some detail with your lawyer.
3. Wait until the divorce has been finalised before you start dating again: a divorce can take between six months to three years to be finalised on average, depending on a variety of factors including ancillary relief matters. This may seem like a long time; however, moving on too quickly can have emotional and financial implications for both spouses. Some psychologists recommend taking time off from dating proportionate to the length of your marriage. In other words, the longer the marriage, the more time the individual should wait to date. Others consider getting a divorce to be similar for children to the death of a parent. In any event, you will need time to grieve and reflect on your relationship so that you can enter your new relationship in a healthier state of mind.
4. Handle your divorce with integrity: you are divorcing a different person from the person you married. The reason(s) for the divorce could be range from your spouse being unfaithful to you; verbal and physical abuse to desertion or abandonment. This list is by no means exhaustive. Whatever the reason(s), you have finally taken the necessary steps by seeking legal advice and starting the divorce process. Be civil to your spouse, especially if you have children; and close family and friends that relate well with both of you. You can control the future relationship you have with your spouse by how you decide to handle the divorce.
5. Document everything: make records of all interim payments for child maintenance; payments for the mortgage; how much is in the joint bank accounts when the petition for divorce is filed; payments of household expenses and bills; and income generated. These are some of the documents that are important for the divorce proceedings.
6. Make a budget for yourself: your finances are likely to look very different before, during and after your divorce. Make a budget to accommodate your existing financial picture and plan ahead for the future.
7. Keep moving forward: Don’t live in the past, you have decided to get divorced and it can be a lengthy process. This does not mean that you should be thinking about where things went wrong and who was to blame for the rest of your life. Once the divorce has been finalised, you will have closure, and eventually it will be time to move on.
8. Change your name: Once your divorce is finalised, your name will not automatically revert to your maiden name. Marriage in our jurisdiction means that the woman adopts the surname of her husband. Some women have started to double-barrel their names, so that their maiden names and married names appear side by side. After your divorce has been finalised, if that is how your surname appears on your documents, this can continue; or simply use your married name. If you wish to revert to your maiden name, see your lawyer to find out how to change your name.
9. Get a good lawyer: your lawyer will be able to assist you with the divorce process and the way moving forward. It is important to have an independent party to the proceedings to assist with this transition who has the necessary training and experience.
10. Be realistic: Lawyers are the experts in the divorce process, however, it is your right to ask questions if you are unclear of the legal process or the legal advice that you are receiving. If your lawyer believes that you are being unrealistic in your expectations or should consider another course of action, you should take that advice seriously. It is your case, and you should have the final say, but a good lawyer will have your interests at heart and you should value his or her advice.
Ms. Trudy O. Glasgow is a practising attorney at the law firm Trudy O. Glasgow & Associates, a court-appointed mediator and author in Saint Lucia (and has also taught law at University level in the UK)* Ms. Glasgow is also the current Vice President of the Bar Association of Saint Lucia.
This column is for general use only, for advice specifically for your case, please see your lawyer.
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