DAILY TOOL: Divorce Alternatives — Should I file for divorce?
CATEGORY: Family Law
What do you do if you think your relationship is on the brink? What happens if you think the other parent is going to want a divorce? What if you have been separated, can the other parent just take off with the children?
What Do You Do If You Think Your Relationship is on the Brink?
Most people call an attorney. If you call attorneys, they are most likely going to tell you to file as quickly as possible so that you can protect your rights to your children. They will tell you about the advantages of filing first. We are not disputing that filing first has its advantages.
But what happens if you are not sure that your relationship needs the chopping block yet? Where do you turn for this? And how do you protect yourself from the possibility that the other parent files first or takes off with your children?
Look for an attorney who understands alternatives and also has experience with protecting your rights. This typically needs to be a person who is good with contracts, like prenups, postnups, marriage reconciliation, mediation, arbitration, and collaborative law principles. You could talk to your attorney about drawing up a postnup agreement that includes the two of you working on disputes and disagreements with some continued education in conflict resolution, and if that fails then entering into a collaborative divorce.
Then you would find a person who teaches intensive conflict resolution; preferably someone who is experienced with marriage reconciliation. Fortunately, we happen to know one attorney who has experience in all of this. He happens to be right here in Houston, Texas. His name is Michael Hiller at www.hillerlaw.com. You can contact him for more information on how you go about any of these options.
The reason that I bring this up is because I don’t feel that enough people actually realize what divorce is like or what it will be like for them. Most of the time the person who files has planned for a long time and has pictured how they think it will be once they are divorced. And if they’ve heard any horror stories of divorce, they don’t believe that will be them.
But what about the things that you are not told about divorce?
Let’s take a brief glimpse into after the divorce is filed. Regardless of who filed, one of you is usually reduced to a visiting parent as soon as the paperwork is filed. What you might not know is that even if you get primary custody, you will still lose a lot of control over what your children get to do and what they are exposed to. So if you think spending thousands and thousands of dollars to get managing conservatorship of the children is going to solve your problems. Think again.
A whole new set of problems could begin for you. If you were used to staying home with the children and monitoring and managing everything they did. And when the other parent wasn’t in agreement with you, getting them to come around to see things your way. This probably won’t happen anymore.
If your children have never spent a night away from you. Now you will have to adjust to the other parent having them over night at their home and probably not having them for 30 days over the summer.
I’m sure you don’t even want to think about what it will be like if you don’t get primary custody of the children. If you think that you could not possibly be the parent who could lose custody of the children because you did nothing wrong and you have been the parent at home with the children more than the other parent. Think again. This is happening more and more actually. And it is extremely expensive to try and fight this.
The other problems that begin is that everything the two of you disagree on becomes an expensive back and forth between attorneys. Because the two of you learned to go to the attorneys to resolve your disputes. And if one of you wouldn’t give in to go to a judge to take it away from one of you. Even more expense.
You also might not have thought about this scenario. If you did get primary custody, the other parent can take you back to court to fight you for custody again! This can also still happen even if you only got possessory conservatorship. If there is a parent who wants to keep taking from the other one, the fighting can go on and on and on for many years.
There were also other things that I wasn’t aware of when I was going through divorce. I didn’t know that there was such thing as parental alienation.
Even though I was a child of divorce and I picked the parent I wanted to stay with. I wasn’t dragged through court or anything. I didn’t know that behind the scenes that my parents had made an agreement. I thought I had picked but because I was never really involved in filing affidavits regarding preference or taken to a judge or therapist regarding any of this, it just never came back to my memory when I was going through divorce with my own children.
If the other parent wants to alienate you from your children, you are going to most likely be ill-equipped for dealing with the distress and pain that this is going to cause you. Not only can you not stop it right away, your children will forever be affected and changed by this. Nobody dreams of fighting over their children. But even worse, nobody dreams that they won’t get to raise their child all the way until they are 18 years old.
In divorce, all of this and more might become one of your realities. You might have to get used to only being a visitor in your child’s life and not having any parental authority. You might have to get used to a stepparent getting to be with your child more than you. You might have to get used to the neighbor getting to see your child more than you.
What happens if you think the other parent is going to want a divorce?
If you are not in a dangerous situation, then you can consider the above suggestion of trying to get a postnup and getting into an intensive marriage conflict resolution program. This is not marriage counseling by the way. You need someone who can sit down with the two of you and get you to argue and then have you apply the skills they teach you in front of them to help you with using them. Just telling you theory and sending you home will be about as useful as knowing you have rights but not knowing how to use them.
If you cannot talk the other parent into agreeing to any of the conflict resolution solutions then the two of you are at an impasse.
Then your only options are how you will go about your divorce. Hanging on to your marriage at that point isn’t going to be real helpful, and in fact could prevent you from making the right decisions in divorce. Once you have determined that divorce is imminent you must prepare yourself to make decisions that help you be most effective.
What if you have been separated, can the other parent just take off with the children?
Your first concern might be how do you protect your rights and time with your child. If you do not have a parenting plan in place that is filed and signed by the court, then both of you still have the right to exercise your rights and time with the children 100% of the time.
If you want to be able to restrict this infringement and protect your ability to be with your child, and protect yourself from as much unnecessary interference of the court process into your private life and your private decisions that you make regarding your child, then you will want to read our book on your basic parental rights. Then you are going to want to discuss how to protect your rights with your attorney. Get the attorney-parent agreement from our website. This agreement has a whole lot of your rights on here. When you show it to your attorney you will find out what questions your attorney has regarding your rights, and whether that attorney believes you have rights and whether they know or intend to protect those rights.
Now that you have put as much protection into your pleadings for yourself from unnecessary infringement and burdens, you can discuss with your attorney also limiting the movement of the other parent with your child and for securing your rights and time with your child.