You were college sweethearts at Penn St. and got married a few years after graduation. The ensuing years brought good jobs and kids, family trips and movie nights at home. Somewhere along the way, however, the love that you shared turned into a partnership where it was all about the kids and not at all about the two of you. There weren’t big fights or cheating spouses, but after some failed attempts to rekindle the romance, it became obvious that it was simply time to make official what had been understood for a while.
Not all divorces are knock-down drag-out affairs we see in the headlines. You are smart level-headed people, and you know that that kind of acrimony only hurts the family. Assuming there is no prenuptial agreement, you will have to come up with a fair and equitable agreement.
Here are some things to consider:
Kids come first
While the divorce comes as no surprise to you, the kids will likely be blindsided when you tell them. Be patient with them as they process this cataclysmic event in the days and weeks to come. If the sensitive 14 year old is having a rough go of it, counseling may be in order (click here for a list of therapists). Try and keep the family home if it is financially feasible. Get the kids input in selecting a second home, ideally not far from the original family home.
Get all your finances together and make copies so each party has a complete set. This includes detailed inventory of bank accounts, investments, property, retirement plan, etc. Try and clear out any debt or agree on who will continue payments on cars, houses, or schools. Couples should get new separate credit cards to establish individual credit histories. Do not try and hide assets.
Determine premarital assets
The lake house is from his side of the family, and ideally it should stay that way until it can be passed to the kids. Perhaps there is a family business going back generations on her side, he should leave it that way unless he is already involved in its business affairs.
Pick the right attorney
Don’t hire a pit bull if you need Labrador. There is no reason to waste time (and money) trying to pick a fight if there isn’t a fight to pick. Each side should have their own legal representation and the attorneys should be open to having a good working relationship.
Filing for divorce
Each spouse must file an affidavit stating s/he consents to the divorce. After filing for divorce the judge will wait 90 days before granting it. In the case of a no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania, divorce can granted without a court hearing.
If all goes well, the transition will be a smooth one where involved co-parenting continues on all levels. Kids can also learn many life lessons from how well you handle this transition — a good divorce agreement is part of the template for ensuring this happens. If you, a loved one or a friend is contemplating divorce, the best advice is to find a family law attorney who can walk you through the process, making it a fair and equitable arrangement for everyone involved.