May 16, 2011

Can There Be Such a Thing As a Civil Divorce?

Can couples part in a way that is respectful and does not add to a distressing situation? Yes they can, by following a few guidelines. By its nature, divorce is fraught with emotional issues, especially when there has been marital misconduct. But many of these issues— however real and upsetting have little relevance to the divorce process itself. If couples can set hurt aside and instead look to the future and the life they want to create for themselves, a more dignified divorce is possible. Here are some hints to keep in mind:If you can’t say anything nice…While difficult to accept, believing in the truth of this old adage makes a great deal of difference. Often, a messy divorce becomes a competition as to who can act the worst. The process becomes further distorted and painful when emotions drive the case. If the case goes to trial, the spouse who conducts himself or herself appropriately and rises above the fray caused by the other spouse may be seen sympathetically by the person who will be making monumental decisions affecting the rest of the parties’ lives; namely, the Judge.Focus on what’s really importantThe most important concern should be the emotional well being of the children and the financial well being of both spouses and the children. Unfortunately, parties often become fixated on proving the other spouse is morally wrong. Illinois does not allow marital misconduct to be used in any way to gain a financial result. Occasionally, such misconduct may be relevant to the extent affects a parent’s relationship with the children. But peripheral issues should rarely be the primary focus when their resolution will make very little difference in the long run. Concentrate on crucial areas to keep the divorce from becoming an emotional battleground.Share the financial informationIn cases that are primarily financial, both spouses and their attorneys will need basic financial documentation (tax returns, account information, financial statements and the like). While the interpretation of this information and the conclusions drawn may be debated (business valuation, determination of income or cash flow, expense analysis, etc.), the actual production of the basic financial information is not debatable. The failure or refusal of a spouse to cooperate leads to useless angst, effort and expense. In the end, a judge will require the information and documentation to be supplied. Put it all on the table at the outset and begin on a respectful note. Whether a divorce is civil or highly contentious does not change one fundamental fact: Divorce divides and distributes family financial resources. In fact, they are the basis for determining issues. Does it not make sense, then, to gain the maximum value for those resources? Too often, the dysfunction and competitiveness caused by emotional conflict wastes those assets. A commitment to being civil with each other will serve a higher purpose. In the current economic times, creating value from a painful situation will help the entire family to move forward with dignity and preserve prosperity. Choose your battles wisely.

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