Sunday, November 1, 2015

Slowing Down for Interim Issues

Sometimes, the biggest irritants come in the smallest packages.

In Collaborative cases, and sometimes in litigated divorces, people can end up spending a lot of time on the small stuff, rather than the big issues like dividing pensions, what to do with the house and how to share the rights and duties of parents.

There are often other issues, such as the following, that can really slow down the settlement process and add some stress to the proceedings.  Consider what can happen with disagreements over:

  • Dividing up furniture between the parties.  Usually, it's not a big issue, but sometimes a piece or two of furniture can have a lot of emotional attachment. 
  • Whether to buy a house during the divorce or afterwards.  Most of the time, a purchase is done post-divorce, but there may be reasons or opportunities to consider while everything else is up in the air.  Financing and ownership rights can be handled, but it takes extra work during the divorce.
  • Getting a new car.  This often comes up, especially when the other spouse manages to get a new car just before the divorce is filed.  Again, financing and ownership can be a little tricky, and the new payment will affect future budgets. Plus, the spreadsheet has to be adjusted to reflect new debt and probably the movement of some cash for a down payment. 
  • Disagreements over credit card use.  It's just another thing to fight about or a way to try to control the spouse, depending on one's point of view. 
  •  Getting bills paid.  How living expenses are divided during the interim can be a big issue, if cash flow is limited. 
  • Visitation.  How time with the child is shared by the parents may be easy to work out or extremely contentious.  In Collaborative cases, thankfully, we have the parents first work with the Mental Health Professional (MHP) or a child specialist.  This is actually a very serious and important issue, so it will take a long time if there are major disagreements. 
  • Travel plans.  Because children are involved, it's sometimes hard for a parent to let go and trust the other parent on big travel plans.  Then there's the element in some cases of being able to afford the proposed trip. Some parents have trouble adjusting to a reduced standard of living. The MHP is often a big help on this type issue. 
  • Vacations.  This is a recurring issue, especially at the beginning of separating the family into two families. Who gets to make the summer plans or how do we alternate or coordinate the control over planning? This can be a big emotional issue and can stall progress toward a settlement.
All of these issue may appear rather insignificant initially, but can blow up to big, difficult issues that eat up a lot of time.  At least, with Collaborative Law, each party has the full opportunity to participate in the decisions to resolve the issues.

The point to remember:  These are often serious issues and they can take a considerable amount of time to resolve.  It's important to efficiently work on them, but make sure everyone feels good about the decisions. The divorce process will slow down, but it can't be helped. The best strategy is to try to be flexible!

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