If you are contemplating a divorce or other family law legal action, or facing being in one involuntarily,
the best thing you can do is to keep in mind that unlike many
other kinds of court cases, the outcome of your family law case will turn in large part upon your actions and strategy
before any litigation or other divorce process even starts. What happens outside of any court is as important as what happens in court.
If you want the best possible outcome, your lawyer needs you to set clear goals: what is your top priority, what is
ranked next, how do you rank possibly conflicting financial,
emotional, family, and legal needs. Whether you end up in litigation through a trial, or manage to settle your case amicably, you
will want to prepare by gathering information and having a strategy before commencing.
Let's consider what a "divorce" is: it's the disentangling and termination of your and your partner's
financial and legal ties. This may happen quickly, such as in a simplified divorce, or a mutual or uncontested divorce without contested
issues of property division or child custody,
or it may involve a process that takes place over
time, such as when spousal support (alimony) or child support or a parenting plan is necessary. Notice how cold and dry that sounds.
One of the best things you can do when you are planning for a divorce or any family law litigation is to consider your goals. Rank your
priorities: what is your top priority, what is next, what do you want to accomplish in the short-term and the long-term, to what
goals do you give the highest ranking, and so forth. Part of this planning will involve gathering information. What financial information do you have, and what do you need. Do you
have copies of all pertinent legal and financial documents you might need. If there are educational, medical or abuse issues involved
in your case, gather up all of the documentation you might need later. It's easier to do this beforehand.
When you contact a lawyer, you want to be able to give that lawyer a clear picture of
not merely the facts, but also what your priorities are, and how you rank them, because it may or may not be possible to obtain everything
you want. In turn, the lawyer who has this information from you should be able work with you to come up with the best strategy for your case,
factoring in the limitations of
time and money and the vagaries of the law. Depending upon the factors at hand, you and your lawyer may decide upon an aggressive
strategy of litigation, raising certain kinds of issues -- or you may decide to use one of the alternate forms of dispute resolution,
such as mediation or settlement conference, or collaborative law.
You may want to read The Good
Attorney-Client Relationship as well as "Mistakes Mothers Make in Child Custody Litigation" (linked above -- many of the tips
apply to men too).
The emotional issues that affect a breakup of any intimate relationship
are not issues that courts of law or equity or judges effectively can address.
If you have children, then the court handling the divorce or paternity action also has to separate, disentangle and
terminate, albeit over a period of time, the constitutional parental rights that you and your spouse hold "by the entireties"
vis a vis the children until the children
reach the age of majority. The law attempts to do
this based on what is "in the best interests" of the children, but that's a fuzzy phrase that has no agreed definition.
With very few exceptions, then,
the divorce, paternity, and child custody case in Florida has little to do with getting "justice" or "revenge".
If you want a successful divorce outcome, the first step is to recognize that from a legal standpoint, a divorce is a
problem-solving exercise; if your divorce involves minor children, then it also is a process
in which you are going to negotiate, litigate, settle, or otherwise attempt to work out a situation in which
you effectively exchange the set of problems you now have for another set of problems that you would prefer to
have instead. A wise person once told me that when people break up a relationship, the fighting and arguing is to help them
gain emotional separation, distance from each other. She also pointed out, however, that the
opposite of "love" isn't "hate", but "indifference". Breakups are hard, and almost nothing is as painful and anxiety-inducing
as divorce litigation, because a divorce -- especially a divorce with children -- threatens changes and
a possible loss of control in all areas of your life. Nevertheless, courts of law are for legal and financial,
not emotional issues. The more you can keep this in mind, the better your chances of having the best possible outcome and attaining
your goals. Being well-prepared helps. If you would like a planning consultation, contact Elizabeth Kates
Areas of family law practice include: prenuptial agreements; cohabitation agreements; private mediation and arbitration
pre-divorce planning; post-divorce planning; appeals from all Florida family courts;
alimony and divorce tax issues; QDRO; divorce estate planning issues; personal divorce coaching and attorney management;
help with problematic forensic psychologist, custody evaluation, guardian ad litem, and therapist issues in family court cases;
consulting to lawyers; case strategies; timesharing (child custody) and parenting plan issues;
attorney ethics; judicial ethics and disqualifications; child development research and co-parenting issues;
parental alienation; post-divorce relocation; children's attorney ad litem;
constitutional las and gender discrimination issues in family law cases;
brief writing, research, and editing; marital settlement negotiations;
property division; equitable distribution transfers
post-judgment financial planning; general parenting and educational issues.