Blog: Ellen’s Divorce Tips

Always remember the children

Memorial Day weekend is right around the corner. If you have children, you and your spouse may be discussing how to divide the time each of you will spend with the children over those three days. In the alternative, though, you might want to consider spending the weekend, or a part of it, together showing the children that the family is being "re-defined"—not torn apart. If you and your spouse can still find common ground when it comes to the children, then think about what I have suggested, and put the divorce somewhere in the back of your mind where it will not creep into the plans for the day. …

Don't put those tax returns in storage!

This would be a great time to pull out your last few years tax returns and put them together with the ones you just filed in April.  You will eventually need information from those returns, so it makes more sense to keep them all handy, than to put them into storage with the others.

Going it alone

If you and your spouse are trying to navigate through the system alone, and writing up your own Separation Agreement without professional guidance, think about visiting an attorney-mediator for a review of your work. Go together and spend an hour with someone who knows what should and should not be in your documents—making sure to bring your financial affidavits with you. Your investment could save you time and exasperation if you go to court with paperwork that is unacceptable to the judge. …

She is still the mother of your children

Tomorrow is Mother's Day. I know. It's too commercial and, for some, it's too contrived. The fact of the matter is, it is the only day out of the year dedicated to the celebration of mothers. So, even if you are in the midst of a divorce, or have just finished one, honor your spouse or former spouse for her contribution to creating the greatest gifts you have: your children. You're not doing it just for her. You're doing it to show your children that half of their DNA is worth some recognition—and maybe even a tribute, no matter what the battles are between you and your spouse. …

You don't save receipts? Start now!

Even though we live in a credit card world, you do make a lot of purchases with cash. Magazines? Newspapers? Tips? Start keeping your cash receipts and jot down on the back what the purchases were for. You'll need to know the categories into which your cash purchases fall. Having records is much better than trying to remember!

Once you see what sort of categories are emerging, put the receipts into envelopes that are marked with their category name. It will make sorting through them much easier when the time comes.

Saving Money versus Adding Pressure

Someone asked me today whether they could save money in mediation by drafting the initial court papers themselves. Here is the answer: Anything you can do correctly for yourself that will save billable time, do it—but only do it if it does not add more pressure and stress to whatever emotions you are already experiencing. Sometimes, just letting the professional do it is worth eliminating one more thing from your "what-I-have-to-learn-to-do" list. That can go a long way to lightening your load when your load is already difficult to carry.

Tip: Start off organized and stay that way

I recommend to my clients that they each one keep at least two file folders or large envelopes. One folder is for your own records, notes, questions, and outlines for mediation. Something comes to your mind in the middle of the night? Jot in down and slip it in the file.

The second file is for more official documents. The copy of any court document that I have prepared for you should go in this file, separate from your personal notes and records. Anything in this file will always be something that can found in the court's file.

Tip: Start with a list—it will make the job easier

Planning a divorce? You can get a jump start on what will be needed by making a list of everything you and your spouse own—and owe—separately (in your name alone) and jointly (with your spouse or with another person).

The list will make it easier to organize your upcoming work. 

Ease into it. Do a little each day, and the job won't feel so overwhelming when it's time to report what you own and owe.

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