It’s the New Year and I am certain, millions of people are ambitiously working towards achieving their New Year’s resolutions. They have carefully laid plans, set achievable goals, and identified steps that must be taken.
Those wishing to lose weight probably have joined a gym, hired a personal trainer, scheduled exercise time, researched dietary choices, and set a weight loss goal.
Those wishing to get out of debt probably have cancelled their magazine subscriptions, started brewing their own coffee, scheduled an appointment with a financial advisor, and created a budget that enables them to get out of debt over time.
Those wishing to save for retirement probably have….
I could go on describing some of the most common New Year’s resolutions and how they might be achieved because, when it comes to most mainstream issues like losing weight or getting out of debt, most people, myself included, know the steps that must be taken to reach the desired goal.
Unfortunately, the same isn’t true for a New Year’s resolution that goes something like this:
“I resolve to get legally divorced/finish my divorce and create a joyous new life this year!”
Not knowing exactly what to do in order to get divorced this year may seem odd, especially because divorce is a normal part of our lives. It happens everyday, everywhere, and sometimes, for some people, it happens more than once or twice or three times… (I think Elizabeth Taylor did it seven times)
But the truth is, there are many reasons why the steps you must take to get divorced are not common knowledge. Perhaps the most prevalent are that every divorce is different, state laws vary, and, more often than not, in-depth knowledge about applicable laws and the process of getting divorced or the education necessary to research and understand these, are required.
Yes, it’s true.
If you aren’t well versed in divorce laws and procedures, it is difficult to know exactly which steps to take to get divorced.
So what can you do to get your divorce done this year? Here are a few steps to help get you started.
Step One: Determine whether it is legally possible to get divorced by year-end. In order to set realistic year-end divorce goals it is best to make sure that the goals you have in mind are legally achievable. Many states have mandatory waiting periods that could prevent you from terminating your marital status before December 31, 2012. For example, if your state requires you and your spouse to be legally separated for at least a year and you are not yet technically “legally separated”, you may not be legally divorced until the beginning of 2013. If this is the case, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Although you may not be able to get legally divorce this year, it may not prevent you from working towards the final resolution of your divorce issues in the interim. In California, where we have a mandatory six-month waiting period before the “marital status” may be terminated, it is still possible for parties to resolve all of their legal issues before the expiration of the six-month period and even get a court approved judgment. The judgment of course provides that the marital status will not terminate until the waiting period expires, but the other issues can be legally binding and immediately effective even though the parties are still considered husband and wife. So, do a little digging so you can set an achievable goal.
Step Two: Assess your current situation to find your starting point. It is difficult to know where to begin and which goals to set if you do not have a clear picture of your current situation, both practically and legally. For example, if you already filed for divorce it is imperative for you to understand which requirements have and have not yet been satisfied. Once you determine where you are in the legal process you can identify the next steps that can, may or must be taken to get divorced this year. To find this information you may begin by reviewing your court file and/or speaking with your court clerk who maintains all filed legal documents. Your court also may have a court facilitator who can provide general information about the divorce process, but normally will not provide legal or strategical advice. If you are working with a lawyer, he or she should be able to explain the status to you and next logical steps. You also may schedule a coaching session with me where we will talk extensively about your current situation, which includes my asking a LOT of questions. We also will talk about your nonlegal situation, like your work status, living arrangements, relationship with your spouse, and other relevant factors to help you understand where you are and the issues to be considered. We discuss a number of different legal principles that you may need to consider and I help you identify possible options you might want to research. An aside, I received a wonderful email from s coaching clients today which said:
It is so comforting to have “steps” I can take to attempt to change my situation and to know someone with your intelligence and experience is available to help me along the way. ~ Mandy, Georgia
Step Three: Write down specific, identifiable steps you can take towards accomplishing your goal. It is probable that by the time you finish reading this article you will already have identified steps you must take towards creating a plan for achieving your New Year’s resolution. If this is the case, specifically write down the things you must do and sources you will need to complete the first step. For example, if you are unsure about the procedural status of your case and you are working with an attorney, you may write down: First, schedule appointment with attorney to review case status. Two, write down specific questions to ask attorney during meeting about what has been done, what needs to be done, what he or she recommends I do, etc. With respect to which questions to ask, you will find over 1000 detailed questions listed in the Toolbox of my latest guide, The Soul Centered Divorce, 7 Steps to Making Difficult Divorce Decisions with Confidence and Clarity. These questions were written by me and draw from my two decades of divorce experience.
If you do not have an attorney your tasks may look something like this: First, research online, my state’s requirements for getting divorced and the resources available for starting/completing the process. Second, go to court facilitator or clerk’s office and request available documents and information for getting divorced. Third, research do-it-yourself options. Fourth, talk to an attorney about my rights. For do-it-yourselfers in California be sure to consider my book The Fast and Friendly Divorce, How to Get Legally Divorced in California without Hiring Attorneys or Going to Court.
This article is not legal advice and contains general legal information. You are urged to speak with an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.