Sometimes the end of your divorce case is just the beginning of a long road of dealing with your ex-spouse. Maybe you have small children and will be co-parenting for many years, you have a home or retirement assets that you have to work together to divide or maybe you have support obligations that will have to be adjusted or revisited in the years following your divorce. The emotional and financial cost of continuously litigating with your ex-spouse is great and can dramatically impact your quality of life post-divorce. In my almost twenty years of practicing family law, the following are my most frequently recommended tips for avoiding unnecessary court costs and post-divorce conflict:
- Lock-Down Important Details in Your Divorce Agreement or Settlement: Vague or open-ended provisions in agreements or settlements can sometimes lead to problems down the road and unnecessary trips back to the courthouse. Missing provisions in parenting time agreements or failure to establish deadlines for the sale of assets can create opportunities for conflict and can be costly to resolve. Make sure you discuss issues of concern with your family law attorney during your divorce process to ensure that your agreement does not have vague or ambiguous provisions;
- Understand your Agreements or Orders: Make sure that you not only understand the terms of your agreements before you sign them, but that you understand what your rights and obligations are after your divorce is over. Read through your agreement and make sure to make note of deadlines for such things as paying support or other court ordered obligations, re-financing mortgages, filing deeds, transferring titles, and exchanging insurance information. If there is something that you don’t understand, make sure to reach out to your family law attorney to discuss. Many times violations of court orders or enforcement motions to the court can be avoided if parties are proactive about understanding and cooperating with the provisions of their agreements or terms of court orders.
- Practice Good Faith Co-Parenting and Communication: Sometimes the acrimony of the divorce process can make it difficult to to communicate with your ex-spouse or to feel willing to offer compromises or concessions post-divorce. However, flexibility, compromise and respectful communication can be essential in avoiding unnecessary post-divorce conflict or expensive post-divorce court proceedings. Whenever possible, try to work through changes to parenting time schedules, issues around extra-curricular activities or other issues involving your children amicably with your ex-spouse. Likewise, if changes occur with respect to financial aspects of your settlement, try to see if you can work it out with your spouse first before heading to the courthouse.
- Get Informed: Before running to the courthouse to file a post-divorce application or sending demand letters to your ex-spouse, meet with a family law attorney to understand the applicable laws around your issue, the different legal options available to you and the cost of these options. Sometimes your attorney may be able to offer suggestions or solutions that can save you a lot of time, money and aggravation.
- Consider Mediation or Other Alternative Dispute Resolution Options: In situations where its not possible to communicate or resolve post-divorce issues directly with your ex-spouse, or where you have reached a stalemate in your discussions, there are other alternatives to heading to court that I stronglyI encourage my clients to explore. Post-divorce mediation or arbitration can be a timely and cost-effective way to avoid the emotional and financial costs of litigating post-divorce issues and can allow parties to maintain some control over the outcome.
For assistance with a post-divorce issue, please contact Georgia Fraser at 609-223-2099.