GUEST BLOG POST: Tips for Midlife Moms Planning to Untie the Knot by Joshua Ketover
Nothing is more difficult emotionally and financially than going through the break-up of a marriage. But for couples who started a family later in life, a separation can be quite complicated, for two major reasons:
• You have acquired significantly more assets than your typically younger counterparts, and
• If you’re not careful, the child(ren) you have – either naturally, by adoption or through IVF or surrogate – can become the center of a very bitter divorce.
Under these circumstances, there are ways to conduct the “business” of divorce while making the oftentimes painful process a little simpler.
Here are 10 tips in the form of 5 “Do’s” and 5 “Don’ts” for midlife couples with children who are attempting to “untie the knot”:
TOP FIVE “DOs”:
1. Need Nothing: None of the tangible items should be deemed a “must have.” Whatever you need will surely become your Achilles’ heel when attempting to successfully negotiate a resolution of your divorce.
2. Know Everything: Whether you’ve been married for 20 years or practically just met, it is impossible to make important decisions about your divorce if there are any gaps in your understanding of you and your spouse’s assets, debts and income earning ability.
3. It’s Not Personal, Just Business: Keep your emotions at bay. Once you have made the emotional decision to end your marriage, the divorce should become nothing more than the business of dividing the assets you and your spouse have acquired over the years.
4. Know Who Your Friends Are: Some friends may think they are helping you by cheerleading, but in reality they might be enflaming your emotions, affecting your ability to reason. Others may think by keeping you grounded they are helping, but they may only cause you to doubt yourself. One or two good friends or family members who support you unconditionally are worth their weight in gold.
5. Remember, This Is Your Life: The decisions you will make during the divorce will affect you and your loved ones for years and years to come. Make sure you understand the consequences for any issues conceded or any issues on which you refuse to compromise.
TOP FIVE “DON’T”s:
1. Involving The Children: There is no worse act in a divorce proceeding than involving the children, intentionally or not. Couples should never discuss details of the divorce in front of the children or relay messages to one another through them. Both spouses must take extra care to avoid any words or actions that might not be in the child’s best interest.
2. Revenge: You are getting divorced because for one reason or another you do not want to be with your spouse any longer. But the divorce is not the place to seek revenge for any perceived slights your spouse committed. Using the divorce in this way will only increase your attorneys fees and will probably cause you more stress.
3. Games: Gamesmanship in a divorce usually centers around the finances. Hiding assets or income, more often than not, only serves to delay the inevitable, increase your legal bill and cause you to lose any credibility with the court.
4. Bad Advice: Everyone involved in a divorce has a friend that went through “the same thing” and is filled with advice. Assuming what worked for a friend will work for you is often a recipe for disaster. Everyone’s life is unique.
5. Unrealistic Expectations: The greatest obstacle to a fair and reasonable resolution to a divorce is the unrealistic expectations of one or both sides. The reality is there are only so many assets and so much income a couple has. Each party must be realistic in understanding that the other has to be able to live and that each is entitled to a portion of the assets earned during the marriage.
In the end, your greatest assets are those unique to someone in your position in life: trusted long-time friends and family members, as well as the wisdom gained from life experience. These will help you avoid the common mistakes made by younger, perhaps more impulsive couples.
Finally, apply those same standards – trust and wisdom – when choosing an attorney. Make sure you are comfortable and can communicate easily with him or her because you are essentially putting your life in this person’s hands.
Joshua Ketover is a matrimonial attorney and managing member of Ketover & Associates, LLC in Garden City, NY. He specializes in complex litigation and transactional issues including, but not limited to, family and matrimonial law, criminal law, negligence, employment law, corporate disputes as well as real property disputes. He has served as a special-adjunct professor of law at Hofstra University School of Law and also served on one of Nassau County’s judicial screening committees.