It is common knowledge these days that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. For many married couples, divorce is the best option for getting out of an unhappy situation and starting fresh for the future. However, no two divorces are the same, and it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you start the divorce process. Here are four things you should know about divorce in California before you get started:
There is no “winner.”
California is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning you do not have to prove that your spouse did anything wrong or harmed the marriage in any way in order to obtain a divorce. Instead, you can simply cite “irreconcilable differences,” a.k.a. the failure to agree on basic, fundamental issues that have had a negative effect on your marriage.
It is rare for divorcing spouses to end up with everything they want. Divorce proceedings are very complicated, and while one spouse may “win” one thing (such as primary custody of the children), when all is said and done, it is impossible to name a “winner” and a “loser.” There is bound to be give-and-take when it comes to complex issues like child support, spousal support, and division of property.
With this in mind, it is important to approach the divorce as a collaborative process between two people who want the same thing—not a competition. Approaching it this way will make complicated and emotional issues (such as child custody and spousal support) easier to navigate in the long run.
Your kids come first.
If you and your spouse have children together, they should always come first. The court’s main concern will be to protect the best interests of the child, and you and your spouse should make that your number one priority. Make sure that your children understand what is going on and do not involve them in the process unnecessarily. When deciding who will have custody of the children, try to keep them together (if applicable) and avoid making drastic changes to their normal life or routine.
The “big picture” matters most.
The entire process will be easier if you avoid getting caught up in the small arguments. Try not to focus on any “bad blood” or misconduct from the past—no matter how difficult—and focus on the big picture: how you and your children can move forward and start a bright future together. Instead of quibbling over things like the DVD collection and pieces of furniture, focus on how to work as a team and come to an agreement that everyone can live with.
Court isn’t the only way.
It is a common misconception that all divorces end up in court. These long, drawn-out court battles are rarely beneficial for either side; in fact, by the time the dust settles, a costly court battle often depletes the very resources that divorcing spouses are fighting over.
Depending on the circumstances of your divorce (and particularly your relationship with your soon-to-be-ex spouse), mediation may be a better option. During mediation, a third-party mediator (who is often specifically trained to handle divorce cases) facilitates negotiations and helps both parties come to an agreement. Mediation enables divorcing spouses to make their own decisions—rather than leaving it all up to a judge who has little knowledge of your case—and often results in a more agreeable outcome.
Another option may be a “collaborative divorce,” in which both parties hire a collaborative attorney and agree to resolve the case without going to court. These collaborative divorces often involve the help of a mental health professional, a child specialist, and a financial specialist who can help facilitate discussion.