Local Voice: Top 10 divorce commandments (part 1)

By Marie E. Matyjaszek

There are things I wish all my clients would do to make their divorce easier on everyone, including me.

Since most lawyers have a godly view of themselves (excluding me of course), it’s fitting to share the first five of my 10 Commandments of Divorce.

1) Thou shalt not put thy children in the middle.

If kids are involved in your divorce — whether biological, adopted or step-children — keep them out of the adult divorce matters as much as possible.

Don’t tell little Jimmy to give a note or spousal support check to his mother and don’t pump Jessica for information on your ex’s new “flavor of the week.”

Let them be kids and focus your concerns on their Facebook friends instead of using them as mini-moles.

2) Thou shalt not hate thy ex.

At some point in your life, you decided it was a good idea to marry your spouse. You may have even gone a step further and had children with her. So maybe she still has those last 10 pounds of baby weight eight years later, but I’m willing to bet the only six-pack you have now is the one in the fridge.

It takes two people to get married and most of the time it takes two people to cause the breakdown.

I’m willing to bet that that your spouse has a less than idealistic view of you also. Try to get along civilly, if only for appearance’s sake in front of the kids. If you have minor children, rest assured you will see your ex more times than you want in the future.

He’s always going to be the father of your child and she’s always going to be your child’s mother. Remember that without him or her, you wouldn’t have the most important person in your life (thank you, but no, it’s not me — I’m speaking of your child).

3) Thou shalt pick your battles.

At the time, it may seem critical that you fight over your dining room table or stainless steel cookware, but what is it really worth? Let’s not forget to affix a used price tag to it also. If your battle is over a $500 piece of furniture, I wouldn’t spend more than two hours on it because most attorney fees will barely allow you to break even after that time.

There have been times when I’ve literally contemplated giving a client my pots and pans just to be able to settle the case (it doesn’t hurt that I have little to no interest in cooking either).

Argue over what really matters — custody, retirement, support, or larger assets.

4) Thou shalt not abuse your attorney.

Most attorneys cannot and will not micro-manage their client’s lives. Divorce is an emotional rollercoaster and I understand it’s horribly stressful to split up your belongings, pets, kids and money, especially if it’s not your idea.

I suggest that my clients make lists of questions or keep a journal of their concerns so they don’t lose track and forget to bring it to my attention. However, your lawyer is not going to make all of your decisions nor should he. You have to choose what you can live with.

When your divorce is over, your attorney moves on and probably only remembers you if you haven’t paid the account in full. He doesn’t have to adjust to the choices made in your divorce, but you do.

Ask for your attorney’s advice and guidance once you’ve calmed down and thought about the situation you’re calling him about. A lot of times the little fights work out between the parties and the savings on attorney fees will be a bonus.

5) Thou shalt attempt to settle.

Control is what most people want in their lives, some more than others, but ultimately we all want to know where we are headed. If you negotiate and settle your case, you still maintain control.

A wise attorney once told a client “you don’t have to like the outcome, but you have to be able to live with it.” If you go to trial, your attorney can present the best witnesses and evidence but he can’t predict what the judge will do. I normally tell people to listen to what their attorney says but if he promises you a certain outcome of your case, ignore this.

The only thing we can promise is that you will be divorced at the end (unless you reconcile, so I guess we can’t promise anything).

The last 5 Commandments will be coming soon — ask anyone who knows me — I rarely run out of things to say.

Marie E. Matyjaszek is an associate attorney at the Law Office of Robert Matyjaszek PLLC, Jackson, Michigan. She can be reached at (517) 787-0351 or by e-mailing her at matyjasz@hotmail.com.

 

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