A divorce is emotional, sometimes scary, and often financially overwhelming. Whether you decide to hire an attorney or risk proceeding without one, following the five (5) tips listed in this guide will help you prepare for your eventual mediation and/or trial in a divorce case.
1. Keep a Daily/Weekly Journal of Events
In my experience the chronology of events leading up to, and happening during, the divorce process are crucial at both mediation and trial. The who, what, when, where, and why of certain events (i.e., the cause of the separation, the parenting habits of the other parent, visitation denial by the other parent) will eventually be needed to explain your side to your attorney, the mediator, and ultimately the judge. By keeping a journal from the outset of your case, you can rest assured that you will have a great log of events when testifying in court. At the end of the day, the testimony in court will be what the judge uses to make the final decision in your case.
In Georgia recordings are allowed between two parties as long as you are a party to the conversation. Often in divorce cases parties will continously communicate with each other during the proceedings and almost inevitably one party will say or admit to something they have previously been less than forthcoming about. Recording your conversations can often wind up being your best friend in court, but be careful–recordings work both ways and for both parties.
3. Maintain Your Own File
The legal process is complicated and document heavy, especially if you wind up having to proceed to trial. Organization is key in not only being prepared, but ensuring that you know what’s going on in your case. I always encourage my clients to keep a duplicate copy of every document they give me or that’s filed in their case to ensure they are fully aware of what’s happening at every step of the process. If you are pro se, this can be the difference between looking clueless in court or convincing the judge to side in your favor.
4. Always Keep an Open Mind
Just because you have filed a divorce action doesn’t mean you cannot settle your case with the other party prior to trial. Most circuits require a mediation period prior to a final hearing, but even if mediation is not required you can attempt to settle without a hearing. I like to remind my clients that mediation (or a pre-trial settlement) is your opportunity to have some say-so on how your divorce order is created and structured. If you cannot settle, the judge is going to decide your future for you and more often than not both parties will be bitter about the result. Sometimes putting aside egos and hurt feelings can lead to greater success in the divorce process, especially for potential settlements.
5. Remember Your Children
The most important thing to remember in the divorce process is the children (assuming custody is involved). Everyone has their own opinion, but your children should be shielded from the divorce process as much as possible. At the end of the day you will be divorced from another person, but your children aren’t going anywhere. Children can get lost in the shuffle and inadvertently used in the divorce process, but this should be avoided at all costs. Regardless of the outcome of your divorce, your children want a relationship with both parties.