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215 - Tips to ensure an “Amicable” divorce

215 - Tips to ensure an “Amicable” divorce Image

11/08/2021 5:34 pm

There are many divorces that start off 'nice,' but quickly take a turn for the worse. In this show, Leh and Todd discuss several tips that will help keep your divorce amicable. They are based on years of experience and observing 'good' cases where the parties work together through a difficult process and 'bad' cases that get real nasty real quick.

Transcript

Leh Meriwether:

Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. We are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether & Tharp. Here, you'll learn about divorce, family law from time to time, even tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. Todd, we do run advertising, and one of our slogans that we developed, gosh, decade ago, was that divorce hurts, but it doesn't have to be nasty.

Todd Orston:

Absolutely. And that really speaks to our philosophy, which is, we can't change the fact that divorce is a difficult process. But how you approach that process, that means a lot, right? You can go into it, ready to do battle, ready to do battle on every little thing. And that really accomplishes nothing. You can just embrace and understand that it's going to be hard. But if everyone stays calm, the word that we use is then they can approach that divorce in an amicable way. And so, that's a term that people hear a lot. But I still get questions, we get questions all the time.

What does that mean? What does it mean that we're going to keep it amicable? Because sometimes people use it. Now, it'll be like, listen, I want to keep this amicable and I will see that person in court. We're going to try this, and I'm going to get everything. And it's like, hold on, hold on. Let's take the word amicable out of it. Because everything you're talking about, it's not going to be amicable. And so, we want to talk in this show about what it means when we say, let's try and approach this in an amicable kind of way and keep things calm, keep things focused, so that we can get you through the process quickly and more efficiently.

This show that we're going to help define that, and we're going to help give you tools so that you can start to employ those tools if you're going through this process. And hopefully, you will, in fact, be able to stay laser focused on the issues at hand without all that emotional drama that can turn what should be simple into something far more complex.

Leh Meriwether:

Yeah. And if you've been listening to this show for a while, we've spent several weeks going over the rules of evidence and what do you need to introduce into court to win your case and everything. And we are giving a caveat with each one. We really don't want you to have to go to court. But there are cases where you don't have a choice and you've done everything you can, you end up on court. But we want to take a break from that. We still are going to continue talking about the evidence, how do you get things in. We still continue to talk about that.

But we want to take a break from that for a moment and talk about, how do you set the stage to have an amicable divorce so you never have to really learn any of the other things we've been talking about. I mean, like you said, there are cases where you need to learn them. A lot of times, learning them helps you be better prepared and helps you settle your case. But we wanted to talk about tips to help ensure that your divorce is amicable. But, Todd, I know that people get really ... Like you mentioned earlier, people get really confused about the word amicable. What definition have you seen online about amicable?

Todd Orston:

Alright. So, a great place to start, a definition of amicable online, it's of relations between people having a spirit of friendliness without serious disagreement or rancor. So that's what I'm going to call that textbook definition of the word. I know you and I, Leh, we've gone back and forth, and we agree in the family log divorce context. There are parts of that that I think are spot on, parts maybe not. You had some really great thoughts about that.

Leh Meriwether:

Yeah. And I think that's why some people may see that definition online and go, well, we have a serious disagreement about how we're going to resolve things, ours isn't going to be amicable. So the definition I like a little bit better is rather than saying having a spirit of friendliness, saying having a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. Because you can still have a serious disagreement, but cooperate with each other and have a mutual respect for each other to work through that disagree.

Todd Orston:

Yeah. I mean, when we use the word amicable, it does not mean you have to become the pushover, doesn't mean you have to give up on every issue, give in on every demand. That is absolutely not what we're saying. But even if there's a serious disagreement, who gets what asset, or what custody is going to look like, or how much support will be paid. Alright, you can have a disagreement, but how you approach that disagreement, how you approach trying to resolve that issue, you can do it either respectfully or not.

You can do it ... In other words, it's you can either use the fine tools of trade or you can use a sledgehammer, or you're going to do a lot more damage with that sledgehammer. And so, the way we, philosophically and in practice, approach these issues, is we try not to use that sledgehammer. We don't. We go in, we identify the issues, and then we try to open up the dialogue, open up that conversation and say, okay, here's our position, here's your position. And we're either going to say, look, our position is stronger based on law, based on experience.

Or we're going to get to a point where it's like, I hear you, you've heard us, now let's try and find some meeting point. Let's get to a place where we can, again, respectfully, acknowledge each other's points, and yet still get to an agreement that can put us on track to resolve the case short of any kind of litigation.

Leh Meriwether:

Yeah. If you were to shorten the definition even more for amicable, I think the three words I like are nice, but firm. So you can be nice throughout the entire process, but firm in your position. And I'm going to give an example of what I mean by that, but an amicable divorce where there were serious disagreements, but there was a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. One of my favorite things I ever heard in court from a judge was, he was encouraging everyone to go outside and work to try to settle their case.

Because sometimes people show up to court, and I mean, try to settle it. And he said, when two parties can come to an agreement, it's like performing surgery with a scalpel. Scalpel is very precise. When I resolve your disagreement with a ruling, it's like performing surgery with a chainsaw. It's messy. And that's one of my favorite descriptions I've heard a judge say. It's so true. And so, I had a case, I'll be really quick with this example, but people were like, well, what does that mean? What does this look like? And so, we had a case and we're mediating.

And the parties, both parties wanted to be the divorce to be amicable. They were working hard to make it amicable. And we got to a point in the mediation where there was a serious disagreement in the value of the marital home. We're talking about $150,000 disagreement as to what this home was worth. And that was a huge sticking point. And that makes an enormous difference. $150,000, if it's a relatively simple divorce, well, you could go to trial for 20 grand. I mean, so it's worth going to trial over with that big disagreement.

But thankfully, both lawyers wanted to honor the party's desire to have this amicable and said, "Why don't we do this? Why don't we agree to a third party real estate appraiser to come to a legitimate appraisal? And we agree ahead of time, whatever they come up with, that's the number we're going to use when deciding who gets what asset in this divorce." And both parties said, alright, I can accept that. And that's what we did, we put a pause on a mediation and then had the appraiser come out that both parties agreed to, they both looked them up.

And they gave an appraisal, and we stuck to it. And then later on, we got into the value of a pension. And we thought we had an understanding what that value was, but we got to mediation, it turns out we didn't. Somebody might be saying, well, why didn't you do this appraisal earlier? Well, I thought we had an agreement. But we got to mediation, had a huge disagreement on the value of a pension. And so, again, rather than fighting over this and letting the mediation fail and going to court, we, again, agreed to have a third party come in and give an appraisal of that pension.

We agreed to it ahead of time, what we would just ... I don't know, we would accept any number that came from that appraiser. And boom! We did. We came back for a third mediation and got everything settled. So that's a good example how the parties ... They had serious disagreements, I mean, the value on their pension. I mean, we were like $200,000 apart. And ...

Todd Orston:

There's always an opportunity to either remain amicable, get back to an amicable approach and positioning in a case. I had one case, very quickly, where the long and the short is, the parties were just at each other. And counsel, we were just in disagreement on a lot of issues and there were a lot of issues. And the day of the trial, I looked at opposing counsel, said, "Do you want to just sit down? Again, let's just try and at least limit the issues." And we resolved with the judge's permission. We resolved 90% of the issues, in turn what would have been a five, six-day trial into a one-day hearing. Because again, we still have a disagreement, but we were able to put all the emotion aside and really work together.

Leh Meriwether:

And when we come back, we're going to start on the tips. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever want to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 a.m. on Monday mornings WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston:

Better than counting sheep, I guess, right?

Leh Meriwether:

That's right.

Todd Orston:

You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether:

There you go.

Todd Orston:

I'll talk very softly.

Leh Meriwether:

Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh and Todd, and we are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. And if you want to read a transcript of this show or go back and listen to it again, you can find it at divorceteamradio.com. So today, we're talking about tips to ensure an amicable divorce. And of course, before we got started, we want to define what we meant by amicable divorce. Because as Todd found out, some of the definitions out there online, to me, they don't ring true as to what we envision an amicable divorce looks like. So we wanted to redefine it. So that we don't ...

Todd Orston:

Thank you, Webster.

Leh Meriwether:

We need to get on there. How do we apply the ... Get them to change that definition. No, I think they should actually, like you don't admit.

Todd Orston:

I'll call them today. No, I'll call them after the show.

Leh Meriwether:

Okay, good. So ...

Todd Orston:

But go ahead.

Leh Meriwether:

We explained that what we believe is a good definition of amicable. And a lot of people stay away from it because they think you're being a pushover. But we're talking about this is being nice, but firm. But why should you have that goal? Because some people definitely have in mind, well, I need a bulldog, we need to go to court, I need to crush the other side and win in court. So I don't want to even go down that amicable route. But, Todd, why should they be making that their goal, that they should approach this in an amicable way?

Todd Orston:

Well, I mean, obviously, and I've said this before, there's nothing that I can do for a client that's going to make this a happy, fun process. It's a divorce, right? It's naturally a negative, it's the ending of a relationship. And I understand, sometimes it's cathartic. I mean, the parties are ready, they're ready to move on. But still, it's a negative, sometimes even painful process. But it should always be your goal to approach it in an amicable way. Why? Well, a number of reasons. How about emotional and psychological health? This is a drain on you.

By putting the anger and the emotion aside and focusing on the issues and not getting caught up in the emotion, that's going to help you, that's going to help you maintain that emotional, psychological health. Your physical health, if your emotional, psychological health is suffering, I'm not a doctor, but I believe there's probably study after study that that can also impact your physical health. How about if there are children involved, children's health and wellbeing?

We have seen time and time again where parties are at each other, fighting over sometimes the most ludicrous of things. And the kids are watching everything. They have a front row seat to this, well, horrible car crash of ending of a relationship. And there's sometimes very little thought given to how it's impacting the kids. Well, how about more practical things? How about reduced time in the divorce process, getting to an agreement sooner? How about reduced cost? Money is important to everybody. Alright?

So you want prolonged litigation that's going to last months and months, if not, years? Absolutely. Fight on every little toaster and whatever you want to fight about. Alright. Or put the anger aside and focus on the real issues and focus on getting to an agreement.

Leh Meriwether:

I can't remember who told me this one time, but they said, "You have two choices, you can either split your marital state two ways or four ways." You can either split it with your lawyers or [crosstalk] yourselves.

Todd Orston:

That's right. That's right. Seriously. And I know that's the business that we're in, representing people, and we get paid for our services. But we are the first people to talk to our clients and say, listen, this can either be a somewhat faster, less expensive process. Or if you just can't put that emotion aside, it's going to be something far bigger. And I don't mean bigger isn't better. I mean, bigger in terms of length, duration, cost, all of those things. And then, of course, by keeping things calm, you might even be able to get to more favorable terms with the other party.

If you're fighting over everything, then you're fighting over everything. And it becomes really difficult to just convince the other side to see reason or to give in on one thing. I always say, I love the saying, "You know you've reached a good agreement when both parties walk away unhappy." Alright. And what does that mean? It means you're going to have to give to get. And so, if you approach this by putting that emotion aside, approaching in an amicable way, the negotiations, you're going to hopefully get to a point where you can reach that agreement.

And then, of course, how about this, having a healthier post-divorce relationship? Alright. If you have kids ... I mean, if you don't have children, you're going to go your separate ways and probably not even think about the other party. But if you have children, a divorce doesn't end that relationship. You're no longer married, you're no longer in a romantic relationship, but you're co-parenting. So getting through the process without all that rancor, that's going to allow you to be better co-parents, better for the children moving forward.

Leh Meriwether:

So let's get into the tips. What's tip number one, Todd?

Todd Orston:

Alright. Well, I want to say it's a simple one. Alright. But it's probably the most difficult, it is probably one that is ... If there's an umbrella that covers everything, it's this one, learn how to speak respectfully. If you go in, it's that sledgehammer, scalpel example that you're using. If you think you're going to accomplish a lot by just swinging that sledgehammer and bopping the other party on the head, not literally, with that sledgehammer, that's not the way it works. We've seen too many of these divorces.

If you try and bully to an agreement, the other side usually is going to shut down and they're going to pull out their sledgehammer and then you're basically in the middle of a war you don't want to be in. Usually, there isn't a winner. So you have to learn how to speak respectfully. What does that mean? Learn how to have a conversation. Alright. Learn how to engage in productive talks. Otherwise, I guess my question is, what's the purpose? A definite ... Go ahead, I'm sorry.

Leh Meriwether:

Now, I think there's ...

Todd Orston:

I was about to quote another Webster definition, but then you're going to change it and Webster is going to get angry.

Leh Meriwether:

The reason why I think this is extremely difficult, and we're going to spend the most time on this tip, it's extremely difficult to do for two reasons. Number one, we aren't taught this in school. I mean, you know what I'm saying. Like in most modern education, whether it'd be high school or college, they don't teach how to really develop quality conversation skills. This is something you have to learn outside of that. And number two, emotion is so high. It is so easy to move from what's called dialogue to argument. You want to stay in dialogue.

But as soon as a pressure point is hit, all of a sudden, your body chemistry, actually, kicks in. You've hit sometimes fight or flight syndrome. And so, adrenaline kicks in, now you move from dialogue to argument. And I'm going to talk about, how do you learn this? So we'll get into that in just a second. Because I think there's great book out there on it.

Todd Orston:

Absolutely. I mean, look, again, like I was saying before, let's start with a definition of conversation, a talk, especially an informal one between two or more people in which news and ideas are exchanged. Well, calling your spouse stupid is not a productive exchange of news and ideas, right? So that's not what we are talking about. You have to embrace that rule we were taught a long, long time ago. If you don't have something nice to say, say nothing at all. And if you can do that, if you can put the emotion aside, it's going to benefit you and it's going to get you through the process faster.

Leh Meriwether:

Yeah. I want to rewrite that, of course. If you don't have something nice to say, then either ask questions, ask questions, so you can learn how to say something nice. And so, what do I mean by that? So maybe there's somebody who says something and you're like, well ... Somebody expresses their feelings, I feel this way. And then you want to say, hey, well, that's just stupid. Now you've just called her feeling stupid, and you have no idea why they feel that way. So Crucial Conversations, you've heard us talk about this on the show in the past.

We haven't dove into that book in a while. But that book, at least from my perspective, is one of the most eye opening books on actually how to have what's called a crucial conversation because you actually do have to have crucial conversations. These are conversations you don't want to have, but you have to have them because tensions are high. The outcome of this conversation is important. So Crucial Conversations literally teaches you how to have that very difficult conversation, stay and dialogue and avoid argument, and actually reach a conclusion, reach an agreement.

Again, like Todd said, maybe both of you don't like the agreement, but still it's a quality agreement that you've reached as a result of having a crucial conversation rather than a knockdown, drag out, sledgehammer battle. So when we come back, we're going to continue to break down how you have a respectful conversation.

Todd Orston:

Hey, everyone, you're listening to our podcast, but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also at 1:00 a.m. on Monday morning on WSB.

Leh Meriwether:

If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us on iTunes or wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five-star rating and tell us why you like the show. Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh and Todd, and we are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. And if you want to read a transcript of this show or other ones, you can find them at divorceteamradio.com.

Well, today, we're talking about tips to ensure an amicable divorce. And we did spend some time laying out what we meant by an amicable divorce, because I think it's important that you understand the definition we're talking about. And if I boil it down to three words, it's nice, but firm. One of the most difficult tips is learning to speak respectfully, because people often say, well, how do I speak respectfully to this person if I don't respect them? At which I can understand, there was a reason why you're getting divorce.

But we want ... Read the book, Crucial Conversations, because that will help you understand how to do just that. And also, it will help you avoid falling from conversation or dialogue into an argument that is not productive. And you understand more about what I'm talking about when I say understanding someone's feelings. Just because you understand where they're coming from, doesn't mean you have to agree with them. I mean, you may pull back and go, really? Yeah, those feelings are really stupid. But if you say that, boom!

You have now give up, at least for that moment, on reaching any sort of agreement. So it's better off asking questions, learning the other person's story. That's what the crucial conversation goes into. I want to do this. Let me see if I can do this in 60 seconds. There's a great example in the book, married couple, married 30 years. Wife comes home, pulls out their credit card statement and sees a charge on the credit card statement for a seedy hotel that the card that her husband uses. She has no reason to suspect that he's cheating on her. He comes home.

She says, "What's this charge?" She could start laying into him, I can't believe he cheated on me. She doesn't. She understands that's not productive. And so, "Can you call to find out what this charge is for this hotel?" Because he says, "I've never been to that hotel, I would never go to that hotel, I would never cheat on you." He almost gets mad because she's doubting his ... She's basically accusing him of adultery, and he's not done it. But he doesn't get angry. He asked her, "What's this about?"

"Well, you remember two years ago, when my sister got a divorce, her husband met a woman in a hotel, and that's how the affair really got started." "Oh, okay." So it's like this uncontrollable feeling. Her brain knows that there's no way he's cheating on her, but she feels this fear as a result of what happened to her sister. And so, he realizes, I can address this feeling even though I don't feel like it's fair. But by just simply making a call to find out what this charge is about, he makes the call, finds out that the charge was actually the night they went to a Chinese restaurant that was next door to the hotel, the seedy hotel.

Apparently, it's a really good Chinese restaurant. Well, the owner of the restaurant also owns a hotel and his credit card processing machine and the restaurant was broken, so he was using the one in the hotel. So that's why the charge showed up like they stayed in the hotel. Simply resolved by respectful of each person's feelings, even though, like in his case, he didn't feel like she was justified and potentially making an accusation. So that's an example how they were able to work past that to each benefit. And so, that's what we're talking about.

You can be respectful to the other person even if you actually don't respect them. But oftentimes, what happens is that you learn from ... When you hear their story, you're like, you know what, I might feel that way if I had had that life experience too. Sometimes that happens. And when it does, then you are able to work past whatever the issue is and come to an agreement.

Todd Orston:

Yeah. And here's the really hard part, and then we'll move on to some more tips. Even if there's not a Chinese food restaurant attached to that seedy hotel, if you're moving forward with a divorce, you have to step back. And an attorney who practice family law a long time ago, when I was first getting into the practice, said to me, he said, "Todd, in this business, you can negotiate well, you can do all sorts of things well. But if you can't control the emotion, then the case will take on a tone and it'll get ugly, and no one wins." And I've embraced that.

And I think our firm embraces that. So even if there is no Chinese food restaurant attached, at some point, you need to put that aside. I'm not saying forget and I'm not saying forgive. That's up to you. But you need to step back and say, okay, if we're moving forward with a divorce, how can I get through this as quickly and easily as possible? And if you embrace and just wear this suit of armor, this anger, and if that governs all of your actions and how you respond and communicate and all of that, all you're doing is prolonging the process.

Alright, let's move on to some other ... What I'm going to say more practical things that you might be able to do to help keep things amicable. So how about giving each other space? I'm doing air quotes, when sharing common spaces in the home. Alright. Divorce is stressful. If you're under the same roof, tensions can run high. So you need to embrace the fact and understand that the home, at that point, it's not just yours. And just like you need your space, goes back to respect. Just like you need your space, so will your spouse.

If you're on the phone, just blasting the TV, the other party blasting the TV or music in the same area, that's going to get you angry, that's going to make it so that you're not willing to communicate at the appropriate times about the divorce process. Alright. If your spouse is watching favorite rerun of, I don't know, whatever show, Friends, then don't choose that time to start drum lessons in the area. We've seen so many of these things, little things, where they're poking at each other. And you know what happens? It just shuts down that communication.

Leh Meriwether:

And you know what, I had this in too. If one person is watching TV in the room and you get a call, don't put it on speakerphone. Then they're like, "I can't hear my TV show anymore." And now you start turning up the show and like, "Hey! I can't hear my friend on the phone." Be respectful of each other. Leave the room if you get a phone call, so the other person doesn't have to crank up the TV, if you're still watching TV together. But I mean, it happens. And I want to add this in.

Often, when you're going through a divorce, you may be in a different place than your spouse, maybe you've been thinking about this divorce for two years now. And so, by the time you make the decision to pull the trigger, emotionally, you're ready, you're ready for this divorce. But your spouse who thinks differently, has a different story background through which they process all their information, they're not ready for this divorce. They're going in a different emotional place than you are.

What you may think is giving the other person's space is not what they think has given the other person space. So it goes back to that respect, just keep aware. Be aware that the other person may be in a different emotional place than you are. So when they act a certain way, do not respond in kind. It's often a result of them being in a different emotional place.

Todd Orston:

Great tip. Alright. Well, let's move on to the next practical tip. Consider alternate sleeping arrangements. Alright. I'm not saying start sleeping from the rafters or ...

Leh Meriwether:

Batman.

Todd Orston:

... going to the attic. But you're not going to weaken your case if you decide to sleep in another room. Alright. Whether it's asked for or not, everyone needs a safe haven. They need someplace they can go and be comfortable. And if you guys are at odds and you're still sleeping in the same bed, sometimes all that's doing is it's taking away from both of you that feeling of having a safe haven where you can go and decompress. I mean, you're in the same bed still, you're not going to, like I said, weaken your case by doing that.

Now, the only negative, potentially, is that if you're the one that moves out, if a court is asked to establish a status quo for the ongoing case, you may not be in the room for that period of time, however the case lasts. Alright. But these are tips that are going to help bring you peace and hopefully, help open and keep open the channels of communication to get you through the process faster. So think about that, think about, is it going to be worth staying in that same room if both of you are just uncomfortable? Or is it going to bring peace to everyone involved if you say, you know what, I'll go to the guest bedroom.

Leh Meriwether:

Yeah, those ...

Todd Orston:

Or there's space in the basement.

Leh Meriwether:

Part of the reason we may added this in there, is because a lot of times, people can't afford to live, at least during the divorce process, because they both hire lawyers. They can't afford to hire lawyers and to immediately have two separate homes to live in. So we get that a lot. I mean, we do have clients that can afford two separate homes. Heck, when they come to us, they have five separate homes. But if you can't afford that, then you want to look at having safe places inside your home.

And when we come back, we're going to continue to break down tips to help ensure an amicable divorce. I just wanted to let you know that if you ever want to listen to the show live, you can listen at 1:00 a.m. on Monday mornings on WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston:

Better than like counting sheep, I guess, right?

Leh Meriwether:

That's right.

Todd Orston:

You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether:

There you go.

Todd Orston:

I'll talk very softly.

Leh Meriwether:

Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh and Todd, and we are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the Divorce and Family Law Firm of Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. And if you want to read a transcript of this show or go back and listen to it again, you can find it at divorceteamradio.com. Well, today, we're talking about tips to help you ensure an amicable divorce. And now we're getting into some more practical tips.

We talked about the most difficult one, is being respectful even if you don't respect the other person, but it is extremely important. If you missed that part, you definitely want to go back and listen to it again, or go back and listen to it. Alright. So now we're getting to the practical part where we left off, we were talking about giving each other space and creating alternative sleeping arrangements. And so, as a follow up on that, the next tip is respect your spouse's safe haven. So have a conversation. Alright. So you're going to take this room, I'm going to take that room.

But then you need to set some ground rules for access to the other person's space. So an example would be, if one person takes, let's say, the wife takes the master bedroom and you take a spare bedroom that doesn't happen to have a dresser in it. Or rather than moving all your stuff, maybe have a conversation with your spouse and say, "Okay. Well, I need to be at work at 9:00 and I need to start getting ready at 7:00. So I'd like to come and knock on your door at 7:00 and come in and take a shower and get my clothes and get dressed."

And that way, you'd be surprised how quickly something as straightforward as that seems, people just forget, partly because you've ... Let's say you're the husband and you're in that routine, where you just get up and you're in the shower by 7:00 and you're dressed. And so, you're trying to maintain your routine. And the other person is like, "Hey, why are you coming in here?" Because they forgot that was your routine. So have a conversation, think about what your morning routine looks like or evening routine. And make sure that y'all are on the same page that, hey, I get to come in at 7:00 to take a shower and change clothes, all that good stuff.

Todd Orston:

Yeah, that comes down to respect. I mean, again, you are showing whether the relationship ended with fireworks. In other words, if there was a Chinese food restaurant or not involved, you have to put that aside for the moment. And this is a brand new conversation and you have to show respect. And in that way, you're going to open up the doors to communication and hopefully, resolution of the divorce case.

Leh Meriwether:

And don't just assume the other person is okay with what may have been a routine for you, because you're about to get a divorce. So don't make assumptions. That's where things break down. And on the flip side, let's say, you're in your room and someone comes in, you're like, why are you coming in here? I thought that was my understanding this is my space. But think about ... Just ask them respectfully, rather than in a derogatory way, your tone makes a big difference, and say, "Hey, what's going on?" "Oh, I'm coming to get my clothes." "Oh, we didn't talk about that."

And, hey, can we set some times that you get your clothes or something like that. Or maybe we should go buy a dresser to put in that room for you to put your clothes in. So have a conversation about that. Don't get mad at the other person right off the bat. Okay, so respect the other person's safe haven and think about your routines, don't make assumptions about your routines and whether they're okay or not. Respect your spouse's personal property as well. We've seen cases where the other side gets mad and they just take all.

Let's say, they did set up an agreement about their personal space and they just grab all their clothes and throw it out the second story window in the middle of a rainstorm into the bud. I've seen that happen before. Not helpful. Don't do that. On the flip side, if you say, hey, I'm going to get a dresser and I'm going to move my clothes into the spare bedroom so I don't have to come in here. And you tell the person you're going to do that and then don't do it, that's not fair either. That's not being respectful of them either.

So if you say you're going to get some clothing, or let's say you moved out of the house and you've set all your personal possessions in the garage, don't leave them there. Get them, take them to your place, because that creates tension as well. I know that may sound simple or well, but we've seen divorces fall apart because of that. Respect the marital property. There's a standing order that neither party are supposed to liquidate the marital state, except in the ordinary course of business. So just set that aside for a moment.

Just say, look, be respectful of other people's property. Again, don't make assumptions. Don't just, hey, I'm moving out. And then the spouse comes home, the one who's staying there comes home, and then all sudden, the couch has gone, the kids watch TV on and the coffee table and the dining room tables just gone because you moved it out without talking ahead of time. Even though you weren't stealing anything and they know where it went, have that conversation ahead of time saying, okay, I'm going to move out so you can have your space. Can we have a conversation? Because I need the following materials and I can't afford those materials and to cover the lawyer's fee. So work on an agreement regarding that.

Todd Orston:

Yeah, alright. Well, here's a question that we get all the time. And we could probably do two or three shows just on this issue, but should you stay in the same home? So here's the information I'm going to give, we're going to give. If peaceful coexistence under the same roof is not possible, then moving out may be necessary. If your own mental health requires a greater degree of separation, then it may be necessary. If the children's wellbeing could be jeopardized, ups in a greater degree of separation, it may be necessary. It doesn't constitute abandonment. I get that question all the time. Am I here?

Leh Meriwether:

I'm not sure. Georgia and Florida doesn't constitute abandonment.

Todd Orston:

Right. So, just the fact that you have temporarily moved out to keep the peace, you have not, under the laws of these states, abandoned. Alright. And then ...

Leh Meriwether:

There are some states, I believe, that actually have that. If you move out, you've abandoned the home. So check the state in which you live.

Todd Orston:

Great point. And the same thing goes towards affecting marital ownership interests, okay. But there are things you have to consider before you move out. Alright? There are people who are like, I can't take it, I'm moving, and they move. But then they're like, well, it's weird because I moved out and now the locks are changed and I can't talk to my kids and I can't get my personal property, and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And it's like, well, these are things you should have dealt with before you left.

So if all of those things, of the things I mentioned are true, then before you move out, you should reach some kind of formal temporary agreement before you move. Deal with the issues of custody support, who's going to pay the bills, who's going to take care of the lawn, who's going to do all of those things. Go into detail. Don't move and then expect that the other party is going to negotiate in good faith on those issues. Hopefully, they will. But we've seen too many times that there are problems.

So make sure also that you take personal property that you want or need, because getting back in may be difficult. And the final thing I would say, and like I said, we could spend a ... I'm racing through this, but also a good idea is take some pictures and videos of the space before you leave to document property condition and the existence of assets. We've seen situations where it's like, well, there was a piece of art over here and there was this and there was that. And there are holes in the wall and the other party is like, no, they were there before. So now you've documented. And that can hopefully avoid problems in the future.

Leh Meriwether:

And I'll say one thing not to do, is don't just leave the home. And let's say, you haven't talked about divorce and your spouse goes to work. And then when they come home during the day, like half the stuffs gone, or even nothing's gone. And all that's in the house is a note saying, I've moved down, I want a divorce. You want to talk about setting the stage in the wrong way, you have just like ... And the other person didn't see it coming because they usually don't, that is the worst way to start the divorce process. You are one of the worst. I'm not saying it's the worst. But keep that in mind.

Todd Orston:

And I've seen judges, very quickly, order, hey, return that stuff to the house. There was no reason for all of that to get removed. All of that's going to be returned to the matter of residence, and then we'll deal with basically who gets it in the end, but get it back into the house. So just because you took it doesn't mean you keep it.

Leh Meriwether:

And I've also seen that being held against you when there's children involved.

Todd Orston:

That's right.

Leh Meriwether:

That you weren't concerned enough for the kids to sit down and have a conversation ahead of time to make sure there weren't too traumatized. Because that not only traumatize the wife, but ... In this example I'm giving, but the kids were very, very, very upset, very upset.

Todd Orston:

Alright, so what's the last tip?

Leh Meriwether:

The last one should go without saying, but you'd be surprised, stay off social media. Don't post your family drama or issues, or even that you're getting a divorce on social media. Wait till it's over. And even then, I just say stay away from social media. And if you're a social media person who just are always on it, and then this may sound harsh, but you may want to consider just removing them from your phone. It makes it more difficult to just oppose something that the other person may consider embarrassing, because that can push you farther apart.

And not to mention, it could be used against you in a hearing. So stay away from social media. Making a derogatory post can quickly shift a divorce from amicable to knock down, drag out fights. Okay, everyone, we're pretty much out of time. I hope that these tips will help you avoid an ugly divorce and I hope that you can have an amicable one. Thanks so much for listening.