Divorce Strategy, Petitioner or Respondent?

There are some advantages for the person who files for divorce, also known as the petitioner, but the advantages do not compare to the internal turmoil that results which is why you should consider being the respondent instead.  The thought of divorce starts brewing when there is conflict percolating that goes unresolved.  One person avoids confronting the other, so the internal grumbling gets pushed off to another day and that seed of discontent resurfaces when something else goes wrong.  If you have young children you are in a pressure cooker, because both of you aren’t getting any sleep, you have less time to talk than you did before little ones, you are now in a position of disciplinarian and/or correcting daily and one person is usually more of the care-taker which means less caring for the other person and less caring for themselves in general (this is a season, don’t lose track of your end game).  If your relationship didn’t break with young kids, after the period  you either do not rebuild your relationship or you continue in the same negative relationship patterns that evolved during that time.  Long-term relationships are demanding work!  Marriages with children require even more work!  If you’re lazy, do not get married.  Like anything in this life, relationships require maintenance and upkeep for them to thrive.

If a thriving marriage seems nowhere in sight and you are considering divorce as a petitioner, it would be folly not to mention the immediate 5 advantages of this position in the divorce.

  1. The petitioner has the most time to find the right attorney. You can interview as many attorneys as you like and there will not be one single attorney that recommends you stay married.  They aren’t marriage counselors.  They are marriage destroyers.  Family law is their life and they will be eager to agree with whatever story you unload at their office as cause for the divorce.
  2. You, as the petitioner, are paying into the Family Law system upfront. The other person has zero skin in the game; however, as the petitioner you are already making the investment in controlling the outcome of your divorce settlement.  This is also somewhat of an illusion, because every state and county has rules and laws at which settlement is derived; however, you are the one steering the boat and it is your timetable and your timetable only.  Your spouse has zero say.  Even if your spouse wanted to file online, your spouse is stuck doing things your way through the court no matter what.
  3. You can take advantage of the loopholes in the system. There are certain deadlines, disclosures, et cetera that are required throughout the process; however, the petitioner will often surprise the respondent in court like delivering declarations at the hearing instead of beforehand like documentation requires (attorneys are not reprimanded for engaging in this type of courtroom scheming).  The purpose is to put added pressure on the respondent whether the respondent has an attorney or not so that the respondent will yield to what opposing council desires.
  4. A conniving petitioner has the advantage of hiding assets and cash. The court does not automatically order financial discovery.   Due to this fact, the petitioner has a monetary advantage unless the respondent chooses to enlist a financial discovery team; however, no team can explore offshore bank accounts.  Domestically they will only find something that the respondent has generally already discovered, but needs more backup.  For example, if the petitioner decided to open a bank account a year before they decided to file for a divorce and kept it a complete secret from the spouse.  Hiding assets is a crime; however, people will do the craziest things in a divorce and shockingly some get away with it.
  5. Finally, the petitioner has the first opportunity to engage in vengeful rhetoric aimed to break the respondent. The person who files is usually the person who is harder to please in the relationship.  They keep track of every single grievance either by literally writing it down or making mental notes throughout the relationship.  The petitioner could also be someone who wants to hide something that could damage the petitioner’s reputation, so the goal is to make the respondent sound like a bad person whether it’s true or not.  The court never verifies the story from either side.

Emotions in a divorce are nothing like you’ve ever experienced.  Divorce creates an emotional jungle which is why being the petitioner is more hurtful to the person petitioning than they realize.  All the reasons why they file for divorce are relived repeatedly during the process from the start.  If there isn’t abuse involved, being the petitioner is essentially giving up.  The person who files is rarely the person that’s happy after it’s over.  Their emotional state is likely to remain unchanged longer than that of the respondent.  As the respondent, the emotional jungle is still something to be dealt with; however, it is not all consuming like it is for the petitioner (this could be false, if there are other factors involved like alcohol dependency, drugs, disorders, etc.).  The respondent is faced with rejection; however, the petitioner undoubtedly left clues of dissatisfaction throughout the relationship so it’s not like the respondent can claim they were blindsided.  As the respondent, there are more mental advantages than monetary advantages and power plays.

  1. The respondent does not harbor bitterness which can slowly deteriorate and infect other relationships. This is huge, because when going through a divorce the lives of both people are turned upside down and maintaining friendships is critical to remain somewhat of a balanced person.  If you have children keeping your mind free of negativity helps you to parent wisely and recover from rejection.
  2. The respondent can make better decisions, because they aren’t steering the boat. As the respondent, you can focus on what really matters instead of past grievances or what the attorney(s) conjure up.
  3. If you’re the respondent, you know that you weren’t the one that gave up on your marriage. By definition, you are the more optimistic partner.  If you were given a choice in the matter, you probably would have gone to great lengths to save the marriage if you could.
  4. Being the respondent means you are more willing to be flexible and you are less selfish than your partner. You are relinquishing control to the other person by default.
  5. Finally, choosing to respond to a divorce filing rather than initiating a divorce filing means you take your wedding vows more seriously and commitment is something you honor. Even with all the conflict that made the other person file, you decided that filing for divorce would cause more harm than good.  As the respondent, you are taking the high road.

A long-term relationship is challenging work!  Marriage is no exception; add in children and the work is that much greater.  However, working through conflict, practicing forgiveness and honoring marriage unlocks the door to relationship contentment.  As the petitioner, you’re giving up and you’re letting your emotions drive your actions; as the respondent, you can find the eye of the storm and find peace through it all.  Yes, as the petitioner there are monetary and power play advantages, but as the respondent, you have a mental advantage.  Money is temporal and power plays damage the soul, neither is much of a win.   Choose respondent, go to great lengths to save your marriage now.  Do not wait for the other person.  If the other person files, at least you know you did your best.

Uncle Sam Wants What’s His – 3 Questions to Ask Before You File Taxes in a Divorce

You must decide how you will handle taxes. Hands down, money will be saved if filing jointly.

Taxes are a chore.  I don’t think I’ve met a single person who enjoys this season, unless you are a Type A personality with extra time on your hands; you don’t look forward to taxes.  Going through a divorce is difficult enough and then on top of it the divorce is never finalized the same year unless there are zero assets and no kids under 18.  You must decide how you will handle taxes.  Hands down, money will be saved if filing jointly.  In some states, married filing separately you still must account for your estranged spouse’s income, community property and you’re still 100% responsible for taxes due.  Complicated, complicated, complicated.  It’s a chore, so you need to ask yourself, what are my options?  Disclosure, I’m not a tax expert or an accountant.


Are you the one filing the divorce and haven’t yet?

Try to avoid tax issues and time your divorce so you’re only having to deal with one year of taxes instead of two.  Dealing with taxes early in the process is such a headache.  It adds to all the stress and puts extra pressure on everyone.  One spouse must take the reins, bite the bullet and get it done.  That will be you or if you’re a bully or lazy you’ll make your spouse do it.  If you trust your spouse gave you everything you needed to file the tax return, married file jointly is the best option.


The next question to ask, is the divorce amicable or contested?

If your divorce is amicable, filing taxes as a couple is a no brainer if the divorce is not final.  Depending on what state you live in you get the full benefit of deducting the main residence, the dependents, child care, etc.  Filing as a couple is always better financially for both parties.  If your divorce is contested and the other spouse refuses to file as a couple, you have no choice, but to file separately.  When you file separately you must choose whether you’ll take the deduction or itemize.  Both of you have to select the same one.  This is extremely tricky.  Gotta love our government.  If one spouse doesn’t have income and the other is a straight up W2 employee, easy take the standard deduction.  If one spouse has a W2 and a business and the other spouse has nothing, that spouse can’t itemize effectively and still in most cases must claim the income, so it depends.  If one spouse is a W2 employee and the other is a 1099, it again depends whether there are enough deductions to equal the standard deduction; because the W2 employee will be swimming in taxes if they don’t itemize everything they need to.  There are so many combinations I can’t possibly cover them all.  Remember, going through a divorce makes everything topsy-turvy including taxes.   This could be different is some states, so be sure you do your research or talk to a CPA or tax preparer.


Final question, if you decide married filing jointly is the best option – How will you handle the return and/or taxes due?

This is a very difficult question to answer, especially if one spouse says here, you do it and the divorce is highly contested.  Try to get your spouse to agree how to handle it.  Write it down and make them sign.  If your spouse has been compliant with the money portion of your separation or divorce, then it is probably likely they will follow through with whatever you agree to.  If money has been an issue in the divorce, then filing separately is your best bet to avoid arguments and improper income reporting.

Taxes are just around the corner.  Remember to time the divorce so you don’t have to do taxes twice, decide what is better financially and understand your relationship dynamics and make a decision on how the return and/or payment of taxes will be handled.  If you need more general tax help, try researching more online Nolo.com is a good place to start.   If you have unlimited resources at your disposal filing separately with a professional is probably the very best option in a contested divorce.

6 Things a Divorce Attorney Won’t Tell You

If you can manage it, get through your divorce with as little family law industry personnel involved as possible.  Almost every person that works in the family law industry and even your friends will say, “you need an attorney!”  Newsflash, they don’t REALLY know and if they work in the industry, they have ulterior motives.  Your friends, family or co-workers only tell you, you need an attorney because it seems to make sense.  Initially you feel you are at a disadvantage if your estranged spouse has an attorney and you do not, if you’re working full-time and you have children you will probably have to get an attorney if the children are with you most the time; however, if you have a good support system and your work schedule is flexible, explore representing yourself or filing online.  If you find you must start talking with attorneys you need to be aware of these 6 topics that fly under the radar:

#1 The attorney will not tell you to go without an attorney, it conflicts with their livelihood.  An attorney knows the system and the divorce system is designed to make money. If you hire an attorney, you still use your time and energy to explain everything to your attorney.  Additionally, you must review all paperwork they prepare, because your signature is required on every form.  Whether you are the petitioner (the person who filed for the divorce) or the respondent (the person responding to the person who filed); an attorney will not grasp your position as much as you.  Every state has rules and regulations on how they do things, your divorce will follow those rules and regulations; you will not be the exception because you hired a good attorney.

#2 The attorney will not tell you they don’t care directly.  It’s unimaginable that people can become so calloused; however, they probably did not start out that way.  The system grooms people to become desensitized to your situation.  It’s only natural.  Family law people put on a caring façade to gain your trust (there are some exceptions, but few).  The more people they’ve worked with, the less caring they typically are.  There is no way they could face their work day without that hard shell, because to be good at what they do, they must manipulate the other side and manipulate you too.  Remember they are also charging you an arm and a leg at the same time whether you can afford it or not.  Married celebrities, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, discovered this late in the game according to Vanity Fair and finally decided to go with a private judge which minimizes attorney and media manipulation, plus keeps things private from the public.

#3 The attorney will not tell you your story DOESN’T matter to the court.  This is huge!  If you already have an attorney you are already somewhat familiar with the preparation that is required to file the paperwork or forms with the court.  The first declaration forms go to great lengths to set the backdrop behind the reasons for the divorce.  Hours upon hours are spent by you and your attorney to arrive at a reasonably true story.  If you don’t have a caring attorney, the attorney will input drama where needed and hyperbole to make the story more compelling so the judge finds it interesting to read.  What’s worse is that these lies are never refuted at the hearing.  The story is filed as fact and then the other person can submit their own declaration (link example is from California) refuting the lies, but there is no consensus.

#4 The attorney will not tell you the judge will make an order or decline making an order as they see fit regardless of your attorney’s performance or the damages that accrued in the relationship.  The judge sees numerous cases a day, you are just a number.  If the judge had a bad morning and you show emotion, 2 strikes against whatever you think is a fair compromise.  All the while, your attorney sits there helpless and you paid them to sit there helpless.  Every hearing has an objective set by the judge or opposing council, so if the situation that is rectified before the date on the court’s calendar you cannot replace that objective with something else.  The date is removed from calendar and if there’s another topic that needs to be addressed you or your attorney must file a motion to put it back on calendar.  What does this do?  It prolongs the divorce and keeps the legal tab open.

#5 The attorney will not tell you to always show up in court or the other side will have the advantage.  This is a common-sense scenario.  From the judge’s perspective if you didn’t take the time to appear in court you automatically have less authority and skin in the game even though you sent your attorney to represent you.  If you truly don’t care, this could work for you, but if you truly do care, always appear in court.

#6 If you live in a liberal state and have children, judges & attorneys do not follow “best interests of the child” doctrine.  Shocking I know!  Family law is like the Wild West.  There are very few absolutes and all kinds of grey area.  For the court to care about the children in an abusive situation, the spouse in question MUST have a criminal record and/or the abuse must be verified by a professional 3rd party.

Think twice before seeking an attorney to file for divorce.  If you loved your spouse at least for a moment during your marriage, save yourself the stress and heartache that comes along with the attorney representation package.  The judge in every divorce case bases their decision on previous case decisions and if the judge breaks the law and favors the other side unjustly you can appeal.  If you think your spouse will get an attorney, seek advice from an attorney, but talk to many, because if you go with a calloused one you’ll be in for a long haul.

Welcome to FYI Divorce, real life divorce tips

Welcome to FYI Divorce, an unbiased resource that’s not tapping into the industry of divorce, but tapping into the heart of the matter; PEOPLE’s LIVES.

You’re reading this now, because you’re thinking about divorce, starting a divorce, going through a divorce or have already experienced the divorce process.  There are very few resources on divorce that are truly objective resources.   Almost every divorce online resource has the money strings attached, so the perspective of the article or website is skewed.  No longer, my friends!  Welcome to FYI Divorce, an unbiased resource that’s not tapping into the industry of divorce, but tapping into the heart of the matter; PEOPLE’s LIVES.  This is not a place to find legal advice.  This is a place to find the real deal; reveal what’s behind the divorce curtain for lack of a better analogy.

Hold onto your hats, because FYI Divorce will be taking you on a wild ride.  There will be insight garnered from personal experience (a perspective outside of family law), there will be interviews of divorcées, there will be interviews of industry workers and most of all there will be NO SUGARCOATING.  It’s time there is some real talk about what goes on in the courthouse and the courtroom and how the individuals’ experience can be drastically different depending on what state and county the divorce is filed.

There are many different types of divorce.  There are online divorces, uncontested divorces, contested divorces, only custody cases in non-marital situations, domestic violence divorces, irreconcilable differences divorces (which covers up the true reason for divorce), short term marriage divorces, long-term marriage divorces and the list goes on.  It’s time someone talks about the experience that unravels once you enter this tangled web of family law.  DO NOT ENTER the divorce lane without reading FYI Divorce first.

If divorce was simple, there would be no need for FYI Divorce.  Divorce is complicated.  The state government and attorneys make it even more complicated.  It’s not like you can file all the necessary paperwork with or without an attorney and go on your merry way as a singleton.  Once you go down this expensive path of family law there is no U-turn.  Do I have your attention?  Your life matters.  Family law does not consider your life.  Family law does not care about you, your family or even your kids.  Family law is there to accept your dollars, shuffle paperwork and do it all over again the next day.  There are those rare few in family law that do want to have a positive impact in the industry, but those people are extremely scarce and busy; good word travels fast.  Stay tuned for more real talk on divorce tips and family law.