Most of us make lists for everything from grocery shopping, packing for travel, party planning and the ever popular “to do” list. Lists are of such importance that there is a whole range of items sold to assist us in creating our lists: day planners, electronic applications, and the beloved sticky notes to name a few.
Why are lists so important? They help us organize our thoughts, make tasks appear more manageable, assist us in remembering important information, and may even create a sense of calm, clarity, and control. Quite simply, a list is generally a roadmap of what one is seeking to accomplish. The larger and more complex the endeavor, the greater necessity for a clear and concise plan...aka the list.
While we clearly cannot liken the tasks in a divorce to items, we place on a grocery list, the process and purpose is the same: we decide what we want, where and how to get and, and blissfully cross it off the list when we done, moving on to the next item on the list.
What goes on a divorce checklist? First and foremost is finding an attorney. Without successfully accomplishing this task, it is impossible to create the rest of your list. In other words, an attorney knowledgeable in the area of divorce and family law will be able to explain your rights, obligations and issues which will likely arise in your particular circumstances. As we all know, a list is only as good as the accuracy of the information we are given. For example, you cannot pack for a trip unless you know things such as how long you will be away, the weather at your destination, etc. Once you and your attorney discuss your situation, and you understand the issues, you can begin to create your checklist, which will also assist your attorney in understanding and pursuing your priority items.
The remaining list items and topics are personal to each individual, and based upon his/her thoughts and desires regarding life post-divorce: who will the children live with, can I remain in the house, if I move where can I afford to live, how can I keep my retirement assets, will I get spousal support? Another important item on a divorce list is the compiling of financial documents, which will undoubtedly be required during the action.
Your list must be realistic and practical under the circumstances. If you are diabetic, your grocery store list wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be replete with candy, sugary soft drinks, and bakery goods. An ill-conceived list invites failure and frustration. In divorce actions, it can also lead to prolonged litigation and increased legal expense.
Finally, while checklists are a helpful tool in divorce actions, one must realize that the list is often fluid. It is likely that as the litigation proceeds, some list items may be added, and others crossed off entirely. This is particularly true during settlement negotiations. In this regard, it is important to prioritize your list items and discuss your non-negotiables with your attorney.