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A Divorce Action–Start at the Beginning…

***Please note: I am only licensed to practice law in the state of Utah, and every state is a little different as to how they do things.  So this is specifically directed at Utah folks.  To the rest of ya’ll–Many states have online information and/or contact information for free legal assistance, as well as access to forms for people representing themselves in their family law court case.  Take a look online and see what you can find.  And if you need more help, probably hire a lawyer licensed in your locality.

In the beginning, your marriage was good.  Or maybe it wasn’t, but you were gonna stick it out, either for the kids, or so you could say at least you did everything you could to save it.  But at some point, the marriage got bad enough to call it quits.  When that happens, you decide you need to file for divorce.  (Forms and detailed instructions can be found at the Utah Courts Website.)

But to explain from the beginning…

The Petition.  To start any court action, you have to file a petition (or complaint, but a petition in the case of a divorce.)  The petition says that you live in the jurisdiction that you’re filing in; that you were married on x date in x place to your spouse; that you have/don’t have kids with your spouse; how you think the division of your property and debts should be; if you want alimony and how much; if you will have the kids primarily with you and need child support; who’s going to get custody of the kids; who’s going to get parent time, and what will that look like.  A lot of times petitions will ask for things that are so completely out there that they’re a bit ridiculous.  Like the man who wanted sole legal AND physical custody of his 4 children, including the newborn that his wife had a few days after he left her and the kids and moved out, and hadn’t really seen them since.

And why would someone do that??  The answer is this:  In the event that the other party defaults (doesn’t file an answer to the petition), you can only get from the court what you ask for in the petition.  Nothing more.  The theory is that we ask for things in the petition that we may not actually expect to get if the whole thing proceeds without a default.  It’s a matter of putting a client (or yourself) in the best position possible post-divorce.

hair-on-fire-guy

This is not the face of someone feeling Reasonable.

All that said, I do not advise asking for outrageous, unreasonable, ridiculous things in your divorce petition.  I have seen too many people get served with divorce papers and come completely unglued because of the unrealistic (and mean, which is how it feels) things that the petition is claiming the filing party should get.  Like custody of kids that that parent left and hasn’t seen or talked to since s/he left.  Or amounts of alimony so huge that there’s no way the other person could pay it.  Or all of the property that both parties own, and the other should get all the debt.  The net effect of this is to cause the responding party to freak out/cause their hair to burst into flames while their head rotates and they spew green vomit.  NO ONE can be reasonable in going through a divorce action if they are immediately enraged by the initial pleading, so DON’T DO THAT.

As far as parent time goes, if you can’t do 50/50 joint physical custody (for whatever reason–sometimes is just doesn’t work), go with the statutory minimums as a baseline, with language allowing for additional parent time for the non-custodial parent as the parties can agree. (Note:  The Utah State Legislature enacted new law regarding statutory minimums, which has the effect of giving the parties joint physical custody, though not a 50/50 split.  You can find that new section here.  It’s an excellent option in cases where a 50/50 split isn’t really workable, but the non-custodial parent has been more involved than not in the kids’ lives to that point.)

The goal with any divorce should be to have an amicable and equitable separation of property, debt, etc., and to make it so the parties are no longer married but can maintain good relationships with the kids, and not end up horribly destroyed financially.  Your life will NOT be better if you f*** over your ex-spouse!  Don’t be vindictive and horrible that way.  Because NO ONE WINS A DIVORCE–there are just varying shades of Loss.  And we REALLY don’t want the kids to end up the big losers in the whole thing by having their parents in constant turmoil because of the fall-out from a horrible or one-sided divorce.

fighting man & woman

Probably these 2 are gonna have a difficult time co-parenting… 😦

Trust me on this one….I’ve felt it up close and very personal.  And so have my kids.

Sometimes it feels like this…I had a case that this song rolled through my head every time I worked on it.  Sad.

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