In this episode, we'll dive into more ways to self sabotage your divorce so you can avoid costly mistakes.
If you're contemplating how to plan for or respond to a divorce, be sure to listen to this episode first! For legal assistance or mediation services, contact us at (630) 891-2478 or at www.birtlaw.com.
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[00:00] Erin Birt: Welcome to the Restorative Divorce Podcast, where we focus on all things divorce and parenting related. To help you find clarity, stay informed, and stay out of family court. With 20 plus years of family law experience, our attorney and mediator, Erin Birt, has seen too many times how family court will negatively impact your health, your relationship with your kids, and your wallet. This podcast aims to turn that around and empower our listeners to take back control of their family law process and their lives by working with divorced professionals that seek to help and not hurt. Our goal is to provide you with expert tips that you can implement today to restore your finances, emotional wellbeing, and coparenting skills. Of course, our team at Birt Law is always here to customize a restorative divorce plan for you, but for now, listen to this episode to get help today.
3 Ways to Self Sabotage Your Divorce Part 2
This is part two of three ways to self-sabotage your divorce. We're covering the remaining ways that people sabotage their divorce process so that you can avoid those mistakes.
ABRUPT AND POOR DECISIONS - CUSTODY
[01:14] Erin Birt: Now, on the custody side of things, if you quit your job and you move, say, back to family and you take the kids with you, that can also be a very big problem here in Illinois. If you have a case pending or if you've been through a divorce, you have to have an agreement to move beyond 25 miles of the children's essentially customary home or the marital residence. So you lack the ability to make decisions unilaterally like that. If you're going through a divorce, you have to talk about it with the other person, the other parent. You're now uprooting the children and putting them in different schools. All of that is problematic now for your custody situation, because in Illinois, when we're starting to work out parenting schedules, we've got to look at the distance of where the parents live. We have to look at the children's not acceptance, but how the children are acclimated to their environment, where their extended family live. There's many environmental factors that then go into what's really going to be the children's residence, who's going to be the residential custodian of your kids. And if you have no history with living somewhere else or you do, that in violation of a law that says you can't remove the children from Illinois or you can't remove the children from 25 miles from their home. Again, a court is not going to look good at that. The other side is not going to look good at that. And it's affecting your children ultimately, because during a very stressful time, you've now moved your kids.
[02:56] Tyler Birt: Yeah. And even if you're not moving out of state, I think we had a case, if I remember correctly, where a parent I don't know if it's our client or the other, but a parent moved, I believe, like 26 miles away and was forced to relocate. People think that, oh, come on, 26. It's a mile more but with kids and school districts and all the environmental factors that go in, the Illinois law says 25, and they're pretty serious about 25 miles.
[03:39] Erin Birt: Yeah. And there's a lot of debate on how to calculate that 25 miles. Is it as the bird flies, is it per certain roadways and without going into it too much, we can address that at a different podcast, Illinois is trying to clarify that so that it will be a little bit more standard. But yes, we have had cases where the children are either returned to the other parent, that is in a closer area to where the children had been living for a while, and yes, the courts will make sure that the best interests of the children are met. And you deciding to quit your job and relocate affects all parts of your case, especially if you have children. So making abrupt and poor decisions and then wondering why your case is lasting so long, it's because you're self sabotaging your divorce process. Okay?
Failing to Find a Beneficial Compromise
I think the other thing that people do to self sabotage their divorce process is failing to understand or focus on finding a beneficial compromise to all of your family issues. And when I mean a beneficial compromise, I mean, you're both not getting exactly what you want but if it's a beneficial compromise, you both see some benefits in it for either party or the children, and they can live with it, and they can live with it for the foreseeable future. So it might not be exactly what you wanted, but it could be in the best interest of the kids, or it might not be exactly what you wanted, but you're not going to trial and spending $50,000 on an issue you might not win. So we have to look for beneficial compromises.
And if you don't focus on what is a beneficial compromise, you're self sabotaging yourself because you're going to lose a lot of money going to trial, or you're self sabotaging yourself because you've decided to settle just for the sake of settling. And you settled on things that weren't going to make you happy or weren't going to make your kids happy.
Settling for Sake of Settling
For instance, we had a case where the mother had gone through the process of divorce. She just wanted it to be non confrontational and to be just done. She just wanted to be done. So she settled for 50/50 parenting time, which means the children were with her an equal amount of time that the children were with the father. She then called our office after going through the parenting plan with her on multiple occasions, explaining the ramifications of 50/50 parenting time, explaining what that effect on child support would be. She called back three months later to say, I only agreed to 50/50 to end the case, I think my ex is an alcoholic, and now I think that it's affecting my kids. There's no way that the kids should be with his dad. Now, if this is a new substance abuse issue, the court is going to hear that as a substantial change in circumstances. But the person actually expressed that this person always had problematic drinking or she viewed it as problematic drinking and now she's having a bit of remorse over her settlement. And there really wasn't anything in, in the factual circumstances that showed a substantial change in circumstance. It was just, and she even admitted, “I should have never agreed to 50 50. He's never parented the kids 50 50”. I just wanted the divorce to end.
[07:36] Tyler Birt: Yeah. Yeah.
[07:39] Erin Birt: We've got a big problem to overcome and we should have addressed that or at least shared with your attorney before you settled the case and asked the judge to approve it. Some of these issues for why it would not be in the best interest of you or the children to have a 50 50 parenting plan.
[07:57] Tyler Birt: Yeah. So you can't just go back later and tell the judge that, well, I only did this because I wanted the divorce over. That's not a good idea.
[08:09] Erin Birt: Well, it's not a good idea. And it is an uphill battle that you most likely will not succeed in and coming back to make significant changes. If it's financial and it's past 30 days past your divorce, you're pretty much stuck with it. Unless there are legal issues of fraud or there are legal issues that you can have to vacate a judgment. But that's also a very difficult process. But then when we're looking at the kids, it is always modifiable. But if you start to set a custom where there's liberal parenting time, the children are doing okay under the circumstances. But you believe they're not doing well. But there's not evidence to show that that schedule you agreed to is truly causing a serious endangerment to the children, or that it is a substantial change of circumstances where the judge is allowed to modify things. You're going to have to live with it. So it is always better to plan your divorce process earlier than you think is probably necessary because all of these things, emotions start playing into it. You start making decisions that are not in your best interest or probably not in your children's best interest, and then you're hopeful to fix it later. And that is very difficult. Very difficult, if not impossible to do.
[09:53] Tyler Birt: And expensive.
[09:55] Erin Birt: And expensive. That goes back to that planning. Planning with team members to help you understand what you're in for, what likely outcomes can be, that's all good. But you also have to understand that you have to finance this process. And people are going to say, well, there's self help websites out there, there are forms that I can buy, there are courtrooms that let you come in without attorneys. And that's true. But I submit to you that it's very difficult and it is a small percentage of couples that can use a form, go to a court without a divorce professional or an attorney and have a successful outcome. It's a very small percentage. It's usually people that do not have complex marital estates and either don't have children or if they have children, the marriage is so amicable that they already have a workable schedule, they've been practicing it, it makes sense to them and they can go ahead and probably ask the judge to finalize their divorce.
If you have any complexities a larger marital estate where you own property, if you have children with any needs that should be met, whether that is even just a demanding schedule, demanding academic schedule, it could be health issues, anything. I would say those one size fits all forms that you find are not going to have you successfully complete your parenting plan or your divorce. Divorce professionals really can help you critically think, can help you pull the emotions out of it, can ensure that there are details in all of your legal documents that are needed for your particular family and you just don't find that in a general online form.
Planning – Put Money Aside or Know Options
But planning, you have to finance it so you could do this for free. It's very difficult for the reasons I expressed. The other part of planning so that you don't self sabotage yourself is knowing what a realistic financial obligation the divorce process can be. And that goes back to some of our other podcasts where we discussed the difference between a flat fee and a retainer. It's really learning that you can try to plan for your divorce by perhaps putting money aside, perhaps borrowing money from a family member if they're going to help finance your divorce. But you should always do that with a note that explains the terms of that loan and the payback terms. And then the other option is client credit, which we always talk about now. It's a new financing option that allows people to get legal services now or mediation services now, but pay over time. That's part of your planning.
If you don't plan financially for it, you might get into the process with your attorney and realize I didn't plan to pay any more money. And sometimes that hurts the process to even start and then not be able to continue with those services because one, you either had an unrealistic idea of what it costs to accomplish your particular goals or maybe you didn't know how to plan beforehand. So having that team, a financial planner could probably also help you realize where you can draw funds upon or your options. But those are some tips for how to not self sabotage your divorce process.
We want to set you up for success. And setting you up for success is meeting with us early to plan or coming to our office for mediation, realizing that you need help and assistance through your divorce attorney or divorce professional to not make abrupt or poor decisions and then also keeping an open mind, having a beneficial compromise because you won't walk out with 100% of what you wanted. But if it's a beneficial compromise that's in your best interest and your children's best interest, that's a good settlement.
[14:33] Tyler Birt: That's a good goal.
[14:34] Erin Birt: That is a good goal. So, three ways to self sabotage your divorce is lack of planning, abrupt and poor decisions, and failing to focus on what is an appropriate and beneficial compromise. Let's avoid those things so that you have the best chance for success.
[14:52] Erin Birt: Thanks for listening to the Restorative Divorce podcast with your host, attorney and mediator, Erin Birt, and our paralegal, Tyler Birt. A special thanks to our contributors and to the authors of the many articles that inspire us and keep our clients informed. We hope you enjoyed our deep dive into the separation, divorce or parenting tips covered today that you can use now to help restore yourself. If you strive to improve your life or the lives of your children after a separation or divorce, join us next week when we will cover more Restorative Divorce topics. You can head over to Birtlaw.com to get the podcast transcripts, follow us on social media, and even find more valuable family law information, all for your benefit. Get help today and work with us one on one. Contact us to set up a consultation or planning session to start rebuilding your life today. Enjoy this day and we'll see you next time.