The 7 Questions to Ask If You’re Ready for a Divorce
For divorce to be a collaborative and respectful process, the couple must be prepared to separate their lives on all levels — legally, practically, and emotionally. To do this, each person must face their own divorce dilemma by answering the following 7 questions:
- Were you ever really married? Many people who say they want a divorce still have strong feelings for their partner, but due to an ongoing power struggle in the relationship, there is a lack of intimacy. If this is you, it is best to work on your relationship before deciding to divorce, otherwise your feelings of loss will overwhelm you and you may be worse off after the divorce than you are now.To really be married, a couple must have created a relationship that included an “us.” Many people who are considering divorce never had a marriage that was anything more than two individuals meeting their own needs. They may have raised children and shared a home, but they participated in those activities from a competitive rather than a unified position. If you have not developed a genuine “we” in your relationship, this would be the time to either commit to learning how to do that, or to admit that you have never really had a marriage in the first place.
Personally, I had a very difficult time admitting that my own marriage of fourteen years was in name only, despite years of matrimony. Every few months we would threaten to break up, fighting was a daily ritual, and agreements rarely lasted more than a week. Despite numerous counseling offices we attended, the pattern remained. I had to acknowledge the truth before any real change could occur.
- Are you truly ready for divorce or are you just threatening? Divorce is often threatened, especially in heated marital arguments. People who consistently threaten divorce lose credibility. If the person is not merely threatening, but is genuinely ready for a divorce, they can sustain the following thought in their own mind, “I wish to close a chapter of my life because I am at peace with the fact that there is no more that I can do or give to this relationship.” They will discuss this appropriately with their spouse without any blame.
- Is this a sincere decision based on self awareness or is it an emotionally reactive decision? To be ready to divorce your partner means being able to make a clear, unemotional decision that you can support over time. Divorce means being able to let go of all strong emotional attachments to the other person, the loving ones as well as the hostile and hurtful ones. Emotionally charged decisions do not last, and if acted on, do not resolve the underlying problem. People who divorce out of anger often stay angry even after the divorce is over.
- What is your reason for wanting a divorce? Any agenda other than ending the marriage is an indication that you are not ready to divorce. If you are hoping that through the divorce, the other person will change and start treating you better, or realize how much they have lost, or pay for how much they have hurt you, you are getting a divorce for the wrong reason. Divorce has no power to right wrongs nor change people’s hearts and minds. Divorce can only do one thing: end a marriage. Divorce frees each person to make new attachments to new people.
- Have you resolved your internal conflict over the divorce? Everyone who goes through a divorce is conflicted. People can feel guilty at the same time as they are sure that they want to end the relationship. Or, they can feel betrayed and at the same time recognize that their life will be better once they are out of the relationship. Recognizing the conflict and owning that different parts of you will be struggling with the impact of divorce, at different times, is part of the process of getting ready for divorce.
- Can you handle the unpleasant consequences of divorce? Divorce brings grief because it marks the loss of the “happy family” dream. Hurt, disappointments, loneliness, failure, rejection, and inadequacy can all take hold of the psyche when we are in this extremely vulnerable passage. To be ready for the ups and downs of divorce, it is necessary to have a support system of family and friends who will be there to help you emotionally and practically when needed.One of the hardest consequences of divorce is needing to face the pain of your family and friends. The reality is that divorce affects so many people’s lives. If you are the one choosing the divorce, you will have to hold on to your decision and the end of your marriage in the face of all these people and circumstances. If you are the one who does not want the divorce, but your spouse wants to proceed, you will still need to get ready to accept the consequences of a failed marriage.
Here are some rules of thumb: If you don’t want changes to your finances, lifestyle, or traditions, then you are not ready for divorce; if you cannot accept your children’s sadness and anger, then you are not ready for divorce; if you cannot accept times of insecurity, fear, and the unknown, then you are not ready for divorce; if you are not willing to let go of your spouse mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, then you are not ready for divorce.
- Are you willing to take control of your life in a responsible and mature way? Whether you are the one who wants the divorce, or the one who is having to respond to your spouse wanting the divorce, both situations have one thing in common: the marriage is ending. How people respond to this fact determines the type of divorce and future they will have. They can come from a position of bitterness, revenge, or helplessness, or they can negotiate for their future from a position of strength, understanding, and respect. The attitude you choose will determine the type of divorce you have.
People who prepare themselves by first addressing all eight of these questions are more likely to have a collaborative divorce. By starting the process in this way, they are able to make lasting agreements with each other, resolve their difficulties, and develop parenting plans that both support the children and respects each other’s rights.
Supervision and Control of Children
Parents may be morally responsible for supervising and controlling their children. However, parents generally not legally responsible for the acts of their children (Family Code, Section 6600). There are exceptions. For example, parents who encourage their children to break the law may be found guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a minor (Penal Code, Section 272). Also, parents who know or should have known that their child engages in improper conduct, or who aid or encourage such conduct, may be held liable for their children's acts. There are specific statutes that hold parents liable for certain harm caused by their children. These include:
Injuries from guns: Parents may be required to pay victims up to $60,000 (Civil Code, Section 1714.3).
Willful misconduct: If the child causes injury or death to another, or property damage, the parents are liable for up to $25,000 in damages. (This could apply to the parents of a child who commits an Internet-related crime, such as software piracy.) (Civil Code, Section 1714.1).
Graffiti: Parents may be liable for the costs of removal, repair and/or replacement of property, and for keeping the property free of graffiti for up to one year. (Penal Code, Section 594(c); Government Code, Section 38772(b). If there are repeated graffiti offenses, parents could be liable for up to $50,000 in fines that their children cannot pay. (Penal Code, Section 594(b)(d).
Shoplifting: If a child steals from a store or library, the parents may be responsible for up to $500 plus costs. (Penal Code, Section 490.5)(b))
Truancy fines: Parents may be required to pay a $100 fine for the fourth violation in one year. (Education Code, Section 48264.5(d)(2).
Injuries to another person on school grounds; damage to school property; failure to return borrowed school property: Parents may be liable for up to $10,000, and up to $10,000 for any reward. The school may withhold grades, diplomas or transcripts until these amounts are paid. (Education Code, Section 48904).
Curfew violations: Parents must pay the actual administrative and transportation costs incurred by the police for picking up and returning children to their homes on a second violation (Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 625.5(e)).
California law requires most children between the ages of 6 and 18 to attend school or classes full-time (Education Code, Section 48200). By law, those who are absent without a valid excuse for three or more days during a school year or who are tardy more than 30 minutes without a valid excuse on three occasions in a school year, are truants (Education Code, Section 48260).
What is a valid excuse for an absence?
--A justifiable person reason, including a court appearance, observance of a religious holiday or ceremony, or an absence requested in advance by a parent and approved by the school (Education Code, Section 48205).
--A medical reason, illness, quarantine, medical or dental appointment, or attendance at the funeral of an immediate family member (Education Code, Section 48205).
--Religious training. With written parent consent, pupils may participate in religious obdservances or instruction for up to four days per month under a release-time plan whereby the child shall attend school for at least the minimum school day. Individual school districts have the discretion to allow or prohibit absences for religious training. (Education Code, Section 46014).
Note: Children excused from public school for justifiable reasons must be allowed to make up the work and be given full credit for that work (Education Code, Section 48205(b). Pupils receiving instruction full-time at a private school or through a tutor under a variety of circumstances may be exempt from attending public school (Education Code, Section 48222-32).
Powers of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a written legal document that gives another person the right and authority to act on your behalf. (Probate Code, Section 4022). That authority will end if you become incapacitated--unless you have a durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney will remain in effect if you ever become incapacitated (Probate Code, Section 4124). This means that if you were suddenly unable to handle your own affairs, someone you trust--your legal agent or attorney in fact could do so for you. Or you might choose to set up a springing power of attorney, which would only become effective at a specified future date or even (such as if you were to become incapacitated (Probate Code, Section 4030). You can authorize your agent to simplly pay your bills (This is usually a safer arrangement than adding someone else's name to your bank account). Or you can empower your agent to handle nearly all of your afffairs. Your agent, however, cannot take anything of yours as a "gift" without your specific written authorization (Probate Code, Section 4128). These powers of attorney all expire when you die. (Civil Code, Section 2357; Probate Code, Section 4152). Make sure that you understand all of the terms before signing a power of attorney. And be absolutely certain that your chosen agent is both capable and trustworthy. Sendiors have lost their life savings to unscrupulous agents--even to agents who are family members.
With a living trust, your assets are put into the trust during your lifetime and transferred to your beneficiaries when you die. Most people name themselves as the trustee who manages the assets. This allows you to remain in control of the living trust assets during your lifetime. You can also revoke or change your living trust. One advantage of a living trust is that the assets do not go through probate. And the distribution process often takes less time. (Probate Code, Section 15000 et seq.)
Grandparent Visitation Rights
Grandparents may have visitation rights if either parent has died. For example, the child's siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents may be granted reasonable visitation if it is, as the judge sees it, in the child's best interests. (Family Code, Section 3102). A grandparent may also be garanted visitation if the child's parents are divorced or legally separated (Family Code, Section 3103). A grandparent may not, however, file a petition for visitation if the child's parents are married unless: the parents are separated, one has disappeared for at least a month, one parent joins in the grandparent's petition or the child is not living with either parent. (Family Code, Section 3104).
Reasons Required for Evicting Tenants
If you have a long-term lease, your landlord cannot evict you during the lease term unless you violate one of the lease provisions, such as failing to pay your rent. With a month-to-month lease, your landlord, in general, simply needs to give you 30 days notice or 60 days notice if you have stayed there longer than a year. In that case, the landlord does not have to give you a reason for evicting you. (Civil Code, Section 1946.1). There are, however, exceptions. For example, your landlord cannot evict you in retaliation for filing certain legal complaints. Nor can your landlord discriminate against you based on your age or other personal characteristics. If you live in a mobile home park (Civil Code, Section 798.55), it could be more difficult to evict you. And in most cities with rent control ordinances, your landlord would have to have a "good cause' to evict you. If, however, you fail to pay rent, or you destroy or severely damage the property, use it for unlawful purposes (such as selling drugs), substantially interfere with the rights of other tenants or violate any other provision in the lease agreement, you could receive a written notice to move out in three days.
DMV Medical Information Card
A DMV Medical Information card is available through the DMV that can be attached to the back of your driver's license. The fill-in-the-blanks card can be used to identify your blood type, allergies, past or present medical problems, medications and information on how to reach your doctor and a contact person in the event of an emergency (Vehicle Code, Section 12811.1)