The Smart Divorce® Weblog

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It’s back to school:developing routine and structure for parents

As I prepare my children to transition from the spontaneity of life in the summer to the structure of school it occurred to me how they need to get back into routine. Not only is it important for our children to be in the habit of schedules, but the aspect of shared parenting needs to be formalized once again; especially if life has been a bit off kilter as our children are at camp, have their own activities without parents or in holiday mode.


If you are the resident parent where the children live most of the time, then not much will change. However, if your children don’t live with you most of the time, here are some ideas to consider to maintaining involvement in your children’s lives:


Parenting Tips for Transforming Your Family


Make a family calendar and hang it wherever the children will see it, to show that you care. Make your children see that their lives are important to you and that they are your priority.


On the family calendar, list:



school schedules

other dates, such as dental appointments, dance recitals, sports games, and so on.


Establish rules such as the following:


Each parent must order his or her own tickets for children’s events.

Each parent must make his or her own arrangements at school to get information.

It is not up to your former spouse to do those things or provide information for you.

It’s up to you to take the initiative.

Don’t make your son or daughter into the man or woman of the house.

Don’t turn your son or daughter into your best friend and confidant.

Don’t fill the void in your bed by allowing your child to sleep there. If you eventually start a relationship and no longer allow your child into your bed because you are sharing it with someone else, the child could feel displaced.


If you are the noncustodial parent, here are some ideas to help you maintain a positive relationship

with your children:

Some schools allow children to leave the grounds for lunch; you may be able to take them out to lunch without affecting the custodial parent’s time.

As much as you can, duplicate at your home the little things that your kids love at the custodial parent’s home–things like special Barbie dolls, books, and so on. Send out the message that you care. Duplicating items will remove the stress children may feel about taking their favorite things to the other parent’s home or about forgetting to bring them (but keep in mind that some items, like the favorite blanket or stuffed animal, can’t be duplicated).


Remember, your children still have two parents. They still have a family, it’s the dynamics which have changed and up to parents to minimize the conflict and make transition as easy as possible.



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Strategies for keeping your legal costs down

I know from the many people I speak with, that the monthly statement from their lawyer’s office seems to be the last piece of mail to get opened. It’s not like you are running to your mail to see if it is there. And, the questions you ask yourself as you open the statement can make you anxious. Are there enough funds in the retainer to cover this bill? Do I need to submit additional money? Why can’t I keep the bills down? Why does the bill add up to so much so quickly? Why? Why? Why?

Instead of asking yourself why, utilize the how to strategies to keep your legal costs down, while maintaining control over what is going on in your file.


Here are some cost saving tips to help you cut down on your legal bill:


Maximize your meeting time


– Schedule your meetings through your lawyer’s assistant.

 – Make a list of questions you would like to discuss, organized by topic or issue.

 – Have an agenda ready, with all items and issues to be discussed.

 – Take notes.

 – Do any follow-up work the lawyer gives you (reviewing documents, contacting a specific specialist, and so forth), and make sure it is done in a timely manner.


Make all communications cost effective


 – Save up your questions. Don’t call or e-mail your lawyer every single time you have an inquiry.

 – Check with your lawyer first and find out how he or she likes to handle communications–via e-mail, phone calls, or meetings with prepared agendas. Also ask for recommendations on making your communications more efficient.


Provide as much written information as possible


 – Many lawyers have their clients write out an account of their marital history. Ask your lawyer if this is what should be done.

Use your lawyer’s services cost effectively


 – Listen to your lawyer and take notes.

 – Remember, if you want to vent and complain about your soon-to-be ex-spouse, the meter is still running.

 – If you are able to, do certain tasks, such as filling out the financial statement, yourself.

 – Don’t micromanage (pay extreme attention to the small details of) your case. This only causes your legal bills to escalate and slows down the process.


And, if there is something that doesn’t make

sense to you, ask your lawyer.

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Organizing your finances during divorce

Developing realistic expectations when it comes

to finances is of utmost importance

One of the many concerns that my client’s voice most often during a consultation is their lack of knowledge and organization skills when it comes to their finances.


Getting your finances in order with the objective of cutting down on your legal expenses should be a priority


Lawyers don’t always agree on every issue. But, when it comes to finances, all lawyers agree on how important it is for their clients to be as financially aware as possible. It’s the best way to learn your rights and obligations and to determine realistic financial expectations early in the divorce process. And the more you can manage and organize your information for your lawyer, the more you can help reduce your lawyer’s billable hours!


Here are some ideas as to learn about your finances if you were not involved with finances during your marriage:


  • Get more involved in your finances. Know the basics – pay the bills and file the statements. Learn how your daily and monthly expenses are managed.
  • Understand where your money is coming from and understand how to budget.
  • Take part in managing or setting up any investments, know what your outstanding mortgage is and the terms and so on.
  • Gain awareness of your outstanding assets and liabilities.


Many lawyers suggest that if someone is contemplating a divorce or separating, one of the first things you should do is accumulate the financial information.

Once the divorce process is under way, your lawyer will need ready access to all relevant financial documents. Start by locating and gathering together the following records pertaining to both you and your spouse:


 – social security numbers

 – income tax returns for the past three years

 – retirement savings plans statements for the past three years

 – bank account statements

 – insurance policies (life; automobile; house; other)

 – stock certificates

 – credit card bills

 – employment payment stubs

 – brokerage statements

 – pension statements

 – health insurance and work-related benefits

 – real estate records

 – receipts and monthly statements documenting household expenses and everyday expenses (groceries, gas, heat, water, personal grooming, transportation, gifts, clothing, laundry and cleaning supplies, entertainment, miscellaneous expenses, and so forth)

 – list of all assets and liabilities

 – date of separation (the date of separation, or “valuation date,” is the date that is used to determine the value of particular assets–the matrimonial home, bank statements, investments, and so forth)

Photocopy everything, and store your set in a separate folder from the original records. Don’t just keep the originals for your own personal use; the other side is entitled to these documents, too. If you do withhold these records from the other side, sooner or later you are going to be asked to provide them, which will cost you even more in legal fees.


Keeping this information organized, being well informed and involved will give you a feeling of control, reduce the stress, and help to develop realistic financial objectives.