This phrase applies to pretty much everything in the area of family law. You can’t make any decisions for anyone else, but you can decide how you’re going to approach these challenges. If you don’t decide how you’re going to approach these difficulties, the decision will be made for you.
You can decide what process to use for your divorce. Do some research, talk with people, interview a couple attorneys, and make an informed decision. If you don’t make the effort or decide that you’ll ignore the issue, your spouse or someone else will be making the decision. Most likely, and definitely if you choose to ignore the issue, you will end up in litigation. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a lost opportunity for you to decide how you want to handle this very important point in your life.
You can decide to work with your spouse to make the vital decisions about dividing your assets, making sure you both have income and arranging a parenting plan for your children. If you choose not to do so, the courts will make those decisions for you. A complete stranger will decide the schedule for your children, maybe with some limited input from you depending on the restrictions of time available for the judge to hear your case, what the PA legislature has decided is relevant to the court’s decision making and what the rules of evidence will allow you to present in court.
As far as dividing your marital assets, you can decide what’s important to you and how things should be fairly divided or you can pay someone else to make that decision for you. Yes, you have to pay a divorce master to make decisions for you if you choose not to do so yourself. In some counties, you pay a flat fee for this service. In other counties, you pay hourly fees, which add up quickly. Plus you and your spouse pay your attorneys to prepare and file all of the paperwork leading up to the prehearing conference, then to attend the prehearing conference, then to attend the hearing, to write the brief after the hearing with your proposed resolution, to review the divorce master’s decision with you and decide whether to appeal and finally to prepare and file the paperwork for multiple levels of appeal afterwards if you or your spouse don’t agree with the divorce master’s recommendation.
Putting the decisions about your life in someone else’s hands is personally and financially costly. You and your spouse can, with a degree of cooperation and with help from trained attorneys and maybe a mediator, make these decisions yourselves. You don’t need to sit down and actually work this out between the two of you on your own. That’s why you have legal counsel. If your attorney isn’t interested in having you make your own decisions, maybe you should consider whether he or she is the right attorney for you.
Talk with your spouse about how you’re going to approach whatever conflict has arisen. If you’re getting divorced, discuss how you’re going to do it. If you’re already divorced and need to resolve some conflict about finances or children’s schedules, talk with your ex-spouse about how you’re going to make those decisions. If the two of you don’t talk about it and decide what process you’re going to use for resolving this conflict, someone else will make the decision for you.