Preparing for Divorce
It is no surprise that ending a relationship can be both emotionally and financially difficult. The divorce process, admittedly, can be painful, complicated, time consuming, and expensive depending on the circumstances of your matter. However, there are ways to limit this suffering and it all starts with preparation. The list below is a general overview on how to prepare for a divorce.
- CONSULT A LAWYER that has a lot of experience specifically in Family and Divorce Law. This is extremely important. You would not go to a local dive diner to have a juicy and award winning steak dinner; you would go to a reputable steak house. The same concept should be applied when you are searching for a divorce and family law lawyer. You want to consult with a lawyer specifically knowledgeable in this field, not a lawyer who merely dabbles in this area of law. At your initial consultation with the divorce and family law lawyer, the lawyer (even if it is not us) should spend quality time with you going over the specific facts of your case, the law of that State applicable to your set of circumstances, develop a strategy with you on what to do (and what not to do) and the general process whether that be involving the court or approaching the process in more of a collaborative/mediation type style. Lastly, do not be put off by an attorney charging an initial consultation fee. You will usually get what you pay for and this rationale goes both ways for those of you reading this and insistent on only meeting with an attorney that gives a free initial consultation. The lawyer will tell you at the initial meeting how much it will cost (approximately) to hire him or her to represent you throughout the divorce proceedings and that anticipated cost should be specifically tailored to your case and the issues involved.
- DO NOT INVOLVE THE CHILDREN in your marital problems or use problems or use them for communication with your soon to be ex-spouse. Children are not weapons and they should not be used as such against your spouse or for any kind of leverage in the divorce. Doing so could impact any custody or visitation rights that you may be seeking and as most therapists would agree, could (and likely does) significantly affect your children emotionally and psychologically. Easier said than done sometimes but being the smarter and more rationale parent will be a major benefit in many ways throughout the divorce process.
- FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE FAMILY FINANCESand, if you are able, set aside copies of any and all bank statements, credit card statements, mortgage statements, tax returns, and any other financial documentation you feel is relevant early in this process. Although most of the details of this information will likely not be needed for the initial consultation with your divorce lawyer, it will be helpful if you have this information easily available a little later in the divorce process so that you are not solely reliant on the other spouse providing you with copies. Do not worry if you cannot get access to this information early or are afraid to get copies for whatever reason; there will be an opportunity for your and/or your divorce attorney to get this information and full disclosure of all finances and assets by a process called “discovery”.
- WRITE DOWN YOUR DIVORCE GOALS Most people do not do this, but they should. Clearly outline your goals and desires from the onset-like a mission statement. Emotions run high in a divorce but try to separate those feelings and carefully think about what you want the tone of your divorce process to be and, what you want your life to look like after the divorce. Share your goals and any questions you have in order to create those goals with your divorce lawyer at the initial consultation. These goals will enable both you and your lawyer to stay focused throughout this process and control legal expenses, regardless of what other unexpected issues may arise.
- Do not do anything to purposefully or intentionally provoke your soon to be ex spouse. If you are scared or in danger for your safety or, the safety of your children in any given moment, call the police (911) and then call a lawyer. However, if you are not in an imminently dangerous situation, do not create one. Think pragmatically about the end result (remind yourself of those divorce goals!) and stay focused on the long term instead of the short-term pleasure or emotional revenge. Also, do not compare your divorce and your set of circumstances with others who have already gone through the divorce process or may be going through a divorce now. No two divorces are ever the same. It is advisable not to discuss your situation or your divorce strategy with friends or neighbors for the purpose of comparison. Instead, find one loyal person to confide in for a sympathetic ear or a place to vent your anger or any other frustrations. There is also no shame in talking to a therapist or some other professional to help manage your emotions during this process; most clients report that they found some form of therapy extremely helpful during this time and that it minimized certain legal fees so your lawyer can truly stay focused on the legal aspects of your case.
As an experienced New Jersey Divorce Lawyer I am often asked about mediation. Divorce mediation works in various ways. You and your spouse can agree to a certain mediator, or your attorneys can give you some choices and everyone can come to an agreement as to which mediator they want to use. It’s as simple as scheduling an appointment, giving the mediator some information ahead of time, and attending mediation with that mediator.
Many clients ask me whether or not their case is ripe or can proceed to mediation. The answer is absolutely. The courts, and every attorney should be promoting mediation. It is a great way to try to bring the parties together to resolve your matter. However, there are some pitfalls that you need to be aware of. Number one, not all mediators are created equal. You want to pick a mediator that is familiar with your issues and has a good personality that the parties will respect. Number two, you do not want to go to mediation without first seeing an attorney because you don’t know what you’re negotiating. It is very important to know what you’re negotiating, know what the issues are before you step into mediation.
How Mediation Can Help with the Children
I often speak to parents as a Bergen County Child Custody Lawyer, who are going through divorce and are fighting over the children. Although you and your spouse may be going through a divorce, both of you will still be parents forever. That’s why it is important to be cognizant of the impact of our efforts and whether we’re making the relationship between you and your spouse worse or better. It is always a good option to try going to mediation instead of up the courthouse steps in an attempt to maintain some level of friendliness between you and your spouse for the benefit of your children. The children’s best interest must always be the focus, so it is important to avoid allowing the divorce to tear the family apart even more.
Carrie S. Schultz practices exclusively in the area of divorce and family law. She is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney, a special designation issued to only those attorneys who meet the state’s highest qualifications. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, New York, Florida, and the District of Columbia.
True to her alma mater, Carrie is a loyal Florida Gators fan — “Go Gators!” In addition, whenever given the opportunity, you will find Carrie enjoying her many years of Latin ballroom dancing lessons in salsa, cha-cha, hustle, and West Coast swing.