Although the end of any relationship is very emotional, if you follow these five steps, you can significantly cut down on cost, wasted time and some of the agony typically associated with the divorce process.
- Set reasonable expectations. This means get off the internet. The most common mistake clients make is Googling everything before they meet with an attorney. Depending on where you are getting your information and how old that information is, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment and causing yourself unnecessary panic. This also means to stop listening to your divorced friends. Just like snowflakes and fingerprints, no two divorces are identical. Couples have different types of assets, different debts, different children and different priorities. When you add different attorneys and different judges into the mix, you can’t assume you will see the same results.
- Familiarize yourself with your financial accounts before meeting with an attorney. If you have access to your financial documents, review recent statements (better yet, bring them with you) so that when you meet with your attorney you can paint an accurate picture of your financial circumstances. This will allow your attorney to assess your options, explain your potential exposure, and outline a fair settlement during your initial consultation so that you have a clear view of what to expect moving forward.
- Repeat after me, “It’s not MINE, it’s OURS.” Many clients don’t realize that regardless of whose name an asset or debt is titled in, if it was acquired during the marriage it is marital property and your spouse will be entitled to a portion of it. Are there exceptions to this rule? Some, but you should discuss your circumstances with an attorney before assuming your spouse is not entitled to a particular asset you consider to be yours.
- Accept that there is no “bad” guy. A beautiful thing happened in 2010 when New York’s version of a “no-fault” divorce was created. Parties are no longer required to outline for the court the reasons why they want a divorce. This allows couples to focus on how to resolve the matter and move forward as opposed to focusing on the problems in their past that led them to this point. However, some clients find it difficult to accept that their spouse is still entitled to an equitable portion of the assets. They are. In general, courts simply don’t care how poorly a spouse behaved during the marriage, they just want to fairly divide the assets and debts so that the two of you can move on. Again, there are always exceptions, but your attorney can assess whether or not they apply to your circumstances.
- Trust your attorney. Meet with more than one attorney to make sure you are compatible with who you ultimately decide to retain. But once you do select an attorney, tell him or her the truth (the whole truth) and follow his or her’s advice.
If you have any questions about the above material, or wish to speak to an attorney, please contact HoganWillig at (716) 636-7600. HoganWillig is located at 2410 North Forest Road in Amherst, New York 14068, with additional offices conveniently located in Buffalo, Lancaster, Ellicottville, and Lockport.