20 May Savvy Divorce Advice from the Pros
No one wins or losers in Divorce except the attorneys. So here’s some advice from the pros–the Divorce attorneys who’ve seen it all.
Here are some insights and advice from real-life Divorce attorneys who’ve seen it all
Morgan Stogsdill, a partner in a Chicago law firm, often advocates mediation, where a neutral third party helps a couple work through issues and reach a resolution. But Ms. Stogsdill acknowledged that mediation doesn’t always work out. She once mediated a case for two years before it came to a halt and ultimately ended up in court. “Your lawyer has to be ready to change tack if things go south”, she said. In a collaborative divorce, both parties commit to creating a shared agreement. They may share a financial expert or a divorce coach in the collaborative process.
Spend wisely, talk freely and find someone in whom to confide
Therapy can help the legal process run more smoothly. Often the big conflicts in Divorce proceedings—money and children–are not the real issues at all. Once you peel back the layers, anger, resentment and even revenge are the real motivators.
According to Gabrielle Hartley, a Massachusetts divorce coach and the co-author of Better Apart: The Radically Positive Way to Separate. “Lawyers are not therapists. People often feel broken during Divorce, but the legal process doesn’t award wholeness to anyone. You have to find that on your own. Stop being a victim. You are right and so are they and the law will typically divide assets and child custody without judgment as to who behaved the worst.”
Disclosure: forget about getting away with anything
“If there’s even a tiny question of whether you will get away with something, think again,” said Samantha Bley DeJean of San Francisco’s Bley and Bley (Angelina Jolie’s child custody lawyer in her divorce from Brad Pitt). “There are very high penalties for hiding assets, and if you don’t disclose up front, you’re buying problems down the road,” she said.
Ms. Bley DeJean recalled a case in which intellectual property was either hidden (or inadvertently not disclosed) only to be greatly monetized later. When a disgruntled spouse casually heard about an ex’s windfall, everyone landed back in court.
Pace yourself; this is a process
In cases where there has been cheating or deceit, and emotions are high, slow down the process. Clients with a zero-sum mentality often run into problems. Those who divorce successfully understand that their family isn’t ending; rather, it is evolving, hopefully entering a better place.
Personal property issues can be exhausting
Identify that which is really important to you. Think carefully about what you want, what you need and what really isn’t that important to you. Judges will likely assign most low-monetary value items randomly if there is disagreement. Be a thoughtful consumer.
Exercise caution with electronic media
Be cautious about using electronic media. Your emails, texts and photos can all turn up in court. Regardless of how angry you are, think about the consequences before posting on social media or firing off an angry electronic message. These have a way of coming back to haunt you.
Laura Wasser, a divorce lawyer in Los Angeles whose clients have included Stevie Wonder, Maria Shriver, Johnny Depp and Heidi Klum, started an online service last year called It’s Over Easy to change the approach to divorce. Regardless of income levels, “we all have the same feelings—mainly fear and sadness.”
Consult professionals for help with complex matters
Susan Myres is the president-elect of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. She recommends getting professional help from financial planners and divorce coaches when there are complicated financial matters like family trusts or assessing and dividing family businesses and properties.Note that lawyers bill for email and phone call time, so unless the chatter moves the case forward, keep it to a minimum. If you really need to talk to someone, find a sympathetic listener who isn’t charging you $500/hour.
Provide comprehensive financial documentation
Natalia Wilson, a Washington lawyer who specializes in complex cases involving businesses and assets, has litigated cases that run weeks — and into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. To avoid costly subpoenas and depositions, she recommends clients provide complete records of all financial dealings, including tax returns, real-estate documents and even handshake deals like consulting gigs. Providing comprehensive information is key to a successful outcome.
Keep it out of the courtroom: Start your marriage with a Prenuptial Agreement
A sound Prenuptial Agreement may be the best cost-saving measure in divorcing, said Barry Wayne, a partner in a Florida firm. A prenuptial is prepared as part of the wedding planning, often at the behest of wealthy relatives. Consulting with an estate-planning lawyer can help draft a prenuptial and also work to protect and assure assets for surviving spouses in the event of death.
There’s another alternative: Mediation
Mediation is a solution that can help families avoid the costs of bitter court battles. It’s predicated on working with a neutral third party, a trained Mediator, who is skilled at facilitating dialog and helping couples reach compromises that will peacefully end their marriages. Mediation is based on the principles of negotiation. If you give up something, you will also generally gain something in return. California Document Preparers are skilled Mediators, helping our clients identify solutions that allow them to get on with their lives without the crippling expense and emotional turmoil of litigation.
California Document Preparersassists our clients in uncontested Divorce, and Mediation is a new service for us. We’re a neutral third party, skilled at helping couples reach compromises that will peacefully end their marriages. Schedule an appointment today by contacting us at one of our three Bay Area offices. Our dedicated team is helpful, compassionate and affordable.