If you are currently facing a divorce, you are probably wondering what to expect from the divorce process. Just as no two marriages are alike, however, no two divorces are alike or have the exact same outcome either. Predictability and divorce do not go together. Still, an experienced family law attorney will be able to give you some idea of what to expect before, during and after your divorce. Armed with realistic expectations, you will have the best chance of being satisfied with the end result of your divorce.
What a Divorce Can and Cannot do for You
Normally, people contemplating divorce have some idea of what to expect from a divorce. They have witnessed divorces on television and in movies, and often personally know at least a handful of people who have been through a divorce. Increasingly, people have also experienced their own parents’ divorce. In spite of this “second-hand” experience, facing your own divorce is one of the more frightening events in life. Not only do you face a court-sanctioned ending of possibly one of the more significant relationships you have ever had, you also must begin to think about such unpleasant things as the division of property and new living accommodations. In many cases, there is also the unhappy prospect of no longer seeing your children on a daily basis. It is wise to understand the realities of what a divorce can and cannot do for you.
What a Divorce Lawyer Can Do
A divorce court will attempt to divide the property of a marriage in the most economic way possible. Distributions differ depending on the circumstances of each particular case. That is why it is often difficult for attorneys to predict exactly how the divorce court will handle the division of a couple’s property. Your lawyer can evaluate your case and suggest a distribution strategy.
Courts will determine a couple’s support obligations. This can come in the form of child support and spousal support (a/k/a alimony). Child support payments are now largely set by state law, however, deviation from those standards are not uncommon. Also, child support orders may depend on the custody arrangements ordered. In general, spousal support largely depends on the facts and circumstances of each particular couple. Your attorney will have to work with you to determine your unique situation.
Aside from the distribution of wealth, the other main function of the divorce court is to set child custody and visitation schedules. This too is anything but predictable. While courts often try to make their decision based on a set of factors said to promote the “best interest” of the child, these decisions can vary from case to case and court to court. Here again, negotiation and settlement are important options to remember. Everybody, especially, your children will benefit by a cooperative child custody arrangement.
What Divorce Will Not Do
A divorce cannot accomplish an exact, mathematically equal division of property and equal time with children. Because no two people, no two marriages and no two divorces are alike, the judge who enters a divorce order must make the best decision with the limited time and information available. Divorce courts often have to make the best of terrible circumstances. For instance, there can be no satisfactory custody arrangement when one parent lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming and the other lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It just is not possible. Furthermore, even though a court can set custody and visitation arrangements, it will not be present every Friday when it is time for mom to drop off the kids, and it will not spend the weekend with dad, making sure he does not make snide comments about mom around the children. Although you can keep dragging your ex back into court, this is both frustrating and expensive. Unfortunately, at some level, a court order is just a piece of paper. Mom and dad will STILL have to civilly deal with each other to carry out the terms of the custody and visitation order.
Divorce does not take away your responsibility towards your children, and this includes dealing with their other parent, because divorce does not make your ex-spouse any less your child’s parent (the possible exception would of course be in cases of abuse).
You should also recognize that a divorce court cannot increase your salary to prevent your standard of living from declining once you divorce. Unfortunately, from an economic standpoint, it is simply much cheaper for two people to live together, sharing expenses, than it is to maintain two separate households. Divorce will change your standard of living. Finally, a court will not be able to punish your ex-spouse or morally vindicate you for all of the bad things that happened while you were married. Moreover, the divorce process will not heal your emotional wounds or even take away the necessity of grieving the failed relationship. That is your job, although you can seek assistance through therapists and support groups.
Your Divorce Attorney
It is important to be comfortable in your relationship with your divorce attorney. Many of my clients are from Hauppauge. Some clients live in other parts of New York or Long Island but have family or friends in the Hauppauge and surrounding areas.
Your lawyer should make you aware of your options. Your lawyer needs to understand your needs when you start the divorce process.
You should ask your attorney their initial and continuing fees are. Cases can build many billable hours in a short amount of time. Know what your expenses will be.
Settlement and Trial
I strongly believe in the power of negotiation and working with my clients to mediate and carefully craft their own agreements whenever possible, especially when children are involved. In most situations, my strength and expertise enables my clients to negotiate settlements without having to go to trial. This lets you reduce the bitterness involved in the process, obtain the best result in the shortest time, and keeps your costs down. However, when a trial is necessary, I will not back down! I have the needed expertise inside the courtroom. I am experienced in all aspects of the discovery process, motion practice and depositions leading to trial. I know the system, the people in it, the difficulties that can arise and many of the tendencies of individual judges. I will work closely with you to carefully evaluate all aspects of your case, to develop a trial strategy and to carefully implement that strategy at trial.