It’s always hard to boil essential advice on such an important topic down to a few, short sentences, but here are some of what I have learned from 25 years of practice to be the most important lessons for those contemplating a divorce. A full consultation with an experienced attorney is the best money you can spend, and it is confidential. Invest in knowledge as you embark on this difficult journey.
- Pick the right lawyer: Interview until you are comfortable, even if that means paying a few different consultation fees. Don’t use the guy down the street or the one who did your real estate closing. Make sure your lawyer is experienced, specializes in Family Law, and has the support system in place to deal with the complex and evolving nature of the family law practice.
- Don’t take legal advice from friends or the internet: While it’s very important to have a support network of friends and family, no two divorces are the same and there are many variables. Don’t set your expectations based on what your neighbor or best friend may have received or experienced in his/her divorce, it will never be the same for you. Listen to your professional advisors, not your friends or “google”.
- Set priorities: Decide what is most important to you at the outset and communicate that to your attorney. If your priorities change during the divorce, and they may, make sure your attorney knows. You likely will not get everything you want in the divorce, so make sure you focus on what you need.
- Ask for help: Don’t be afraid to seek help and emotional or financial support from friends, family, and professionals. Financial planners, counselors, clergy, and experts can help you with valuable information and advice. A team of trusted advisors can be invaluable both financially and emotionally. Ask them for help, and follow their trusted advice.
- Be careful about moving out: Moving out of the marital residence can have severe consequences both financially and as to custody. Even if the residence is leased or titled in an individual name, you can’t be “thrown out” by your spouse. Seek legal advice before taking this significant step.
- Prepare: Sometimes there is no time to plan for the impending separation or divorce, but most often both parties see the break-up coming. If you find yourself in that situation, prepare. Gather information. Copy bank statements and tax returns, know who your accountant and investment advisors are. Know where the retirement funds are located and what you spend on a monthly basis to run your household. Take an inventory of the safety deposit box. Maybe even squirrel away some rainy day cash.
Drew Molotsky, Esq. is a Rule 1:40 Qualified Mediator for the State of New Jersey. He is also a Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Attorney.