Wednesday, April 29, 2009
April 29, 2009 /24-7PressRelease/ -- How to Get A Divorce Without Going Broke
Article provided by Schwartz Law Firm. Please visit our Web site at http://www.schwartzlawfirmpc.com.
Divorce can be expensive. The combination of divided assets, increased individual living expenses and decreased collective income often leaves everyone involved feeling financially drained. It is possible to obtain a divorce and protect your assets without going broke.
Protecting Your Financial Interests Between The Time You File for Divorce and The Time The Divorce Is Finalized
When preparing for a divorce, many people face the same questions:
How am I going to pay my bills?
Can I stay in the house pending the divorce?
Are we going to have to sell or refinance our home?
After we decide to separate, when can I use the joint bank account?
What can I do if my spouse takes money out of our shared accounts?
An experienced family law attorney can take immediate action to protect your interests and answer your questions. An attorney can file a financial restraining order to prevent the dissipation of your shared assets and file a motion to maintain the status quo to ensure that bill payment arrangements do not change. If you want to stay in the home, an attorney can file a motion for the exclusive use of the marital home. When appropriate, an attorney can file for temporary child and spousal support and request immediate payment of attorney fees to allow you to pursue (or defend) a divorce action.
From a legal standpoint, these are the essential first steps, which will help you to make it through the process of filing for divorce. Divorce is a document intensive and fact specific process. You can reduce attorney fees by providing documents to your attorney and/or helping to prepare various financial charts, budgets, etc. Your role in the process should be active, not passive.
Preparing For The Initial Visit with Your Attorney
Before you ever meet with an attorney, take time to prepare relevant information regarding your assets, debts and ongoing financial obligations. Your attorney will need a number of documents before he or she can take action, but by collecting this information in advance you can reduce the time and expense of divorce.
Among other things, you should bring current utility bills, documents relating to your mortgage, tax records, bank statements, vehicle titles, retirement documents and investment records. This documentation will allow your attorney to take immediate action to protect your interests and develop a broad outlook regarding the fair division of marital assets.
Call your attorney's office to ask what specific documents they require and if they have any forms for you to complete prior to the meeting.
Keeping Costs Down During Litigation
Divorce varies immensely from one family to the next. In some cases, separating spouses can barely stand to share a room; in others, the divorce is amicable and separating spouses can work together to reach a fair resolution. Ultimately, the better you are able to work with your spouse throughout the divorce, the less costly the divorce is likely to be.
The more information you can provide to your attorney, the less you will pay in copy costs and attorney time. The better organized the information, the less time your attorney will spend reviewing the documents. For example, most attorneys use an asset-liability chart to assist with mediation and trial. The chart is used to show a mediator (or judge) the marital estate "at a glance." Your attorney should give this chart to you to complete and attach the supporting documentation. If you dump a stack of documents on an attorney who will then have to weed through numerous accounts and statements, your billable hours will increase accordingly.
Other ways to reduce costs are to request your financial records directly from your bank or other financial institution, employer, school, or medical doctor. This will save you subpoena costs and the time your attorney will spend to prepare them. Sometimes, however, an attorney will still need to subpoena documents. But these are some ways to help cut costs.
Whining Costs Money
You should be able to communicate freely with your attorney. But if you are calling every day to report on the sins of your recalcitrant spouse, you will be unnecessarily racking up your attorney bill. The same holds true for forwarding every email exchange between you and your spouse. While your attorney will be empathetic to your emotional, as well as your legal needs during a divorce proceeding, if you really need to simply vent or a shoulder to cry on, it's much less expensive to call a friend, counselor or priest.
While cutting costs is a legitimate concern in any case, it is most important that you select an attorney with whom you are comfortable and whom you trust. Most attorneys want to help their clients and are genuinely interested in saving them money. But ultimately we must do what is in our client's best interests, and sometimes this involves spending additional funds to conduct more extensive discovery, take depositions, or hire financial experts to value a marital home, business, or other assets. It is possible to pursue or defend a divorce action without going broke if you have an attorney who is sensitive to these issues.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I continue to find valuable information on other people's blogs. This one is especially relevant. Read and heed.
Divorce is not easy. There are many pitfalls and traps awaiting parties that have not educated themselves about the process. People often make bad decisions under stress, or without the guidance of an experienced lawyer. Don’t be one of them. Divorce law isn’t rocket science, but it isn’t always intuitive. Avoid the following 10 divorce pitfalls to get a better result.
During your divorce, you should NOT:
1. Lie to your lawyer: We are here to help you. Your communication with us is privileged, meaning we can’t tell others about it, except in certain child abuse scenarios. The more we know, the more we can help. We need to know everything, the embarrassing, the ugly, and the secret. If you have a drug, alcohol, or gambling problem, tell us. You have two options: (1) Disclose and likely hear from your lawyer that your secret or problem is irrelevant to the court process, or (2) Fail to disclose and have your case hurt at trial because the other lawyer knows facts you haven’t told your lawyer.
2. Lie to the court: If you have a trial, the result is directly affected by your credibility. Judges are generally experts at determining who is telling the truth, and who is lying. Not only is lying to the court a crime, but your lawyer may have a duty to stop the proceeding and tell the court if he or she knows you are misrepresenting facts! If you have areas of your case that are sensitive, work with your lawyer on what you are going to say, but don’t misrepresent.
3. Involve the kids in the process: If your case involves a custody or parenting time dispute, nothing will draw the wrath of the court faster than involving your kids in the dispute. Don’t talk to them about the case. Don’t use them as pawns in the battle against your spouse. Don’t use them as your therapist, or treat them as your peers. Don’t put your spouse down in front of the kids. You are not only harming your case, you are harming your children.
4. Hide or fail to produce documents: You have an absolute right to see your spouse’s financial documents. Your spouse has an absolute right to see your financial documents. I have seen many cases that could have been simple turn complex and expensive when someone decides to not voluntarily produce records. The court can force you to produce records, and order that you pay your spouse’s lawyer fees incurred in getting the records. Good clients and good lawyers produce documents quickly and voluntarily. I had a case where we asked for some email records from the other side. They did not produce them, and when we filed a motion to compel their production, they tried to tell the court that they had been destroyed. The stunt seriously impacted the opposing lawyer’s credibility with the court.
5. Refuse to cooperate with a court appointed expert: In divorce and custody cases, experts called “custody evaluators” are routinely appointed to gather information about a family and make a recommendation regarding an appropriate parenting plan. If one is appointed in your case, cooperate. Be on time for appointments. Treat the expert with appropriate respect. Ignoring the requests of the evaluator can seriously harm your position and credibility with the court. An evaluator will likely make negative assumptions about you if you cannot comply with a court’s order to cooperate.
6. Settle without analyzing your case: Divorce can be unpleasant and emotionally painful. One reaction is to try to get it over quickly. Do not give into the urge to be done with the case before you have a full understanding of the assets and what a fair distribution looks like. You don’t want to be in a position where you are contemplating settlement and your spouse knows more about the assets than you. Prepare and go over a proposed distribution of assets and liabilities with your lawyer. Make sure you know the nature and extent of the assets, and get additional discovery if you don’t. Do not settle prematurely, before you know what is fair.
7. Fail to try to resolve the case outside of court: Don’t settle early without analysis, but also don’t fail to try to settle. Good lawyers and reasonable people settle most divorce cases without a trial. Many clients benefit from mediation, either through the county courthouse or through a private mediator. Our experience has been that many very difficult settle in mediation with the guidance of a trained expert mediator. You should always consult with your lawyer during the process to make sure you are getting a fair result. Settling also means you choose the outcome rather than have a judge impose an outcome on you. Parties that settle are generally happier long term, and have less ongoing conflict. Even if the other side is unreasonable, you should still make an offer to create a record of your position.
8. Take out your stress in unhealthy ways: This is the wrong time to up the drinking or other unhealthy behavior. Expect stress from the conflict and plan for it. Take out your stress in healthy ways, like at the gym, sports, or in talking to friends or a counselor. Don’t take it out on your children, or your body through unhealthy behaviors.
9. Be economically irrational in negotiations: At some point in every case it costs more to continue arguing than what is at stake. Approach your case with a business like mind. Are you really winning if you spend $1000 on lawyers to argue over a $50 lamp? Some (bad) lawyers insist on arguing about every point, without regard to cost. Every issue is a new battle front. A request to resolve one issue results in two more contested issues. In our opinion, these lawyers don’t serve their clients well. Pick your battles. If it costs $1000 to argue over something you can replace at Target for $20, buy a new one, and focus on what is really important.
10. Be your own lawyer if your case is contested and your spouse is represented: Many judges dislike unrepresented parties. Even experienced divorce lawyers hire experienced divorce lawyers for an objective opinion. Many unrepresented people who think they have a great case find out otherwise after a judge rules against them because they can’t tell the judge everything they want to because of the rules of evidence. If you disagree over property or custody, and your spouse has a lawyer, seek representation.
Source: The Oregon Divorce Blog.
Monday, April 20, 2009
By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT
When parents divorce, each member of the family is affected in very unique and personal ways. The age of the child, their gender, their relationship with their siblings, how close they were to each parent and a myriad of other factors all influence the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual repercussions in the months and years ahead.
There re many others whose lives are forever changed by the complexities of divorce. Frequently overlooked and often tragically scarred are the grandparents. Custody issues are hard enough for parents to battle out. Few take into account the consequences for grandparents whose unconditional love for their grandchildren is such a healthy and rewarding part of normal family life.
Once again this is a time for clear thinking on behalf of your children. Should they be deprived of the warmth, intimacy and loving support of grandparents just because you are angry at your former spouse? When you take out your marital frustrations on your in-laws -- your children's grandparents -- it's your children who will suffer.
Grandparents have a special place in the lives and hearts of their grandchildren. Usually they are the ones to spoil the kids, indulge them, take them off your hands when no one else can come to the rescue. Of course, not all grandparents fit the idyllic stereotype, nor are all grandparents emotionally close to their grandchildren. But if your in-laws have a healthy relationship with your children, think long and hard before severing that chord.
A child-centered divorce honors and respects all the adults and children that play a part in your children's lives. One of the primary factors in easing your children through the challenges of separation or divorce is maintaining their lives as closely as possible to their pre-divorce routines. The less disruption in their schedules, day-to-day and month-to-month activities, the easier will be their transition through divorce and beyond.
Spending time with grandma and grandpa, whether every Sunday, once a month or once a year over Christmas or summer vacation, is a routine that means life is going on with some semblance of safety, security and ease. Consider the consequences before interrupting or sabotaging that relationship. Don't deny your children the support system they have come to love and depend upon out of spite, resentment or any other motive not of relevance to your children.
Divorce is tough all around. It behooves you to do the right thing every step of the way. Seek out professional guidance if you need help regarding decisions affecting your children. Let those decisions be motivated by your love for your children - not by your resentment against those who love your children, as well.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a relationship seminar facilitator and author of the new ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids ... about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide(TM) to Preparing Your Children -- with Love! For free articles, her blog, valuable resources on child-centered divorce or to subscribe to her free ezine, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
April 2009 Bar Bulletin
King County Bar Association
By Karin Quirk
My practice has evolved over time to representing parties who have decided they no longer want to be married but want to maintain a relationship with their ex-spouse. They have watched their friends go through bitter divorces and want to avoid the hostility generated by a “divorce war.”
I’m pleased that I have been able to work with a community of like-minded family law attorneys to offer an alternative. While not appropriate in all divorce cases, this alternative does offer clients an opportunity to build a new, if different, family.
A friend of mine, a wedding photographer, tells me one of the biggest challenges of his work comes with attempting to juggle the divorced parents of the bride or groom. Miss Manners columns advise on how to handle the invitations and where to seat the parents and their significant others. Similar horror stories abound for other significant family events such as bar/bat mitzvahs, college graduations and even piano recitals and soccer games.
These events are for the honoree and the marital status of the parents should not cause tension. Often this bitterness is the result of an acrimonious divorce. While divorce will continue to happen, many family law attorneys now work with their clients to create a new way to divorce without the lingering hostility.
A family therapist who works with divorcing couples explains the progression of the couple’s relationship. When they first married, they became husband and wife, and when they had children, they became mom and dad. Now that they are divorcing, they will no longer be husband and wife, but they will always be mom and dad. Recognizing the importance of this relationship, couples are searching for ways to terminate the marriage and yet preserve the future relationship as parents.
There are several models for non-adversarial divorce. Washington has a growing contingent of professionals practicing collaborative divorce. A new organization of Washington collaborative professionals held its first statewide conference last fall. King County Collaborative Law has spawned South Sound and South Snohomish County groups.
The professional members include family law attorneys, mental health professionals, financial specialists and mortgage professionals. There are many smaller practice groups meeting regularly to hone their skills and learn from each other. It is interesting when the marriage counselors meet with the divorce lawyers and learn to communicate with each other.
Collaborative law has specific protocols where the professionals form a team with the divorcing couples. Mental health professionals may act as coaches for the parties, helping them learn to communicate in a more productive manner, or a child specialist may help the couple develop a parenting schedule that makes sense for the children and the family’s needs.
There are other models for non-adversarial divorce. Several attorneys have left the courtroom to work with couples as mediators to help clients forge their own marital settlement agreements and parenting plans. Some attorneys pledge to work cooperatively with each other in a non-adversarial manner. There is growing demand for unbundled services from attorneys who can assist couples with a “kitchen table” divorce, with the parties working out their own issues and the attorneys acting as facilitators for the legal process.
I have been writing about non-adversarial divorce in a small local paper for a number of years. The paper has an online version and I have received calls from attorneys in several states and even the United Kingdom requesting permission to reprint the articles in their local publications. These attorneys are primarily seeking better ways of serving their clients, but are also looking at how this model affects their own lives. They are looking at reducing the stress caused by highly litigious cases.
While forming a new family relationship in the midst of a divorce is a desirable goal, it isn’t always possible. There will still be a need for traditional litigation and I applaud the difficult work undertaken by my litigator colleagues. For family law attorneys who are feeling burned out, I do suggest they investigate the possibilities offered by these emerging dissolution models.
I have a picture in my office as an example of a new family created after divorce. It is a picture of my own daughter’s wedding with her husband’s parents, her father and both of her moms. My grandson finds it perfectly normal and quite desirable to have three grandmothers.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Who has power of attorney for health care?
Is it your former spouse? Do you want that?
Do you want to leave your estate to your former spouse?
The divorce invalidates that portion of your will. If you want your former spouse to be the recipient, you need to restate that after the divorce.
The divorce and a new will won't change beneficiaries on your insurance and retirement accounts
You must fill out new beneficiary forms. Don't think just making a will takes care of it.
Did you set up a trust account for your children? If you did, did you make the trust the beneficiary on your insurance?
Often clients don't want children to inherit large sums of money all at once when they are 18 and set up a trust to handle the money until they are older. The largest sum often is the insurance proceeds and if the children are the beneficiaries they will receive the lump sum when they are 18. You should name the children's trust as the beneficiary.
What documents should you have along with a will?
You should have
A will (Last Will and Testament)
Power of Attorney for Health Care
Health Care Directive
Durable Power of Attorney