What should I do right now?
Here are the top 5 things you should be doing if your contemplating separation or your divorce case has already started:
(1) Get informed about the process and how the whole thing works. This website was designed to get you there and knowledgeable enough to make informed decisions. So much of what you do in a divorce or custody situation depends on having information that is both current and relevant. For example, if you know how an issue is typically treated in court, you'll know not to take an opposite approach on that issue.
Avoid lawyers that only provide information about the "standard" process. Or, convince you that you're going to get exactly what you want. What you really want is information on how to avoid Court, avoid attorney's fees, and how to best avoid a battle.
(2) If you have been served with divorce papers, get comfortable that the divorce will happen whether you want the divorce or not. For more information what you should be doing once you've been served, click here. You can't stop the divorce, but you can better prepare for a good outcome and a soft landing.
(3) If you're the one that filed the case (or are planning to file), then try to put the best settlement terms upfront with your lawyer. No one wants a Judge to decide their divorce, and no one wants to pay costly attorney's fees, and therefore, talk settlement early and get serious. If you play cute with your settlement offer, all you're really doing is inviting litigation, if not begging for it. Put your settlement proposal in writing and ready-to-sign. If your spouse is hesitant, find alternative means to get them comfortable with the outcome. Pushing your divorce agenda, either too fast or too hard, will build distrust and invite expensive litigation.
(4) Discourage a lot of back and forth between lawyers, which costs you money. Remember, the system is designed to take your money and put it in the pockets of lawyers. Seek out alternative ways to resolve your case. There are far better ways to get your case from start to finish without the fight and the costs involved. If you feel your case is going sideways, or your lawyer is just keeping things warm to bill another month on your file, you're probably right. Talk to a lawyer that knows how to avoid the all too common drawn out case.
(5) Learn the secrets that divorce lawyers know. Most people do not understand the legal process and its implications; you should consult with an attorney regarding the entire process. Not all attorneys are exactly alike. Attorneys have different styles and skill sets. Your job is to ensure that your attorney is essentially the best at what he or she does. Second-place in divorce is the first-place loser. Get an attorney that knows what they are doing. Lawyers that dabble in divorce are likely unable to provide guidance and advice on all the various unique aspects of divorce law, and the process. Anyone can look up a law, only a seasoned divorce lawyer knows how those laws interact with each other and how judges usually treat the situation.
On a final note, do everything you can to keep your case out of the courtroom, but be realistic. Many spouses and parents know they should keep court time to a minimum, but many become dreamy about non-court resolution. Often spouses waste thousands of dollars on mediation or other out-of-court processes with no result having fallen victim to a lawyer that doesn't know the psychology behind the divorce or the process. Experience counts.