What To Expect
Simply put, you can expect an uncomfortable and likely unsettling experience. You will likely experience the quiessential emotional rollercoaster with moments of highs, lows, frustrations, relief, sadness, anger, happiness, and resolve to name a few. Most of the time, this is not a product of the lawyer’s actions, but rather the process itself. However, choosing the right lawyer for you will help you through the experience. Beyond this, there are other things you should anticipate:
1. Your spouse may not cooperate or act fair. Once you are involved in a court case, you are part of an adversarial system and you should proceed with cautious pessimism and lowered expectations. Do not be disillusioned or be in a state of denial that your spouse would never do anything to “hurt” you. Of course there are always exceptions to this and we all would like everyone behave as adults, cooperate, and act fair towards one another, but you have to prepare for the worst case scenario and then be pleasantly surprised.
2. Getting everything you want from the divorce. Expect that this will not happen. Often times requests and demands are exaggerated from the onset and maybe even requested initially merely for strategy reasons. Stay realistic in your expectations and understand that a divorce settlement is made up of significant compromises by both spouses. Also, do not expect that you will automatically “win” if only you could get a Judge to hear your side of the story. Expect that a Judge may not always agree with your position no matter how much you think you are right or how much is makes sense to you; Judges have to often decide issues based on limited facts and they are bound by certain procedural rules and governing law. You can expect the court to always be available to you so you can attempt to right a wrong, but you have to acknowledge and recognize all of the pro’s and con’s before deciding to involve the Court in your matter. This is where a discussion with your lawyer will be necessary.
Common assets that are brought up during a divorce include bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, rental or investment property, international property, timeshares, stocks, cash (i.e. tips or revenue from selling personal property), deferred compensation, physical assets (i.e. artwork or art collections, boats, cars, gold, jewelry, Oriental rugs, coin collections, Judaica, summer home(s), gifts from parents, and small business income, inventory, and equipment.
3. Be very honest with your lawyer. Your divorce lawyer is representing you; you choose to hire this lawyer so presumably you should also trust the divorce lawyer at this point. It is critical that you be upfront and honest with your lawyer about everything. Tell your attorney the good, the bad, and even the ugly. We know it is uncomfortable doing this with someone you just met, but your attorney cannot be effective in protecting your legal interests if you withhold vital information especially about financials or your future plans. Expect to give up most control over the situation to your attorney but expect to remain significantly involved in the process every step of the way. If you try to manipulate your attorney or be your own warrior without consulting your attorneys, you will often end up with a completely opposite result than the one you originally intended. Your lawyer may not be able to help you as much when this happens and/or it could cost you more in legal fees for your lawyer to do damage control.
4. Be a team player. This is your divorce, your life, and your future. The ultimate decisions on the case are yours with the assistance, guidance, and legal advice of your counsel. However, you and your lawyer should work together as a team (the motto of Schultz & Associates, LLC). With this in mind, you should expect that your lawyer will be in communication with you as appropriate about your case. There will be times that you will have to review documents that your lawyer or your spouse prepared. It is your responsibility to check facts and figures given to you by others for accuracy. Everyone makes mistakes; it is important that you not be intimidated by legalese and make sure to ask questions if you do not understand. You should expect to bring any factual inaccuracies immediately to your attorney’s attention. Your goal should be to do everything to help your lawyer advocate on your behalf. Do not act in a manner with or towards your attorney that would hinders this or undermine your legal representation. For example, instead of being emotional and reactive, try to be reflective and articulate to your attorney. This will help your lawyer help you. Ask your divorce lawyer how best you can assist him or her.
5. Other professionals may be involved in your case. Most divorce cases involve distribution of various assets such as real estate, stocks/bonds, and retirement funds; there are also divorce cases where custody and visitation are also an issue. If there is a financial asset that has to be valued, such as a business or real property (house), a forensic accountant or real estate appraiser may be hired to perform the valuation. There also may be tax implications that you must be aware of before certain assets are actually distributed which would involve consulting with a financial advisor or certified public accountant. If custody or parenting time (visitation) is an issue in your matter, a custody expert or mediator may need to be hired to assist. Our firm is experienced and knowledgeable in working with consultants and experts that we can recommend to you.