divorce attorney in White Plains, Westchester County, New York, I feel it is very important
for individuals considering adivorce to be properly prepared. Good preparation and a basic understanding of the
divorce process is essential to protecting your rights, children and financial future.
My top ten ways to prepare for a divorce action in New York are:
Gather Financial Documents - In every divorce action both
contested anduncontested maintaining financial records is very important. As a divorce lawyer I
ask my clients to retrieve at least three years of all bank statements,
credit card statements, tax returns, retirement statements, mortgage statements,
loan information and other financial documents. I provide my clients with
a comprehensive list of documents to gather at our first meeting to give
us a head start in preparing the case.
Financial information is even more important when you are not familiar
with the financials of the marriage. It is common that one spouse pays
all the bills and maintains the bank accounts so it is absolutely necessary
to determine what accounts exist and get as many records as possible.
I always advise to check the mail and keep a close watch for any mailings
that would identify any financial accounts.
2.Save cash – Keep as much cash on hand as possible. Divorce expenses can increase
quickly including lawyer's fees, court fees, expert fees and therapist
bills. Also, expenses for children and a new household can increase rapidly.
The goal is to have enough cash on hand to support yourself during the
Protect Your Children –
Child custody (physical and legal) with visitation rights is always a primary issue
in a divorce action.
To protect your children it is highly advisable that you do not discuss
any aspect of the divorce in front of your children or with your children.
Using children as pawns or speaking negatively about the other parent
is taken very seriously by the courts and should be avoided.
If issues involving the children are not resolved, the court will assign
the children at attorney and that attorney will speak on behalf of the
children in court. In most instances the parents are required to pay the
legal fees for the children's attorney.
To obtain custody there are steps you can take to get custody of your children
including becoming familiar with your child's health, safety, welfare
and educational needs.
Hire a Good Lawyer – Of course you want to hire the
best divorce lawyer you can afford especially if you have substantial assets and children
When dealing with an attorney it is wise to have a mutual understanding
with your attorney about how your divorce case will proceed and the legal
strategy you want to employ. Beware of the "take no prisoners"
divorce attorney. Those type of attorneys typically demand outrageous
fees, use fear to manipulate clients and will churn legal bills until
both spouses are broke.
A reasonable divorce lawyer with a positive outlook and clearly identified
goals can resolve your case quickly to save you money and lessen the emotional
stress of the process.
5.Don't sign anything or verbally agree to something without speaking
to a divorce lawyer – Always consult with a lawyer. Do not use the same lawyer as your
spouse. Even if you consider your divorce "easy". It is unethical
for a lawyer to represent both you and your spouse.
Change your will and health care proxy – If you have a will and a health care proxy consult with an attorney
about revising those documents. Usually your spouse is listed as a beneficiary
in a will and as the person designated to make health care decisions should
you fall ill and not be able to make your own decisions. Once the divorce
process is started it is easy to overlook these important legal documents.
7.Inventory Personal Property – In a divorce action even personal property in your home is subject
to distribution. Important items such as collectables, jewelry, family
heirlooms, artwork and other items should be listed especially if you
know, after the divorce, you want an item of personal property. Sometimes
it helps to take photographs in case an item "goes missing".
Become a Private Person – Get a P.O. Box, change the passwords to your computer accounts,
delete anything embarrassing or anything that could be used against you
from your social media, open your own bank accounts, get your own credit
cards and safe deposit box.
Stay Positive and Focused – A divorce could be the most stressful time in a person life. Understand
that a divorce is a step by step process and because of the complexities
a divorce will not happen overnight. Don't let emotions get in the
way of a well thought out strategic goals to allow everything to go as
smooth as possible.
Review and Know the NYS Automatic Orders – In New York State once a divorce action is filed the Plaintiff
is automatically under the restrictions of the Court's automatic orders.
Once the Defendant is served with the divorce action the defendant becomes
restricted by the Court's automatic orders. Any violation of these
orders can be grounds for contempt of court and of course will not impress
the Judge assigned to your case. The NYS Automatic Orders are as follows:
Once a judgment of divorce is signed in this action, both you and your
spouse may or may not continue to be eligible for coverage under each
other's health insurance plan, depending on the terms of the plan;
and that pursuant to Domestic Relations Law Section 236, Part B, Section
2, as added by Chapter 72, of the Laws of 2009, both you and your spouse
(the parties) are bound by the following AUTOMATIC ORDERS, which shall
remain in full force and effect during the pendency of the action unless
terminated, modified or amended by further order of the court or upon
written agreement between the parties:
(1) Neither party shall transfer, encumber, assign, remove, withdraw or
in any way dispose of, without the consent of the other party in writing,
or by order of the court, any property (including, but not limited to,
real estate, personal property, cash accounts, stocks, mutual funds, bank
accounts, cars and boats) individually or jointly held by the parties,
except in the usual course of business, for customary and usual household
expenses or for reasonable attorney's fees in connection with this action.
(2) Neither party shall transfer, encumber, assign, remove, withdraw or
in any way dispose of any tax deferred funds, stocks or other assets held
in any individual retirement accounts, 401K accounts, profit sharing plans,
Keogh accounts, or any other pension or retirement account, and the parties
shall further refrain from applying for or requesting the payment of retirement
benefits or annuity payments of any kind, without the consent of the other
party in writing, or upon further order of the court; except that any
party who is already in pay status may continue to receive such payments
(3) Neither party shall incur unreasonable debts hereunder, including,
but not limited to further borrowing against any credit line secured by
the family residence, further encumbrancing any assets, or unreasonably
using credit cards or cash advances against credit cards, except in the
usual course of business or for customary or usual household expenses,
or for reasonable attorney's fees in connection with this action.
(4) Neither party shall cause the other party or the children of the marriage
to be removed from any existing medical, hospital and dental insurance
coverage, and each party shall maintain the existing medical, hospital
and dental insurance coverage in full force and effect.
(5) Neither party shall change the beneficiaries of any existing life insurance
policies and each party shall maintain the existing life insurance, automobile
insurance, homeowners and renters insurance policies in full force and effect.
As you can see from this divorce blog, the key is all in preparation. Beware
alot depends on your spouse and how difficult they want to make the process
but good preparation will be your best defense against a difficult spouse.
Divorce is very common in the United States. Some 2.8 million divorces
occur each year.
Riebling, Proto & Sachs, LLP our attorneys understand the divorce process. We take the time to explain
the legal process to you, listen to your concerns, answer your questions
and offer you advice to achieve your goals.
If you are considering a divorce call our office for a
free divorce consultation. (914) 946-4808.