By: Jeralyn L. Lawrence
Garden State Women 2005-2006 Financial Resources Guide
Going through a divorce is a life changing event. It can be an uncertain and scary time. During the divorce process, you will be asked to make very important decisions that will affect the rest of your life. The assets you have acquired during the marriage need to be identified, valued and distributed. Your marital lifestyle will need to be defined so that an effort can be made to insure it is reasonably maintained. If you have children, custody and parenting time issues, child support and college contribution are primary considerations.
Because of these ultra-important issues, as well as the emotional impact and the complexities of the divorce process, it is important to have a lawyer. Not just any lawyer. You should have a lawyer who specializes in divorce law with whom you can talk to and trust. You should do some soul searching to determine what it is you want to accomplish from the divorce and find a lawyer to help you reach your goals.
Most divorce cases eventually settle. It has been estimated that 96% – 97% of all divorce cases settle. Thus, it is really a matter of when will your case settle, not if your case will settle. You need to find a lawyer who will help navigate and negotiate a settlement that is in your best interest. Each settlement should be a fair compromise of all issues. By that, I mean both parties will be called upon to compromise – to give up something to get something in return. How quickly your case settles is largely a function of you, your spouse and the attorneys. Many cases can settle in a matter of weeks or months. Contested cases can take years to complete.
A wonderful option in helping a client reach a fair resolution of their divorce is mediation. Mediation is a process whereby the parties negotiate, through an independent mediator, the terms of their divorce. Even when mediating, however, it is crucial to retain your own lawyer to assist you through the mediation process. I tell my clients that I must talk to them before and after any mediation session so that I am aware of what is being negotiated at the mediation session in order to provide feedback and suggestions. It is the client’s decision as to whether or not they want to participate in mediation. There are many advantages to mediation. First, it is cost-effective. Second, it generally takes less time to resolve your case through mediation than litigation. Most importantly, though, is that you control the outcome of the case and you actively participate in the resolution of your own divorce.
Regardless if your divorce is handled through mediation or litigation, it is your attorney’s goal to assist you in the dissolution of your marriage. It is crucial to gather all financial records such as tax returns from the past 3 years, all brokerage account statements, stock information and stock option grants. A wonderful tool for this information is through the employer manual. It is important to obtain a copy of that document. Credit card statements and bank records are also keys to figuring out and analyzing income and spending.
The best divorce is an informed divorce and a divorce where the terms are reached through compromises made by the clients. When you are part of the process and responsible for the settlement, you will feel better about the terms and will be able to take that first step into a happy post-divorce life.