These are critical things to do once you’ve made a definite decision to get a divorce. Please keep in mind that these are your beginning steps. Only a qualified New York divorce lawyer can advise you properly about the many other elements that go into obtaining an excellent result.
1 – Hire an experienced matrimonial attorney, with a proven record of success. Getting divorced is a complex legal transaction with many intricacies, especially if children are involved. To get the best possible result, you’ll need to hire a lawyer for whom matrimonial law is a main practice area. A seasoned divorce practitioner will have a thorough knowledge of all the matrimonial, child custody and family law issues that can arise, and can effectively address them for you. If the lawyer you’re considering has handled only a few divorces, beware.
Also, if it seems like a lawyer is going to turn your divorce into an expensive, acrimonious proposition, find someone else to represent you. A divorce is not a bullfight. If your lawyer acts like a matador waving a red cape in front of your ex, and then sends you a bill every time the stakes are raised even higher, you’ll be a very sad client indeed.
2 – Don’t move until your lawyer tells you to. Unless you’re a victim of domestic violence, leaving your home before your attorney advises you to is a bad idea. Under current New York laws, you may not be able to return for a very long time, and may never regain access. In addition to sustaining the cost of another residence, you can lose control of your property. And if you have children, it can hurt your ability to gain custody, since leaving can be regarded as abandonment. Stay put until you get the go ahead.
3 – Protect your kids. Your children need to know what’s going on. You’ll have to explain to them what divorce means. It may be best at first to have a consultation with a psychologist or psychiatrist who is experienced in matrimonial cases, to get advice about how to approach the conversation in the least traumatic way. You may eventually need the services of a psychologist as an expert witness anyway, so it’s worthwhile to take the initial steps to find a professional you’re comfortable with.
4 – Gather, organize and secure your records. To prove your case, and especially to justify or refute any spousal maintenance or child support request, you need evidence. That comes in the form of financial records, and you’ll need at least three years’ worth, showing your income and expenses. Get all your pay stubs, statements, tax returns and cancelled checks together, and keep them in a secure location outside your home, which your spouse has no access to. If you own a business, you’ll need to compile its financials also.
5 – Open new accounts in your name only. Speak to your attorney about canceling joint bank accounts and credit cards. You’ll want new accounts in your name only. You certainly don’t want debts run up in your name, and you need to protect your money from being taken. When you meet with your lawyer, also address the issue of revoking any existing Power of Attorney documents.
6 – Make sure your insurance coverage stays intact. If you happen to be on your spouse’s insurance plan, you’ll need to take steps immediately to protect your coverage, in particular if you are ill and receiving ongoing treatment. The last thing you want to happen is for your spouse to remove you from the plan without your knowing it. You may have to buy your own coverage sooner than you think.
7 – Don’t have sex with your soon-to-be ex. If your divorce involves infidelity, having sex with your spouse can be legally considered as having forgiven it, and can also interfere with other claims that can be made to support your case. From a legal perspective, there’s only one thing you have to remember here: Don’t.
8 – Don’t sign anything without getting legal advice first. Signing any legal document during a divorce without first running it by your attorney can pose major problems. Make sure you understand whatever you sign, and its potential impact on your case, your finances and your life. Also, keep a copy of whatever you sign in a secure place.
9 – Avoid provocation. When a marriage is breaking up, it’s easy to get into nasty arguments and confrontations. The rule is simple: Don’t look for a fight. It makes it harder to negotiate successfully with your spouse, and to get what you want and need for a good future. Raging battles also make the divorce much more traumatic for your kids. Generally, leave the talking to your lawyer. That’s why you hired counsel.
10 – Clear your head. The one thing everyone in a divorce needs is some time and psychological space to think clearly. Start to consider what you really need. What would be a luxury, or nice to have? What can’t you live without? You need to make these distinctions, and communicate them clearly to your lawyer. He or she can then give you a very good idea of what it’s possible to achieve. Begin that conversation early on, from your initial consultation.
Learn more about your case…
These ten steps are important points to observe in getting started. You can get more details, and discover other valuable information in two FREE Special Reports from McAdams Law:
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with New York Divorce Lawyer Jeff McAdams, Esq.
You can reach New York divorce attorney Jeff McAdams at 212-406-5145. McAdams Law has offices conveniently located in lower Manhattan at 305 Broadway.
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