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Facing the Big D? A Divorce Attorney Offers Advice

Facing the Big D? A Divorce Attorney Offers Advice

Your husband tells you he’s leaving. Or maybe it’s your choice to divorce him. Either way, the end of the marriage is the beginning of the divorce, a legal process that can feel overwhelming.

I recently chatted with New York civil litigator Valerie Calistro, who used to specialize in divorce law, about her advice for women facing the Big D.

1) What are three or four key things women should know as they begin the process?

One option to consider is mediation. That is a big trend now. If there is not a complicated asset picture, and the parties are relatively amicable, this can be a way to save a ton of money. Basically, someone who is both an attorney and a mediation expert works with both parties to hammer out an agreement.

If a woman thinks a divorce may be on the horizon, she needs to learn as much about the parties’ assets.  In many cases, the husband controls the checkbook and manages the assets for the family. It’s important for the wife to find out as much information about the joint assets, or any assets the husband has in his own name, as soon as possible. Once a man decides to file for divorce, he may start moving money around and hiding some of the assets. I encourage women to make copies of any account statements they can find—IRAs, stocks, bonds, bank statements, anything. Also, make copies of tax returns.  

Know that laws vary state by state. For instance, in some states, if you owned property before you got married, or receive money by a will bequest, and never commingle these assets with joint assets, this property still belongs to you alone after the divorce. In other states, that is not always true. Also, some states have set formulas for figuring out child support.

Finally, if your husband hires his own attorney, you need to hire one too. Do not just use his, even if you feel amicable. That attorney is working for your husband and is going to have his best interests at heart.

2) Any advice for women about finding a divorce attorney?

Start by asking friends and family for a recommendation. It is always best to have an attorney who is recommended. Another option is to go through your local bar association.

What I do counsel against is getting a family attorney to handle it. Divorce is very specialized and you need an attorney who knows this area well. Especially if you have children, this is something that will have implications in your life for years to come.

Before you go meet with an attorney, ask about his or her fees, including whether the initial consultation is free.

3) What is the biggest mistake people make?

Divorce is emotional, and the worst thing people can do is use their kids as pawns. It happens all the time. You really need to sit back and look at the implications for that child.

Another common mistake is talking to your spouse independently. Your attorney is your representative. Independent conversations lead to yelling and screaming. They complicate the divorce and make the divorce drag out longer.

 

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  • bandit37388 By bandit37388
    06.19.11  

    Thanks for this. I am currently going through a divorce after 16 years of marriage. We did the mediation thing and I stupidly thought my husband was going to actually do what he agreed too but he up and moved out of the state to a new home and job. Now I am fighting to get what is mine and feel like I am sinking. Mt lawyer keeps telling me I have to wait but after 6 months I am ready for this to be over with. Anyone have any advice?

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