So you are getting a divorce and you have no idea where to start. So you start asking your friends who are divorced what they did and for every 10 people you speak to you get 10 different answers…..from ”you need to file first”….to “don’t leave your home because that’s considered abandonment” to “pay all the bills and don’t leave too much money around to be divided” to “stop funding your 401(k) plan….. get the advice from a reputable Divorce Attorney
Some advice may be good but some may lead you down the wrong path to disaster and once you have made certain decisions there is no going back. There is; however, some general advice that you should consider. In finding a good divorce lawyer, personal referrals are always preferable but if not, an internet search can result in finding an attorney who dedicates their practice to family law and many consultations are free.
Before getting curbside advice, consult with at least three attorneys. You will be surprised to see that all three may have different approaches and depending on your circumstances you will either choose someone who is negotiated minded or someone who has a very aggressive adversarial approach. Before hiring someone aggressive who wants to run to a judge for every issue, speak with an attorney who will propose a global settlement offer that you can approach your spouse with from how to handle parenting issues to distributing property to handling spousal or child support issues. You can then take this proposal to your spouse and if he or she finds it to be a solid basis to negotiate further, you can save yourself a lot of time and money. This is because you will now utilize an attorney to help negotiate and draft an agreement which will encompass all divorce issues from support to distribution of property.
Once an agreement is drafted and revised a few times, you will be pleasantly surprised to see an end product in the form of a marital settlement agreement which is acceptable to both of you. Now the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed contemporaneously with the agreement considered an uncontested divorce because all the issues are resolved. To hire an attorney to handle this pre-suit type of negotiations resulting in a total agreement may cost you a total of $1500.00 to $2500.00 in comparison to a full blown contested case which could easily run you $10,000.00 for the same result.
Of course there are those isolated cases where no negotiations are not going to work because emotions run high and greed and egos get in the way. In my experience those cases comprise about 5% of total cases.
In conclusion, very rare is the occasion that a spouse has to serve the other party with papers unless an agreement cannot be reached and even then, with diligent effort of both attorneys, a settlement most often can be reached after filing.
If you are getting a divorce, you owe it to yourself to hire a divorce attorney that has a settlement minded approach prior to filing in order to save yourself time and money.