5 Divorce Topics that Can Save You Attorney Fees
In 2010, New York became the last state to recognize no-fault grounds for divorce. If you wish to file for divorce in New York, you may cite an irretrievable breakdown of marriage as your reason. That means that neither spouse has to make allegations – like abandonment, extreme cruelty, or adultery – against the other. This is good for many obvious reasons: it reduces the chance of acrimony between spouses, which reduces the time and cost of a divorce, and makes the process easier for any children involved. There are two grounds for a no-fault divorce:
- An irreparable breakdown of the marriage for six months before filing
- Living separately for one year before filing
Some parties enter the divorce process hoping to punish their spouse, but the “fault” grounds for a divorce, even if proved, won’t affect the division of assets, except in the most extreme situations. In other words, one spouse’s adultery won’t “cost” him or her anything in the terms of the divorce itself, but it will cost both parties incalculable sums in attorney’s fees.
Seeking to dissolve a marriage through no-fault grounds makes it easier for spouses to achieve an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, spouses agree on issues like spousal maintenance, child custody, child support, and property division, and therefore do not require the assistance of the court to determine these issues. That leaves more control in the hands of the divorcing parties, and avoids the expense of litigation.
Unfortunately, not all couples agree on how to handle child custody, spousal maintenance, child support, and property division issues. Spouses who cannot resolve these issues must rely on the court system. A contested divorce can last several weeks, or months, and in some cases a year or more.
If you’re considering a divorce, your head is probably swimming with questions. You shouldn’t hesitate to call our law office and speak with Divorce Attorney Randy H. Gugino, because the answers, in most cases, will depend on the details of your situation. The following sections will answer some preliminary questions that you can knock off the list of questions you ask your attorney.
1. Choosing a Divorce Attorney
Before you start the divorce process you need to find an attorney you can trust. A phone call probably won’t be enough. You’re going to be spending a long time with this person (though hopefully he or she can help complete the process in as little time as possible). You want someone with whom you feel comfortable. You don’t want a bullish attorney who intimidates you, because it’s important that you lead the divorce process. You shouldn’t hesitate to ask your attorney about his or her experience, nor to dive right in to a discussion of how you might carry your case forward successfully and efficiently. Lastly, you’ll want an attorney who’s upfront about fees, payment plans, and ways for you to keep expenses down.
2. How Long the Divorce Process Takes
An “easy,” or uncontentious divorce could be over in two to three months. A difficult, contentious, and litigated divorce could take over a year. It’s not possible for an attorney to predict the length of your case until well into the process, but you can sit down with your attorney, go over the details of your case, including assets, children, and the condition of your relationship with your spouse, and make educated guesses as to issues that could make yours a longer process.
In general, the length of your divorce case will depend on your ability to come to an agreement with your spouse.
3. Costs Associated with a Divorce
Aside from the eventual division of assets, the cost of your divorce will be your attorney’s retainer. This will vary, and is determined by the complexity of the case. You could incur additional costs if your case drags on, and if you have to involve other professionals like paralegals, doctors, psychologists, or forensic accountants.
If you aren’t the moneyed party, you might be able to get your spouse to contribute toward your attorney’s fees through a court order. A judge might order direct payments, or might take a shared asset, liquidate it, and reserve that for attorney’s fees.
There are other ways to keep costs down. Attorneys bill by the hour, so the more work you can do for your attorney, the less you’ll have to pay. Secure important financial documents before your first consultation. Provide other documentation before you file for divorce, including documentation of your spouse’s finances. This will save you money during the “discovery” phase when both parties exchange information.
4. Needing a Separation Agreement
You don’t need a separation agreement to get a divorce. If you have very few assets and no children, you might be able to draw up a short stipulation and have that entered into the judgment of divorce. If you anticipate significant wrangling over assets, however, you will need to reach an agreement, or else turn all decisions over to a judge.
5. Going to Court
Most divorcing spouses manage to settle the terms of their divorce in mediation, and do not need to go to litigation before a judge. In fact, in some situations it isn’t necessary for either party to go to court. The parties could negotiate a property settlement agreement outside of court and have their attorneys submit the necessary documentation.
However, a judge must hear custody and visitation issues. This puts your case onto a trial calendar, involves a law guardian for the child, and will lengthen any divorce proceedings.