What to Expect When You're Expecting a Divorce



Preeminent Fort Lauderdale Family Law Attorney Says

Gather Documents, Files & Counsel

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL (JUNE 30, 2009) - Your spouse has grown distant. The spark is gone. Therapy hasn't helped, and resolution seems impossible. If divorce is in your future, what should you expect when you're expecting a divorce?

Whether acrimonious or amicable, with kids, time sharing (formerly called "custody") and alimony, or simple and uncontested, experienced family law attorneys advise clients to prepare in advance.

"This isn't about taking your spouse to the cleaners. It's simply about making sure everything's transparent and on the table, and that you get what's yours," said Barry I. Finkel, a long-time Fort Lauderdale divorce lawyer. "Planning is critical to ensuring your interests and those of the children are protected."

How can you plan? Once you recognize that marriage is over and counseling or therapy hasn't helped, get your financial documents in order. Gather tax returns, mortgage statements, pay stubs, life insurance, investments, bank checking and / or savings account statements and registers, credit card statements and general receipts, and documentation of real estate investments or holdings.

"It's important to get documents early," Finkel said. "Your spouse will need them, too. If there's hostility, he or she might take them and make access difficult."

Selecting Counsel & Professionals

The right attorney can help ensure your interests and needs are protected. Start by assuming that your spouse has sought a skilled lawyer. Seek an experienced divorce lawyer by asking friends or family members. Once given the names of several attorneys who work exclusively in family law, call each to discuss your case. Ask whether they'll keep you informed throughout the process. Will you receive copies of all documents sent on your behalf? How - and how much - do they charge? Some are hourly, others are flat rate. Most will expect a retainer in advance. After your call, were you treated respectfully? Did you establish a rapport? Did you like their approach to your situation?

"Trust your instinct; it's often a good barometer," Finkel said. "You'll be spending a lot of time and probably investing a lot of money on this relationship. You have to feel comfortable together."

Once you've hired your attorney, let him or her take over. He can help negotiate separation and who moves out of the home. He can field calls from your spouse regarding settlement, numbers, visitation or other issues. In fact, refer all calls to the attorney. This helps avoid conflict and confrontation - especially in front of the children.

If children are involved, consider hiring a child psychologist to help them through the process. The child psychologist also can help with time sharing arrangements. If the divorce is particularly contentious and puts the children's interests at risk, a Guardian ad Litem can be appointed by the court. This professional advocates for the children, recommends therapy, communicates with teachers, neighbors and friends, and suggests how best to deal with the child's situation.

Other professionals to consider: Forensic accountants, to pour over all financial documents to determine true income, conduct studies to ascertain money spent on lifestyles, and uncovering hidden assets and income; appraisers for real property, personal property and businesses; and a vocational expert to render opinions on your spouse's actual earning capacity.

Mediation & Trial

Most judges require that a reasonable attempt at mediation be made before a divorce heads to trial. The two lawyers will select a qualified mediator. Prices range from $200 to $375 an hour, depending on experience and reputation. When an agreed-upon mediator negotiates a settlement, the decision generally is binding.

If the sides cannot settle using a mediator, the case may go to trial. This can last from less than a day to several weeks, depending on the issues, the number of witnesses, or the complexity of the case. While mediation or trial formally ends the marriage, some issues can linger. These can include remarriage or relocation of the ex-spouse, financial issues, or child-related concerns.

"Divorce is never easy," Finkel said. "But preparation can help you feel ready for the experience, and more at ease with the outcome."

Barry I. Finkel P.A., is a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., law firm limited to the practice of family law. In practice since 1983, Mr. Finkel handles complex divorce matters for clients throughout South Florida.