Filing for Divorce in New York
Important Steps to Empower You, Save Money, and Achieve Your Goals
1. Seek and Utilize Emotional Support
The end of a marriage can be an intensely stressful and emotional experience. It may be difficult to make important financial and practical decisions while dealing with feelings of sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, hurt, and guilt. In order to remain level headed, it is critical to be aware of and express your feelings to a trusted family member, friend, or therapist.
While your lawyer should be sensitive and sympathetic, relying on him/her for emotional support will be costly and ineffective. Encouraging unnecessary motions due to feelings of anger towards the spouse will become expensive and may hurt your case. Discuss the best legal process with your lawyer and try not to allow your emotions lead you away from the best pathway to achieve your legal goals.
2. Choose a Good Lawyer
Find a lawyer with whom you feel confident and comfortable. Your lawyer should be sensitive to your needs, but honest about the results you will achieve. He/she should listen carefully and communicate with you clearly, thoroughly, and in a timely manner. Information regarding dates, negotiations, and court decisions should be made available to you. You should receive a retainer agreement detailing hourly rates, the initial payment owed when the lawyer takes your case, and other financial information regarding your case. Read all documents carefully before signing anything.
Qualifications to consider when looking for a good divorce lawyer include:
· Specialization in matrimonial law
· Recommendations by peers, judges, reputable organizations, and former clients
· Good negotiation and litigation skills
· Familiarity with local judges and lawyers
· Possession of quality support staff
3. Keep Good Notes
Information is the best tool that your attorney will use to represent you effectively. Be honest and keep track of information as thoroughly and accurately as you can. The information will be used by your attorney to understand your case and achieve better results.
The excision of unnecessary back-and-forth requests for information will allow your attorney to review what he/she needs, when he/she needs it. This will cut costs by reducing billable hours, conferences, and phone calls.
Here are some examples of information that may be helpful to provide your attorney:
Marital history: Specific incidents and general patterns of physical, verbal, and emotional abuse, adultery, abandonment of the marital residence, and refusing to have sex, among any other problems and important incidents
Contributions to the marriage:
a. Service provided as a homemaker: cooking, cleaning, laundry, repairs, driving, holiday preparation
b. Service provided as a parent: hygiene, homework, teaching of skills, and social, school, medical, religious activities
c. Service as an administrator: paying bills, supervising investments, communication with creditors
d. Service provided to the spouse in the form of assistance in obtaining educational degrees, licenses, employment, business, or permanent residence alien card
e. Emotional support: assisting the spouse through a difficult period, the overcoming of addictions or bad habits, or family relations
3.Finances of the marriage:
a. Assets: real estate, businesses, bank accounts, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, pensions, IRA’s, Keogh plans and annuities, personal property, automobiles, insurance policies, degrees and licenses, and other investments
b. Debts: credit card debt, mortgages, auto payments, promissory notes, taxes, and other loans owed
c. Income: salaries, business distributions, rental payments from real estate owned and interest and capital gains on investments
d. Expenses: cost of housing, taxes, utilities, household repairs and maintenance, food and household products, clothing, laundry, doctors, medicine and hospitalization, insurance policies, transportation, education, recreation, vacations, and miscellaneous items such as loan payments, child care, and personal care
Be sure to provide dates, locations, witnesses, and police complaint numbers when relevant and available. Keep these notes in a safe, private place away from the marital residence or in a location where your spouse will not review them. Continue updating the file throughout the process of your divorce and keep neat, accurate records of incidents and information.
4. Collect Documents
Because marriage is an economic partnership, it is important to collect records of all finances, whether or not they are held in the name of you or the spouse. Try to obtain the following documents containing information about the assets, debts and income of the marriage:
· Bank statements
· Credit card statements
· Stocks and bonds
· Mutual fund portfolios
· Brokerage account statements
· Business records and books
· Mortgage applications
· Tax returns (personal and business)
· Pay stubs
· Pensions and retirement plans
· Life, health, disability, auto and other insurance policies
· Power-of-attorney documents
· Receipts and warranties for expensive items purchased
· Loan applications
· Business agreements
· Promissory notes
· Court and legal documents
· Medical records
· Employee benefit records
· Safe deposit numbers and keys
· Any financial documents involving you, your spouse, or your children
Pay stubs show if money is being taken out for pension, annuity, investment, health, or other company or union benefits.
Tax returns report rental and interest income that will show if real estate or investments are owned by your spouse. They may also contain schedules which list businesses that your spouse owns and obtains income from.
Mortgage and loan applications are a good indicator of the assets of the marriage.
Resumes provide information of educational degrees, professional licenses, and special skills acquired during the marriage. They also describe former employers where your spouse may have acquired pensions or annuities.
Credit card statements may show charges for expensive jewelry, hotels, restaurants, and vacations that are unusual.
If your spouse has a cash business which he/she has illegally not listed on his/her tax returns, look for credit card statements and expense receipts to show the lifestyle that is supported by the cash received.
Documents may be obtained from your spouse, the family accountant or lawyer, or your spouse’s financial planner. The IRS will provide you with copies of any tax returns that you have signed. Deeds are located in the County Registrar or city hall offices where the property is located. If you cannot obtain certain documents, your lawyer will seek the information during the divorce proceedings.
5. Put aside money be aware of joint bank accounts/credit lines
You may need funds to establish a new home or pay unexpected bills, legal, or expert fees. Even if a motion is made in Court, you may still need funds during the time it takes to make the decision and receive support. Funds are also important for emergencies and pursuing further education and employment.
Furthermore, you must keep track of balances on all joint accounts. Notify the institution not to allow funds to be withdrawn without your approval. Withdraw funds to use for reasonable expenses. Maintain careful records of these expenses and provide full disclosure. Close credit lines or utilize them by yourself; your spouse may utilize these lines and incur debt. Establish credit in your own name before the divorce, as it may become more difficult after you are divorced.
A weekly guide with tips and legal advice for each stage of the process.