DO'S AND DON'TS OF DIVORCE
Divorce, separation, or any domestic relations matter is a proceeding that requires extensive expertise, but more importantly compassion and familiarity not only with the law and one's own client, but also with the community of lawyers whom you are dealing with.
Do'sDo get an attorney;
Do get an attorney based on his expertise and reviews and not simply because he or she is the only attorney you can afford;
Do make a list of your expectations and break them down by subject and sub subjects; for example: if there are children, in addition to what you wish to have as the distribution of assets ( also known as equitable distribution in New York ), make sure that you have an idea of what you need financially to survive while the dust settles and ultimately after the dust settles, both for child support and, if necessary, for spousal support too. Also, keep in mind that you share the children with your spouse and that you must be ready to either be the residential parent or the non residential parent;
Do leave room for negotiation of what you think you want out of this divorce;
Do get a therapist to get you through this tough and unexpected time in your life--though your lawyer may also serve as your therapist, as we often do, it is important to have a trained professional to speak to, especially if children are involved and co-parenting becomes the issue;
Do read all documents that are presented to you and do ask questions--there is never a stupid question. Your lawyer does not and should not expect you to know the overwhelming legalese or even what may seem the most banal of documents. You will have to live with the consequences of your choices and most importantly with whatever it is that you sign, whether you chose it or not. So, make sure you read before you sign.
Do pay your attorney if he or she is doing his or her job. Once you receive a bill, question it if you have to, but keep the line of communication open and make arrangements to pay your bill--ignoring the bill will not make it go away and will probably annoy the only person who is in your corner at this time. Although this seems crude to say, people get incentive when they get paid for their work. Beware though of the attorneys who will keep the case alive as an annuity. Hence, why you should be asking questions all along.
Do keep it civil! no matter how bad your partner wants you to engage in the mudslinging and game playing, there is only one way you will come out of this alive and that is through calm and effective thinking.
Do make a plan to give your attorney all the information he needs, whether you think there are relevant or not; it is always better to have more than to search last minute for information. Also the more your attorney knows about you and your financial situation, the more effective he or she will be. For example, have your tax information available, your health insurance information available, your retirement accounts, a complete budget of your expenses, a list of your assets and liabilities, and most importantly, documentary back up for all of it .
Do tell your friends and family to "butt out"--that's right I said it, family and friends have no business in your divorce. This is your funeral and only you know where the bodies are buried. EVERY DIVORCE IS DIFFERENT.
Do trust your lawyer: he or she is your partner in this; but, do not forget to question.
Do tell yourself that "you will get through this".
DON'TSDon't mistake google search for your lawyer's expertise. Once you find someone you are comfortable with, give them some of your trust while questioning them throughout. An effective and sincere attorney will not mind your questions.
Don't think that your lawyer is a magician or clairvoyant. Your lawyer will not be able to reinvent the wheel nor change the law, but they can advocate for you (as they should) to the limits of what the law is. Additionally, his power will always be fueled exponentially by the power of knowledge. So, make sure your attorney has all the information you have and the documents necessary to back it up. To a certain extent, the man with the most paper will always have an advantage.
Don't use the children as pawns! Not only will the children remember who in the divorce manipulated them to gain an advantage in the custody battle, but the courts will also acknowledge if that is something you are doing. For the most part, judges and lawyers who have been meddling in divorce practice will be able to figure out whether your position is sincere or whether your children are falling prey to your games.
Don't assume that because you extend your spouse a courtesy, that courtesy will be returned. If the ex-spouse wants the child on a day that he is not entitled to have her, and you oblige, do not automatically assume that you are entitled to the same courtesy in the future. Doing "good" for goodness sake in divorces will save you a lot of disappointments and lost expectations.
Don't sit on your rights. If your ex-spouse owes you child support or spousal support, do not wait until it accrues in the thousands to speak up--enforcement may not be easy once it becomes impossible for the spouse to pay.
Don't annoy the mind you are trying to persuade. I learned this from an illustrious Second Circuit federal judge. Whether you are trying to persuade a Judge, the other attorney at a settlement conference, your ex-spouse, or even your lawyer, do not waste their time with futile minutia, nor take an inflexible position just because "you can." After all, we are all here because you want or need to be divorced--help us help you.
Do not think that your ex-spouse is your friend. Cautiously but with civility remind him that while there are attorneys involved you cannot commit to what he asks until you consult with your lawyer; unless we are speaking of insignificant visitation scheduling issues, you will need the advice of your lawyer because every action and inaction counts in divorce court.
Don't forget that once the agreement is signed, for the most part, there is no going back, So, make sure of what you agree to.
Don't assume your position is the winning one; judges are humans and they see your case with a different pair of lenses, often clouded by their own experiences and prejudices.
Don't show your insecurities. your ex-spouse knows if you are insecure and will try to exploit that weakness, no need to reaffirm what he already knows. Instead, displace him with a sense of certainty that you will see through this divorce and you are going to be "ok."
Finally, Don't worry, "you'll get through this!."