What to expect and how to proceed
Can I stop the divorce?
Unfortunately, it is very difficult for one spouse to stop a divorce. In some states, you have the right to ask the judge to order marital counseling. In other fault-based states, the spouse seeking the divorce must prove certain grounds for divorce, and the reluctant spouse has the opportunity to refute those grounds. However, the reality is that in most cases, the divorce will occur even when only one spouse wants it.
Can one lawyer represent both of us?
Though this is permitted in some states, it generally is a bad idea. Most good family law attorneys will not represent both spouses, as it is most always a conflict of interest and unethical conduct. An attorney who represents “both sides” prevents you from obtaining your own, independent legal advice. Even worse, the agreement becomes vulnerable to an attack to set it aside. There are many better ways of conserving money, such as hiring a trained mediator to help you and your spouse work through your issues.
Should I hire a private detective?
It depends on your goals. In a “fault” state, it might be helpful to have a private investigator (Pl) find out about your spouse’s behaviors that may impact the property settlement. Otherwise, a PI might help you trace money that you suspect your spouse of hiding. However, always keep in mind the potential risks of starting a fight and possibly harming your children in the process. In addition, most good divorce lawyers can help you track assets and obtain documentation if your finances are not too complicated.
How long will the divorce take?
Check your state law, as there are different “waiting” or “cooling off” periods in many states. It may be as little as 30 days or as long as a year. Plus, your case may be delayed if you live in a jurisdiction that has crowded court dockets. Finally, it is a rule of thumb that if you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement and your case becomes “contested,” it will take longer to complete.
Should I move out of the house?
The answer depends on your individual circumstances. There is no one right answer that fits every case. However, in making that decision keep in mind the following: the person who moves out does not forfeit all claims to any marital equity in the property or entitlement to a division of the furnishings. However, it might be wise to list or photograph the contents before you leave.
Once a party moves out, a lawyer may have difficulty getting an order for him/her to move back later. If there are disputes relating to children and one parent moves out without them before reaching an agreement regarding contact, there may be a
time lag before arrangements are in place for that parent to see the children.
If you believe your children should reside primarily with you, it is generally not a good idea to move out unless you have adequate and safe arrangements for your children to go with you.
Can I read my spouse’s mail/email or tape our telephone conversations?
Before you do anything like this, talk with your attorney. You may be violating federal and state law. Plus, many people are surprised to learn that information gleaned through these actions may not be admissible in a courtroom anyway. There are exceptions to these general rules but, again, it is wise to seek counsel first.
How do I prove that my spouse is hiding cash?
Both parties will be required to disclose financial information in the early stage of the divorce. This documentation may include bank records, check stubs, and retirement statements. In addition, your attorney has other “discovery” tools at his/her disposal, which, for example, allow you to demand further documentation or take depositions. Additionally, your attorney may discuss with you the possibilities of retaining other experts, such as private investigators or forensic accountants to help with the investigation.