1. At what point in the Divorce will I get Temporary Child Support, Maintenance (“Alimony”) and Counsel fees awarded? I need support!
Generally you need to make a motion to get any relief from the Court. If you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it. Every court operates a little differently, even the Courts in New York City. In Manhattan or Brooklyn, you will need to make a motion for temporary support and fees. In Queens, there is now a Preliminary Conference Part, which now has the ability to set temporary support, however, a motion would still be needed for counsel fees (trust me, your lawyer knows to make that motion!).
2. My wife filed for a divorce, but I don’t want one! She claims our differences two years ago have broken the marriage, but she’s seemed so happy these last few years. Can I refuse the divorce and ask the judge to order marriage counseling? If we enter into a separation agreement, instead of a divorce, will we have time to fix the marriage?
Court isn’t the place to fix your marriage and the Judge cannot order mandatory marriage counseling. If your wife has filed for a divorce that’s a strong indication that she wants to be divorced, whether or not you agree with her.
You can always rescind a separation agreement if you reconcile. But more likely, your wife will use the separation agreement to finalize the divorce, as all the issues in the marriage will be resolved by your agreement. If your wife isn’t willing to work on the marriage any longer, ask yourself why you want to stay in a marriage with someone who is trying to divorce you.
3. My wife filed for divorce and I was served a summons with notice. If I contact her lawyer, does that meet the requirement that says I must respond within 20 days? What do I do next?
You need to file a “Notice of Appearance” with the court and affirm that you served that Notice on her lawyer. Preserve your rights by filing your appearance with the court but don’t be afraid to call her lawyer and see whether the lawyer might be drafting a proposal to resolve the case.
If there are issues in the marriage that need to be resolved, like custody or asset division, and you don’t agree with your wife’s proposals, then you should hire a lawyer. It may be that your lawyer can negotiate for what you want without court hearings. But if there is a strong difference of opinion, then be prepared to go to court.