Rushing This In Your Divorce Can Give You Heartburn

  1. Double Legal Fees.

Jennifer thought my price was too high. She went with her husband to a discount “divorce mill” in another county that promised a cheap divorce in under a month. The divorce papers were filed but her ex- was refusing to move out. Not only that, he was making sexual advances. One night, they got in a fight and the police were called. They arrested Jennifer and put a restraining order in place preventing her from going home! The result: we had to act quickly to transfer the upstate case to the city and make an emergency motion so that Jennifer could see her 2-year-old son. Her fast, cheap divorce turned into a full-out court battle.  “If I had only paid you the first time to negotiate, you wouldn’t have left these loose ends!” she lamented. Instead she paid the divorce mill and then she paid me to clean up their mistakes.

  1. Bad Financial Decisions.

“This is taking too long! I can’t stand it anymore,” Ben told me. We had been negotiating his divorce for two months and were now waiting to be assigned for the first hearing in his case. “I’m ready to sign anything just to get this over,” he said.  But I wouldn’t let him.  He was offering to pay for his wife’s rent indefinitely, an offer that she would most likely be willing to accept. “She lives in a small one-bedroom right now, but what if she moves to Trump Towers?” I asked him. Several months later and his wife had a new live-in boyfriend, and Ben was over the idea of financing their rent. “Let him pay for it,” he said. “You were right – I’d be kicking myself right now if I had agreed to that!”

Tip: Take some time out to think about financial decision-making; there is a reason people say “sleep on it,” because a little extra time can save you big in the long run!

  1. Delayed Fighting.

Judith’s husband Brian had a string of adulterous affairs, including sleeping with her best friend. After a whirlwind of negotiations, the parties signed a divorce agreement that was extremely favorable to Judith, thanks to Brian’s guilty conscience. Judith claimed she was “so over it” but she was still angry texting Brian and his girlfriend. She was at the end of the legal process, but the start of her emotional process.  Judith and Brian started to argue about their agreement. Brian regretted his quick decisions and brought a post-divorce court case. Judith felt that she had “let him off too easy” and countered with her own allegations. Despite being divorced, the couple hadn’t worked through their emotional process – they were still hurt and angry! – and were back to an in-court fight that would take months or years to resolve.

  1. Extended Living Together.

Marjory was elated. “He says he’ll agree to anything I want so long as he can stay in the apartment for the next eight months.” She felt like the benefits of a fast agreement outweighed the negatives, despite my warnings. Four months later and Marjory was not a happy camper. “You were so right!” she said. She thought that his presence in the apartment would help the kids adjust, but it only caused upset. “And, he’s going through all my things and talking about getting back together!” The agreement was signed and the divorce was already final, but the parties hadn’t separated delaying the upheaval in the home for themselves and the kids. Now Marjory’s ex- had to face the divorce, and he was dragging his feet, which led them to post-divorce court fights to get him out of the house.

Tip: Avoid post-divorce fighting: don’t agree to live together after the divorce is final!

 

Did you or someone you know rush parts of their divorce that resulted in added costs? Join the conversation in the comments!

How to REALLY Win Your Divorce

couple fighting

 

All of your reasons for getting divorced are totally valid. But what do you tell your friends? And how do you respond when your coworkers or your mother says “not to throw a good man away” or “she’s not so bad, try harder.”

I’ve seen it in my practice a million times — a spouse comes up with a million reasons why their ex- is a horrible person, shouldn’t see the kids and should be in jail. (The term “narcissist” is trending but I doubt the numbers of diagnosed narcissism has risen.)

The real culprit: Divorce guilt.

I’m not talking about serious cases of domestic violence — we all know that it isn’t acceptable. Not every divorce involves that sort of abuse. But cases of unnecessary conflict are pervasive.  What happens when there is extreme court fighting? In the end, the kids are hurt by lack of access to both parents and both parties suffer in a torrid, expensive court case.

In New York, as in all states, you can file for divorce under “No Fault” grounds by showing that the marriage has “irretrievably broken.” This means that the reasons why you are getting divorced aren’t so important – all we need to know is that the relationship can’t be fixed.

Very few people are 100% certain about divorce. But the lingering sense of guilt or doubt can lead to trouble. Some people, rather than dealing with these feelings in a healthy productive way (like personal therapy, meditation, exercise or chocolate), start recasting the marriage in an ugly way. Every argument was “verbal abuse”; that beer after work was “alcoholism”; missing the monthly piano recital was “total disinterest in the children”; and that time your ex- accidentally bumped into you is now “assault.”

This nasty portrait helps justify the divorce, so that when they explain “why” the marriage failed, they feel better about it – because it wasn’t their fault. This justification for your decision to divorce is expensive: as the court conflict escalates, the abilities of both parties to communicate deteriorates, often permanently. Maybe one spouse didn’t listen that the marriage was in trouble until it was too late. Maybe one spouse is a stubborn jerk. Maybe the communication sucked from the start. But being a jerk is not grounds to warrant a restraining order. And communication cannot improve by a lengthy, expensive, vicious airing of each other’s faults in court.

If you feel like your guilt is getting in the way of having a lower conflict divorce, explore those feelings with a therapist and try to get over it in a positive way. Even if you are justified in your anger over the divorce, the court isn’t a place to punish your spouse. With the shift towards “No Fault” the courts are refocused on dividing stuff and helping parents develop a custody schedule.

Try to avoid a scorched-earth approach to your divorce. Letting go of the hurt, anger and guilt is the best gift you can give yourself. Coming out of the divorce as a stronger and smarter version of you is the only real win in any divorce case.

A few pro tips for avoiding guilt:

  1. Make a list of the reasons that your marriage isn’t working and the ways in which you’ve tried to fix the situation — sometimes seeing your efforts on paper will reassure you that divorce is the right choice.
  2. Remind yourself that 50% of marriages (and 67% of second marriages) end in divorce.
  3. Reconnect with your old hobbies and activities or try new experiences — remember that you are a whole person.
  4. Talk to a therapist — if you can’t find one you like try an App like TalkSpace.com (text a therapist whenever or wherever).

January: Divorce month

Divorce? You aren’t alone. Statistics show that January through March each year there’s a surge in Divorce filings. Questions? You can contact me 24/7 through my online schedule system at http://www.RichardsonLegalPLLC.com 

How To Cope With Adultery and Divorce

depositphotos_3092850_originalThis week I spoke with the smart and financially savvy Emma Johnson, over at her blog WealthySingleMommy.com about the problem with adultery from a divorce attorney’s perspective. The gist: courts won’t compensate you for a broken heart.

When there is infidelity, settlements are all but impossible, rationale goes out the window, and contention runs higher than in other matrimonial dissolution cases.

“That betrayal colors every single part of the divorce process, and makes it so much harder for the cheated-on spouse to be reasonable,” said New York City family attorney Morghan Richardson.

One of the most difficult conversations I have with clients can be dealing with their expectations because of a cheating spouse. Divorce can be an emotionally devastating experience. Adultery can make it much worse. But at the end of the day clients need to realize that the courts will do little about the reasons WHY you are getting divorced. Letting go of that emotional hurt can help get you to a fair agreement and move forward with your life.

Read Johnson’s take here: How To Deal With Divorce When Your Husband Cheated

Did your spouse cheat? How did the court handle that part of your case? Discuss in the comments.

Ladies: Three Red Flags The Relationship Is Doomed (And Why You Should Run!)

2012-09-16 13.25.44Over the years as a divorce attorney I’ve seen hundreds of relationships falling to pieces in a variety of creative ways. Time and again people come up with new ways to screw up their marriages. But too often my clients knew they shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place! Rather than walk down the aisle, they should have run the other direction. Here are three serious red flags that you shouldn’t stay in the relationship (or heed my warning: your story will end the same way!) Continue reading “Ladies: Three Red Flags The Relationship Is Doomed (And Why You Should Run!)”

Forbes: How Your Spouse’s Ashley Madison Account Can Impact Your Divorce

confused-businessmanNow that hackers leaked the email addresses of 37 million users of Ashley Madison, the dating service for married people in search of an affair, how will the public release of such private information impact your divorce?  I spoke with Emma Johnson, a financial reporter with Forbes, about the issue: Continue reading “Forbes: How Your Spouse’s Ashley Madison Account Can Impact Your Divorce”

Forbes: Will The Ashley Madison Hack Result In New Divorce Cases?

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The threats to publicly out 37 million users of the online cheating service whose information was hacked from AshleyMadison.com’s servers are raising questions among divorce service professionals and marriage counselors alike. Could the public display of people seeking affairs result in more divorce filings? How will those individuals named be harmed in a divorce? I spoke with Emma Johnson, a financial reporter with Forbes, about the issue: Continue reading “Forbes: Will The Ashley Madison Hack Result In New Divorce Cases?”