The New Jersey divorce litigation process can be costly and unpredictable. Rather than succumb to the uncertainty, take action. After all, “the best defense is a good offense.”
- Establish a “driver’s seat” mindset.
This is key. The reality is that you can choose to take on an active role throughout your divorce process. Banish any thoughts to the contrary. If you need help, seek out a reputable and competent mental health professional with whom you trust and feel comfortable.
- Assess your current finances and your financial goals for the future.
Make sure you can easily access your bank and brokerage account statements to identify all of the checking, savings, brokerage and retirement accounts acquired during your marriage to be divided.
Identify any assets acquired before the marriage and/or any that were inherited. Depending on the circumstances, such assets might not be considered “marital” or eligible for dividing with your spouse.
You should access paychecks and documents reflecting bonuses, commissions, and other income received by you and your spouse during your marriage to help show the history of earnings. Create an efficient way to file these statements so that you can readily identify and access them.
Review your current and anticipated post-divorce monthly expenses to help determine the amount of cash flow you will need once the divorce becomes final. This will be extremely valuable when addressing such issues as alimony and division of assets and debts.
Consult with a trusted and competent accountant and/or Certified Financial Planner. This is even more essential where there is a closely held business involved. In any event, you will want to know how your tax situation will change after the divorce and how you can best be prepared.
- Hire a sharp and settlement oriented divorce and family lawyer.
The Court encourages spouses to reach settlement agreements instead of a trial. An experienced family law attorney is more likely to facilitate negotiations to achieve the most favorable outcome for you as early in the divorce process as possible without sacrificing your objectives.
Ideally, you should interview more than one lawyer before selecting the one who will earn your trust. Not all divorce and family attorneys are created equal.
Make sure you ask whether the attorney you meet with will be the only one working on your behalf. For instance, some law firms will assign your matter to an associate attorney with limited experience ostensibly to “save” you money with a lower hourly rate. You mind find, however, that you end up paying for two lawyers – both the associate and the partner you hired. At the same time, you might find that you receive less value from ongoing experienced strategic planning and advice. It’s important that you ask these questions and voice any concerns when meeting with an attorney so that you feel truly comfortable with whom you select.
Also in meeting with potential attorneys, communicate what you want to get out of the divorce and make sure the attorney understands and has a plan to share with you.
- Consider Alternatives to New Jersey Divorce Litigation
Consider cost-effective alternatives to New Jersey divorce litigation, including collaborative divorce and mediation. These alternatives are more likely to save time, money, and emotional energy in obtaining a divorce.
You might not realize that even if you engage a mediator, however, you should have a lawyer review the agreement to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything. Adding a CPA or Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (“CDFA”) may also help you create a plan that is mutually agreeable.
The bottom line is you have more control than you think when it comes to the outcome of your divorce. Seize it.