My spouse has asked me for a divorce. What should I do?

1.     The very first thing you want to do is not to panic!

2.     You want to get informed about the divorce process and how it works. This
website is designed to answer many of your questions about the process and how it works. Much of what you do in a divorce and how you handle a divorce depends on having information that is both current and relevant. For example, if you know that the court almost always handles a matter in a certain way, you will not take a position contrary to the court’s typical course. If you go against the court’s usual approach, you will spend time, energy and money going “against the tide.” You want to know the outcome before it happens. A divorce lawyer who knows divorce, custody, and child support law can give you a good idea about the likely outcome. Your job is to make sure that the attorney you select gives you the facts and not just what sounds good.

3.     Once you have the information to make informed decisions, you will soon learn
that the issues involving finances are largely predetermined, but with some wiggle room. The most important issues in a divorce relate to the custody and care of the children. As a parent, you must decide who will care for the children. All too often, men make that decision late in the case which is disastrous. The decision to get custody must be made up front. The strategy used on each case is planned early. Changing directions later in the case will proved costly. If you’re a mom, and you are uncertain or you feel confident that dad will not want custody, think again! Custody can go either way. The point is to commit to a strategy in the case and stick with it.

4.      You need a lawyer. You need a lawyer who is regularly before the judges in
Essex, Union, Hudson and Bergen Counties. You need a lawyer who has lots of experience in divorce, child custody and child support law. You need a lawyer who knows how to litigate rather than a lawyer who rarely leaves the office to go to court. You do not want a lawyer whose primary focus is a practice area where she does not regularly deal with divorce, child custody or child support matters. Equally as important, you need a lawyer who understands the art of compromise without capitulation. Less that 2% of the cases filed in New Jersey go to trial. Therefore, it is important to begin the case by working on a draft settlement that can be amended and revised as the proceeds. When custody is at issue, and the court sends you to mediation, the mediator can work off of your proposed settlement agreement. You provide the road map for the mediation. How good is that?

5.     Know all that you can about the family finances. If you have not been the
bookkeeper during the marriage, now is the time to learn all you can about the family finances. The more you know the better you will be at negotiating a fair settlement. Of course, your attorney will conduct “Discovery”, but paying spouses are not always truthful, and it is good if you know what the family assets and liabilities are. Discovery takes time and can cost thousands of dollars.

6.     If custody is at issue, be prepared and know the custody process. A custody
battle includes litigation and strategy, and it requires a streamlined process. The process is fairly automated in Essex, Bergen, Union and Hudson counties. Understanding the process can save time and money and nerves due to fear of the unknown.
If you have any questions about this topic, e-mail Cassandra Savoy at: csavoy@cassandrasavoy.com, or call at (973) 748-0097

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