If you’re living in New York State and want a divorce, you may not know exactly where to begin. Whether a mutual decision between you and your spouse or not, undergoing a divorce can be an extremely emotional ordeal. Understanding what typical divorce proceedings entail may therefore help to ease some of the stress and anxiety often associated with this dissolution.
Contacting a divorce lawyer is the first thing you should do.
Joel M. Sunshine, partner at divorce and family law firm Sunshine & Feinstein, LLP, advises those considering a divorce to consult a lawyer before filing any sort of paperwork:
“The client should meet with the lawyer for hours before they actually file any papers," he explains, "because these details are going to affect your overall strategy.”
Such a consultation encompasses a review of important topics that must be addressed at some point during the divorce process, including, among others: the couple’s assets and liabilities, age and health of any minor children involved, financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage, and other relevant information, such as how much money you’re willing to spend and what you’re looking to get out of the divorce.
Learning as much as possible about these subjects enables your lawyer to help establish realistic goals and begin effectively strategizing your case.
A reputable divorce lawyer can also break down the entire divorce process, from start to finish, and answer any pressing questions you may have. This includes outlining the exact forms you'll need to submit for review by the courts, as there is a long list of documents, and not all may be applicable to your case.
“One of the first things you have to do in a case, by law, is file a Statement of Net Worth,” says Sunshine, explaining that this is comprised of four main items. “Besides your general pedigree, it has your assets and your liabilities, it has your income, and perhaps the most important part of it, the expenses. The expenses are where they list every single expense of the family—literally, toiletries and gifts to family members, and things like that.”
An experienced divorce lawyer can also answer any specific questions you may have pertaining to your individual situation. Remember: Although each case ends with a divorce, that doesn’t mean the path there is the same for every couple. Circumstances differ, so turning to an expert divorce lawyer can be extremely beneficial, as he or she can advise you on your first moves, and provide much-needed support and guidance along the way.
For example: Those only interested in legally separating from your partner, rather than divorcing, would be required to fill out different paperwork than individuals couples seeking to completely dissolve his or her marriage.
Once you file for divorce, your spouse will have to respond.
However, as explained on NYCourts.gov, the official website for the New York State Unified Court System, your spouse (the defendant) has an extra 10 days to respond if he or she is served in another state, and has three options when responding to you (the plaintiff):
- The first option is to simply sign the necessary paperwork—“Affidavit of Defendant”—and send it back to you. This is considered an uncontested divorce.
- The second option is to file a “Notice of Appearance” form, which specifies what he or she is seeking from this divorce, such as child support, marital asset distribution, and/or spouse maintenance, etc. Again, this is why having legal representation is so important—your lawyer will fight for you when you and your spouse aren’t on the same page.
- The third option, which wouldn’t be wise for the defendant, is to not respond. This is known as “defaulting.” In these cases, the plaintiff can continue with the divorce proceedings with the assistance of his or her lawyer.
The way in which your spouse replies will determine what your next steps will be.
“We settle over 90% of our cases without going to trial, but you have to prepare your case from Day 1 as if you are going to trial, to make sure you get the settlement you want, from a position of strength.”
When there is a custody battle, the process can be much longer and more expensive than if not.
“One of the first analyses we make is: Is this a custody battle or not?” explains Sunshine.
Making an assessment early on is critical, since there will likely be a lot of negotiating to determine the best interests of the children.
Your lawyer and your spouse’s attorney will have to negotiate “terms of the custody arrangement, which usually is: which hours of the week, who has parenting time, and what holidays they have,” continues Sunshine.
Child support is another vital topic that will need to be discussed and debated.
Because there are so many things at stake when getting a divorce, don’t just go to any lawyer for help.
There are certain qualities a New York divorce lawyer should possess.
These include, but are not limited to:
- Exuding confidence
- Having trial experience
- Showing responsiveness and dependability
- Being organized
- Expressing passion for his or her job
- Possessing strong negotiation skills
- Exhibiting tenacity and persistence
Are you looking to file for divorce? Contact Sunshine & Feinstein to set up an appointment with one our experienced lawyers today.
Sunshine & Feinstein, LLP, 666 Old Country Road, Suite 605, Garden City, NY 11530. (516) 742-6444. This is Attorney Advertising.