How Should Someone Proceed In Filing A Divorce In New York?
Start gathering the information and documents you and your attorney will need for the case. Verify the legal names you used to get married form your marriage certificate. Verify the father’s name is on any of the children’s birth certificates.
Start researching the values of any properties – if you’ve had a recent appraisal done (e.g., via a mortgage refinance), get a copy of same to your attorney. Verify from the deeds/titles whose names are on each property, vehicle, account, etc. Bring a copy of the deeds/titles and the most recent financial account statements in to your attorney. Produce a copy of your most recent retirement account statement to your attorney.
Start thinking about whether you’re willing to settle for some form of joint custody for the kids – and what access schedule you’d agree to. Is relocation an issue – and if so, what are the parameters of same?
Give thought to how you’d like assets and debts divided, as well as whether you feel you need spousal maintenance (if you’re the less-monied spouse). If you’re the more-monied spouse, start thinking about whether you’d like to request a reduction from the guidelines amounts – and if so, how much & why?
As the case proceeds, keep your own folder containing all the relevant case documents, including court filings your attorney gives to you, copies of the pertinent financial records as well as copies of correspondence exchanged between yourself & your attorney. More than a few times I’ve been in court and a client says “I thought I had given you that document” – and when I say they hadn’t, it would’ve been helpful for them to simply grab it from their own case folder s/he brought with them.
If you have a need for interim orders – such as interim order of exclusive occupancy of the marital residence, an order of protection, and/or interim orders of custody, visitation, child support, maintenance or counsel fees, discuss this with your attorney. Don’t let it go or assume this will just magically happen on its own.
You should refrain from posting things on social media about the case and/or your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. But do not delete anything which is already there – it may be construed as you trying to get rid of evidence.
You’re entitled to receive copies of all pertinent documents and correspondence on the case form your lawyer – if you don’t receive something you think you should, speak up! You should also receive an itemized billing invoice from your lawyer once every 30-60 days so you can keep track of how much is coming out of your account (even if you don’t currently owe money) or how much your balance is.
Most lawyers in this field bill in increments of .1 – meaning a minimum of 6 minutes per task, which in turn is usually rounded up to the next highest 6-minutes. Bear this in mind before sending your lawyer 10 e-mails in one day – you’re generally billed separately for each & every task, meaning receipt & review of each separate e-mail or phone call.
Furthermore, you must generally physically appear in court on each court date, unless otherwise advised by your lawyer or the Judge. Do not assume merely because you’ve hired an attorney s/he can just “do the case for me!”
Additionally, if you disagree with any given order or decision of the Judge in your case, discuss immediately with your lawyer when you should appeal. There is generally a deadline of 30 days from receipt of any given order to file your notice of appeal (35 days if mailed). And usually this deadline cannot be extended!
Do not disappear on your lawyer – if you change your contact information at all (new phone, new e-mail, etc.), be sure your attorney is given same.
Also, if your case becomes contested, there’s no need to call your lawyer if you forgot when your court date is. You may also track your case status and ascertain the next court date by accessing New York Court system’s e-court page Web Civil Supreme at:
http://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/webcivil/FCASMain. On this website, you may also access e-track so you may receive e-mail notifications of your next court date and well as updated case status reports.
Moreover, the proper role of an attorney is to assist you with your case – but always keep in mind it’s your case. This means because you have a stake in the outcome, you need to be an active participant in the proceedings. Among other things, this means offering to assist your lawyer by doing drafts of needed affidavits on your own, completing spreadsheets of your finances – and making appointments early & often to discuss your case with your lawyer. The more at stake, the more often you should meet with your lawyer. At the least, you should have an appointment with him/her prior to each scheduled court date (or offer to do so & allow your lawyer to say “nah, it’s not necessary”).
Finally, help your attorney help you! Be realistic and do not expect your lawyer to deliver you the sun, the moon & the stars. Most divorce case (90%+) result in a settlement. And most settlements, in turn, involve compromise on both party’s behalf. Thus, each party to the case usually gives up something which s/he feels otherwise entitled to. Know that if the law is against you on certain issues, your lawyer can’t change the law – the only thing s/he can do is argue an exception. And exceptions, by their very nature, are unlikely to succeed.
Following these recommendations will serve to relieve stress, save money and ensure your case goes as efficiently as possible.
For more information on Things To Do When Filing A Divorce, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling 914-368-7580 today.