This revised edition addresses current trends in such areas as divorce law, alimony, property division, shared parenting, and visitation; it includes an expanded section of checklists, schedules, and guides for reconciliation and child support, as well as attorney retainer agreements, asset/liability worksheets, and more.
The American Bar Association has called The Divorce Handbook "a welcome breath of fresh air in an otherwise stifling atmosphere created by a virtual avalanche of books about divorce." The revised edition of The Divorce Handbook is your best guide through the traumatic and painful business of divorce, and will be an essential resource for years to come.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||4 MB|
About the Author
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Read an Excerpt
Who Needs This Handbook? How to Use It
1. Who needs this handbook?
Every person who is thinking about a divorce or is in the process of getting one needs this handbook.
The book is designed as a practical guide to take you chronologically through the various stages from the first time the subject crosses your mind to the final decree and closing your file. No one person experiences all the steps included in this book, because every divorce differs in the areas of disagreement and extent to which certain issues may be contested in court. The question–answer format allows you to read only what concerns you at the moment. Reading from cover to cover will give you a perspective on the entire divorcing process.
2. Why do I need this handbook?
A major part of the emotional stress of divorce is being involved in something you don’t understand. Divorce unleashes fears of material loss as well as feelings of abandonment and guilt, thus clouding your ability to think clearly about financial settlements, personal needs, and the needs of your children.
Divorce places you at the mercy of a system that has its own language and procedures and seems to move people about like pawns from one courtroom to the next.
For example, if you have experienced any of the following predicaments, you need this workbook.
• One day you want a divorce and the next day you want a marriage counselor.
• You don’t want a divorce but your spouse just filed for one—or has mentioned the possibility.
• You have just come from your first appointment with a lawyer and he used a number of words you didn’t understand but didn’t ask him to explain.
• Your spouse is jeopardizing your job with phone calls to your employer and/or lies to your friends and co–workers.
• Your spouse has missed his temporary support payment for the tenth time.
• Every time you call your lawyer you forget two points of the five that you wanted to cover—because she sounds hurried.
• Your divorce seems to be standing still—and you’re standing in quicksand.
• With inflation you’re bleeding from support payments. Can they be modified?
• Court continuances are ruining your schedule. Doesn’t anybody else work?
• Your lawyer is in court or in conference every time you call.
• You never know when you’ll see your children. They seem brainwashed against you.
• The silver and the piano are missing.
• You have agreed to too large a support payment and can’t manage financially.
• You feel helpless and your life seems out of control.
3. How can a lawyer use this handbook?
By using it with you as a guide at various stages of your case. If, for example, he suggests you review the Hidden Asset Checklist, you may help uncover assets that never would have been discovered otherwise. Application of your factual situation to the sample trial outlines will enable you and your lawyer to save hours in trial preparation, and you’ll both be thinking on the same wavelength. A secretary or paralegal can also use the outlines and checklists to assist you in the preparation of your case at less expense. Lack of communication is the single greatest problem between busy divorce lawyers and emotional clients. This handbook provides you with a common source of communication and should be the basis for your organization and preparation at every stage of negotiation or litigation. Lawyers, give a copy to your clients and ask them to refer to it before asking you questions. They will still have questions, but they will be more focused.
4. How can this handbook help me?
It guides you through the divorcing process step by step and provides perspective—an overview of where you are now and should expect to be later. This handbook puts you in charge of your life at this difficult time.
• It identifies important information relevant to your case.
• It also tells you where, when, and how to find that information.
• It organizes and stores the information in one readily available place.
• It reduces your insecurity and frustration by involving you in the process and showing that you are not alone.
• It helps you select a lawyer and deal with him or her effectively.
• It enables the lawyer to give better answers because you will ask better questions.
• It provides resource information for particular problems through an extensive bibliography.
• It includes a glossary of legal terms common to divorce.
• It’s your security blanket—and it covers everything you’ll need to know about the divorcing process.
• It puts you in the habit of asking questions. Even if you think you know the answer, ask!
5. Why can’t I let my lawyer do it all?
Because he probably won’t. And can’t.
For one thing, he is too busy to answer every question at length, and for another, you probably won’t know the right ones to ask. Your frustration will grow in direct proportion to the court orders, continuances, judgments, and situations you do not understand or know how to handle.
Furthermore, your lawyer should not do it all. It is your responsibility to find and organize the necessary records and documents. Few people—or lawyers—can afford to pay an accountant or other professional just to gather information and put it in usable form for the case.
You should not be a passive participant in your own divorce. You, the client, have a vital role to play in the divorcing process.
6. Why can’t my recently divorced friends advise me?
Every divorce case and set of circumstances are different. Your friend may have four more children than you do, or none. She may have a trust fund or he may like the vegetarian life. They may have living parents with a guesthouse, a supermarket in the family, or a brother-in-law who is a plumber. Remember, each divorce is unique—like the marriage that preceded it.
However, you can learn from your friends’ mistakes. Do get practical information regarding their settlement agreements—copies of the actual agreements if possible. Ask them: What would you do differently? Would you use the same lawyer?
CAUTION: Remember, friends’ priorities are not necessarily the same as yours. They may also have conflicting loyalties to you and your spouse.
7. What does this handbook include?
Basic information on divorce in a question-and-answer format
Practical suggestions and guides
Worksheets and outlines to prepare your case
Glossary—so you understand the language
Bibliography for publications that can help you
Sample agreements, court orders, and pleadings
Questions you need to ask yourself and your lawyer
Answers you have to have
8. What does this handbook leave out?
Detailed tables presenting the laws of each state on grounds, property, alimony, and maintenance, child support and child custody, residency requirements, etc. These laws change regularly and require legal interpretation to be fully understood. An experienced local lawyer is the best source for this information.
9. How do I use this handbook?
You can read from cover to cover to get a detailed overview of a contested divorce from beginning to end.
You can look over the Contents when you have a particular problem. Just read the answers or use the checklists, guides, and schedules, listed, that concern you at the moment. Determine what information and documents you need. File documents you already have in an envelope. Cross them off the checklist and begin searching for missing documents or other information important to your case. Contact the people who can give you the information or documents you still need. The Internal Revenue Service, your bank, your broker (stock, real estate, and insurance), or your doctor may provide valuable information. Former neighbors or friends might make good witnesses if a trial becomes necessary. Find their present addresses and phone numbers. Mark them down on your Witness List.
In any event, take this book to an early appointment with your lawyer to discuss what may be relevant to your case. Have her review checklists with you and get specific directions as to what she will need and when.
CAUTION: If your case is contested, keep your records where your spouse won’t find them. If no safe place is available in your home, keep them with a trusted friend. There is no point in letting the other side know your strategy or how much information you have gathered or lack. Also, it may be a good idea to photocopy and replace documents when you don’t need the originals. If your spouse alters or “misplaces” the documents later on, you will have a valuable record and a possible basis for discrediting him or her, which the court calls impeachment.