As longtime New Jersey divorce lawyers, we recognize that every marriage and dissolution differs.
But there are some excellent, commonsense tips from which every divorcing spouse can benefit.
1. DO hire an experienced divorce lawyer.
This is key, and Rule No. 1. The right lawyer will advocate for you and your children in court or during mediation. He or she will ensure all legal filings are timely and carried out correctly. Countless pitfalls can occur when people try to go it alone and represent themselves (called “pro se” representation) – particularly if the other spouse does have a lawyer. Having someone on your side who understands the legal and procedural processes is essential.
Let’s face it: Divorce is already tricky, no matter your circumstances. A responsive, experienced lawyer can help make the process go much more smoothly and even serve as a buffer between you and your ex.
Even attorneys who are divorcing hire another lawyer to handle their case.
2. DO gather all essential financial documentation
This should include all assets and debts from before and after marriage, retirement accounts, inheritances, tax records, etc. Bring the originals or copies to your initial consultation with your divorce lawyer.
The more prepared you are, the less work your attorney must do (which can save you money).
3. DON’T try to hide any assets or intentionally become underemployed or unemployed
The motivation for doing this is usually to avoid having property subject to equitable distribution and/or to reduce alimony and child support payments. This can cost you tremendously in the long run.
Courts have many ways of uncovering hidden assets, and you will likely be penalized substantially if caught.
In some cases, courts have awarded the entirety of the hidden asset to the other spouse. If you intentionally become unemployed or underemployed, the court may order you to pay more alimony or child support anyway. Along with this, don’t try to hide anything from your attorney.
Your lawyer wants to help you, but surprises can damage negotiations and hurt your chances of obtaining the best possible outcome.
4. DO keep your kids and your soon-to-be ex on your health insurance policy.
Per New Jersey Court Rule 5:4-2(f), you cannot remove a spouse from your health insurance plan when the divorce is pending. To do so is sometimes called “insurance revenge.” Both parties need to certify that no changes to any health insurance plans were made in the 90 days before the filing.
Suppose a spouse improperly takes another off their health insurance policy. In that case, the health without coverage can petition the court for it to be immediately reinstated – and the judge won’t look favorably on any litigant trying to break the rules.
Talk to your lawyer about the appropriate timeline so you don’t run afoul of the law.
5. DO weigh the legal ramifications of any actions while your divorce is pending
If you clear out, sell, or destroy jointly-owned property, you could be penalized for that in the divorce settlement. This could harm your negotiations if you physically harm or verbally threaten your soon-to-be ex.
If you trash-talk your soon-to-be-ex on social media – or even post pictures of yourself that could be misconstrued – it could impact child custody and parenting time decisions.
There could be significant repercussions if you defy court orders during or after divorce proceedings.
6. DO be flexible
If there are matters of minor importance, let them go. Choose your battles. The more you can both compromise on the little things, the more time you have to devote to the aspects that are of great consequence to you.
In our experience, a little good-faith effort can go a long way. And if you’re being pragmatic, pick and choose the things that are genuinely worth the time, effort, and expense of attorney’s fees.
7. DON’T sign anything from your spouse or his/her attorney without having your lawyer review it first
You do not want to forfeit rights, property, insurance, or other benefits without fully understanding the big-picture implications.
8. DON’T drag your kids into it – regardless of their age
Resist the temptation to argue in front of them. Avoid using them as pawns (they’re going through all this as much as you are). Don’t turn to them for advice (that’s what therapists are for). Recognize that so many children of divorce emerge OK – sometimes even better than before – when they have the love and support from both parents.
9. DO use discretion when introducing a new romantic partner to your children
Although there are no hard-and-fast rules in family court, a string of new people or someone with a questionable past could be discussed in parenting time and custody negotiations.
10. DON'T think of divorce as a tool for revenge
You may be justifiably angry and bitter at your former spouse for things that transpired during your marriage. However, barring domestic violence, substance abuse, or reckless spending, it’s unlikely those personal wrongs will significantly impact things like equitable division, child support, or parenting time.
11. DO seek the counsel of a professional therapist to help you work through your losses
Divorce, in many ways, is like death, and there is no shame in working with a professional to help you through this difficult time.
12. DON’T use parenting time as a weapon to enforce child support.
There are official channels to handle this, and your interference with court-ordered parenting time could result in you being held in contempt.
If you are considering filing for divorce in New Jersey, we can help.
Call Rozin | Golinder Law today at (732) 810-0034 to speak to our experienced East Brunswick divorce lawyers.