Now that you’ve made the choice to get a divorce, it’s time to get organized. Like any legal process, divorce requires you to collect documents, determine goals and stay focused.
Here are five things you need to do as you prepare to file for a New York divorce:
1. Interview attorneys
Your New York City divorce lawyer is going to be your resource, your sounding board and your advocate. As such, you need to find somebody with whom you feel comfortable.
Your friends may make recommendations, but remember that what worked for them (or their friend, brother or cousin) may not be the right choice for you.
When you “interview” a lawyer, don’t be afraid to ask specific questions:
- Ask the attorney if her or his practice focuses on family law and if they have an extensive background in divorce.
- Find out if they are responsive: do they return phone calls and emails promptly?
- Definitely find out about costs. Ask if they charge by the hour and if there is an up-front retainer fee. Remember that the cost of your divorce is subject to many things and it is difficult at best to pin down an exact amount.
- Find out if they work with trusted experts who can be called upon if needed, such as forensic accountants, investigators or psychologists.
- Most of all, just make sure that this is someone you feel you can “live with” through the course of the divorce process and who you feel has your best interests at heart. Make sure that you are comfortable being completely honest with your attorney so that there are no unpleasant surprises in the courtroom.
2. Gather financial documents
Having your documents together in an organized fashion helps your attorney help you and will also help keep your legal fees down.
Make two copies of all financial statements and records to give to your lawyer, including:
- All checking and savings statements
- Tax records and returns
- Insurance policies and statements
- Investment accounts, including retirement and pension accounts
- Mortgage statements
- Credit card statements
If you’re not sure whether a financial record is relevant (it probably is), ask your attorney.
3. Determine your child custody goals
The court’s goal is always going to be what is in the best interest of the child.
You and your soon-to-be-ex may have come to some agreement on this, or you may be at loggerheads. This is one of the hardest parts of divorce. Think about how much time you want to spend with your children and, if you are the non-custodial parent, how that will affect your financial situation.
If you want to be the custodial parent, make sure that you, along with your attorney, are prepared to present the best case possible.
4. Make a post-divorce budget
Not having two incomes upon which to depend means that you will need to revisit your budget.
Make sure you factor in all those items you will need and what new expenses you may be incurring, such as child support or spousal maintenance, if necessary.
5. Consider your living situation
If you will be leaving the marital home, you need to figure out your living situation.
The New York City area is one of the most expensive in the country, so make sure you have figured the cost of housing into your budget. If the situation is temporary, you may also need to contemplate the cost of storage.
Finding the right attorney for you starts with a consultation
With more than 30 years of experience helping clients throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, we know that every divorce situation requires personal attention and skilled representation.
To schedule a time to discuss your needs, concerns and goals, please contact us online or call us at (212) 349-1600.