Tag: preparation

What advice would you give to someone who has just started a divorce?

What advice would you give to someone who has just become one of the parties in a divorce proceeding?

#1. Know this: divorce law and the divorce process are almost surely not what you think they are. They are scarier, more complex, more confusing, more time-consuming, more expensive, more disappointing, and more discouraging than you can imagine. Ignore my words at your peril. 

#2. Don’t sign anything your spouse asks you to sign without reviewing it with a good divorce lawyer. Don’t let what your spouse tells you about “how it’s gonna be” upset or worry you. Don’t believe him/her when he/she says, “My lawyer says you must ______” or “I have the best lawyer in town.” Most of what your spouse tells you will be lies meant to intimidate, coerce, and dupe you. 

#3. Don’t take friends’ and family members’ advice as as substitute for the advice of a good attorney. Your friends and family members usually mean well, but have no idea what they’re talking about. 

#4. Keep an eye on your valuable things and information. They tend to disappear once a divorce is filed. Secure: 

  • your financial accounts against your spouse draining them; 
  • your important documents (this is not an exhaustive list): 
    • tax records 
    • loan/debt records, loan and credit applications 
    • appraisals/valuations 
    • bank/financial institution records 
    • insurance records 
    • birth certificates 
    • Social Security cards 
    • passports (for you and the kids) 
    • pay stubs 
    • account statements 
    • certificates of title 
    • estate planning records 
    • business records 
    • medical and health care records (for every member of the family) 
    • photographs 
    • your prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, if you have one 
    • etc. 

Inventory everything (take videos and photographs of it all) that you own (both jointly and separately); 

  • make sure your password-protected accounts (e-mail, cell phone, social media, credit cards, bank/financial institution accounts, bills to pay, financial accounts, credit cards, etc.) cannot be accessed by your spouse without your advance knowledge and consent; 
  • route your personal mail to a P.O. Box to which only you have access; 

#5. Don’t act out of fear or anger or revenge. If you do, you may do your case irreparable damage. Keep a cool head. Get a good divorce attorney’s advice. 

#6. Talk to a good divorce lawyer (not just any lawyer, not just any divorce lawyer, but a good divorce lawyer) now. Right now. Not next week. Now. Right now. Pick up the phone and make an appointment with a good divorce lawyer right now. Timing can and usually is crucial in divorce. 

  • The longer you put off speaking with a good divorce lawyer the more you lose (possibly forever) the benefits of knowing what you can and should be doing right now to protect and preserve your interests and those of your children (if you have minor children). 
  • Notice that I did not write “hire a good divorce lawyer right now.” If you can hire a good divorce lawyer right now, do it. The sooner you get competent legal representation the better. No exceptions. 
  • But if you do not have (or falsely believe you do not have) the money to afford a good divorce lawyer, scrape together enough money to meet and confer with a good divorce lawyer for an hour. It will be one of the best investments you ever make. 
    • A good divorce lawyer is not a bulldog. A good divorce lawyer is not a shark. a good divorce lawyer is not someone who is effective at cheating ( as the old Bosnian proverb goes, “He who will lie for you will lie to you.”) A good divorce lawyer is someone with experience, skill, and decency. These kinds of divorce lawyers exist, but are very hard to find. But they are worth finding. If you want your divorce to be less expensive, less time-consuming, and less miserable, find this kind of good divorce lawyer. 

#7. Unless you are young, penniless, childless, and convinced your spouse won’t or can’t hang you out to dry in divorce, don’t go the DIY route. Hire a good divorce lawyer, if at all possible. 

  • If you: 
    • earn money or receive money from other sources 
      • are self-employed 
    • own property of any kind 
    • have money in the bank, investment accounts, or tied up in a pension and/or retirement accounts 
    • have debts and obligations 
    • are financially dependent upon your spouse 
    • have a spouse who is financially dependent on you (in full or in part) 
    • have minor children 
    • are married to a malicious or crazy-malicious person 
      • have been accused of abusing your spouse or children, 

then odds are high that trying to divorce without a good lawyer’s representation throughout the divorce case is going to be absolutely miserable.  

 Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277   

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How do I get help with a divorce?

Asking a question on Quora is a start and better than doing nothing (as so many people contemplating divorce do when they are too afraid to do anything), but only a start. Still, good for you for taking that crucial (though scary) first step. So what should you do next? 

    • Make sure that divorce is what you need. 
      • Far too many people mistakenly believe divorce is the answer, only to discover after the divorce that their marriages or their spouses were never really the problem in the first place. 
      • Schedule a few sessions with a counselor or therapist for yourself, to make sure that you are in the right frame of mind. 
        • If you believe it would help, and if your spouse is receptive, go to couples counseling too. Dig deep to determine whether your marriage truly is irretrievably broken. 
    • As with all professionals, therapists and counselors are not all created equal. If you get the impression that the therapist or counselor you are currently meeting with is a hack, find someone else. Be honest enough with yourself to know when you’re dealing with someone who’s advice and guidance is what you need, even if it may be what you don’t want to hear. 
    • Recognize that you are a child of God and that he wants to help you, Your spouse, and your children (if you have children) through this difficult time. Seek Him out, and ask for His help. 

If you determine that divorce is necessary: 

  • Keep getting the counseling or therapy you need, if you still need it. 
  • Keep seeking God’s guidance and help. No matter how bad your spouse may be, don’t make a bad situation worse by acting out of fear, despair, anger, vengeance, and greed. Don’t let divorce strip you of your decency. 
  • Read books and articles, watch videos, and listen to podcasts, but do so with a plan and purpose in mind. 
    • Read, watch, and listen to a lot. This will not be a matter of several hours, or even several days worth of work and studying, but weeks and months (perhaps even years). Do any less than that, and you will not be as prepared for divorce as you need to be. Period. The unprepared struggle the most, worry the most, and fail the most in divorce. And if you are wondering, no, there are no shortcuts. 
    • Reading two or three articles on child custody will not give you the grounding you need in the subject. Watching some angry, bitter guy on YouTube complain about child support and alimony may be somewhat informative, but will certainly not give you a completely accurate explanation of the subject. Listening to some boring podcast by some self-proclaimed but mediocre “expert” is not enough. I will note, however, that it is very good to get a sampling of A wide range of information and advice, because it will help you distinguish between what is of high quality and worth and what is not. 
    • Find the good material. Don’t waste time on the fluff and the outright garbage. There is so much free stuff available to you that it is easy to consume a lot of useless, or worse, that information and advice. Not everything you read, watch, and listen to will be of equal quality. Not everything you read or watch will be of good quality. With this in mind, remember that someone who has written a book or a published article has probably taken a far more care and attention to provide you with something of real substance and value than he or she who records a quick video clip in the car on a smart phone or who just rambles for 90 minutes in a podcast. In my experience, published written material is best, followed by well produced videos that are truly informational and that are not trying to sell you a product or service, followed by podcasts. 
    • Pay attention to what you are consuming. Eventually, you will reach a point where you will start noticing that the information you are getting is repeating itself. You will start to see some patterns emerge, and you will start to understand the subject of divorce better. At that same time, if you are being thoughtful, you will start to develop the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff. That’s when you know that your self-study has succeeded. Don’t stop studying at that point, but know that you have at that point gained a solid and useful understanding of divorce. 
  • Be smart enough to realize that it’s worth the money to meet with and discuss divorce with a knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced divorce attorney. An hour or two will be enough. 
    • The best time to meet with and confer with an attorney would be after you’ve spent an hour or two each day for about a week doing your best to learn about divorce on your own. This will help you to know what the good questions are you should ask of the attorney to determine just how skilled and knowledgeable the attorney is and how useful his or her observations, opinions, and advice are. It will help you to know what subjects to focus on with the questions you ask. 
  • Once you’ve learned what you can and should be doing to prepare for divorce, then you need to do that, and doing that as soon as possible, so that you are as well prepared as you can be before you file for divorce or before your spouse files for divorce. 
    • The better prepared you are, the more confidently you can take the right action. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Examples of how to not appear judgmental as a lay witness.

What are some examples of how to not appear judgmental (or worse) as a lay witness in court?

  1. Tell the !@#$% truth, not stories you hope will dupe the court into doing what you want or what the party who called you as a witness wants. Tell the truth. It’s your legal obligation (and if that’s not enough to persuade you, perjury is a crime).
  2. Meaning: state what you know, not what you were told, not what you believe, not your opinions, not lies. Just what you personally witnessed.
  3. Listen to the questions posed to you, so that you know what information is being elicited from you.
  4. Simply answer questions, and answer questions simply.
    • Most questions are yes/no questions, which means that the only proper possible answers to a yes/no question are: “yes,” “no,” or “I don’t know.”
    • Do not, do not, do not try to answer yes/no questions with rambling stories.
    • Do not, do not, do not try to answer with rambling stories questions that ask you to describe a thing or event. As Sgt. Joe Friday said (constantly) on Dragnet: “Just the facts, ma’am.”
  5. Study in advance what it’s like to testify in court (you won’t, but you’ve been warned just the same). I don’t use the word “prepare” as a synonym for “contrive”. Don’t “prepare” to lie. Do prepare by understanding the process and the dynamics of being questioned, under oath, on the witness stand, in court (or in a deposition), by an attorney. The more prepared you are to testify as a witness, the less surprised, confused, nervous, and jittery you’ll be. The better testimony you will give. Read articles and books about testifying in court. Watch YouTube videos of people being questioned in court and in depositions. Understand this process. If you think you’re ready to testify without preparing in advance, you’re a fool.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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How do I prepare for family court mediation?

How do I prepare for family court mediation? 

There appears to be a lot of confusion and fear surrounding the divorce mediation settlement conference. There shouldn’t be. 

The two main reasons for the mystery and worry appear to be 1) that lawyers don’t explain mediation to their clients very well (if at all), and 2) clients, who generally hate everything about the divorce process, are thus not terribly eager to learn about or prepare for the various aspects of the divorce process (which is understandable). 

So, here is a concise, clear description of what divorce mediation is, how it works under the law of the jurisdiction where I practice divorce and family law (Utah), and how to prepare for it. 

What a divorce mediation settlement conference is: the process of trying to reach a settlement of all (or at least some) of the disputes in the divorce case by involving a neutral third person (the mediator) to assist and encourage the spouses to settle their legal dispute(s). 

That’s it. The mediator is someone who tries to help the parties reach an agreement. 

If you want more details on better understanding what mediation is, you will find this informative and useful: 

  • The mediator does not have the power to force or order the parties to settle. 
  • The mediator does not dispense legal advice. Many divorcing people, who are short on funds, think they can “cheat the system” by going to mediation and not hiring a lawyer to represent them. They believe that the mediator will not only help the parties try to settle, but advise them on what good settlement terms are. A mediator is not permitted to advise the parties to a mediation. That would be a conflict of interest. A mediator cannot be a neutral and at the same time advise people with opposing interests as to what each of them should do. If what benefits you would come in your spouse’s expense, there is no way the mediator could look out for your best interest and look out for your spouse’s best interest at the same time. 
  • If the parties do not settle in mediation, the mediator cannot be called as a witness at trial to testify about what was discussed during the mediation settlement conference. This means that if your spouse or you made a settlement proposal or offer in mediation that was rejected, that proposal or offer cannot be brought up at trial as “proof” that you or your spouse can and should be ordered to do as proposed or offered in settlement negotiations. 
  • Note: many mediators try to create the false impression that mediation is a sophisticated, complicated process that can only be “practiced” successfully by elite, highly trained professionals who possess rare and unique skills. While it is true that most successful mediators have in common a certain minimal level of competence and procedures to be effective, mediation isn’t nearly as exotic and complex as these “mediateurs” would have you believe. Don’t be taken in. 
    • That stated, it is obvious that a well-intentioned layperson who has no knowledge of divorce law is likely not going to be as good at mediating a divorce settlement as a mediator who has training and experience in divorce law. 
    • The more experience your mediator has with divorce (such as a lawyer who has been practicing divorce law for decades or a retired domestic relations commissioner or judge), the more your mediator will know about the many different ways he/she has seen cases like yours settle satisfactorily and successfully. A mediator experienced in divorce law can also provide the parties with the added benefit of providing both spouses with a reality check as to just how strong or weak their respective cases are, were either or both of them to go to trial. 

How to prepare for your divorce mediation settlement conference: 

1. Know and understand the legal strengths and weaknesses of your case.

a. How badly you want something or want to avoid something does not make your case strong.

b. How sincerely you feel about certain principles does not make your case strong.

c. There are statutes and case law that govern how every divorce issue is to be decided. If the facts of your case don’t favor you, you will — unless your judge is corrupt and/or incompetent — lose on those issues at trial, if the case goes to trial.

d. Understanding the law and what it will and will not allow you or your spouse to have prevents you from setting your heart on things that you either cannot possibly get or that you are extraordinarily unlikely to get.

e. So, don’t go into mediation expecting bluff and bluster to compensate for the weaknesses in your case. Rarely will your spouse and his/her lawyer not be aware of the same weaknesses.

f. Go into your mediation settlement conference with an informed and realistic understanding of what you could expect to get at trial (which usually means you must be prepared for disappointment in most, if not all subjects of your divorce because very few people’s desires square with the law). Then try to negotiate a settlement that is better than or at least as good as what you expect you would get a trial. that way you avoid the time, effort, and expense that preparing for and going to trial would consume.

g. Prepare for mediation knowing what your bottom line is. What do I mean by “bottom line”? what is the least you are willing to settle for without going to trial? At what point would your spouse’s settlement proposal cause you to say to him/her, “Unacceptable. I will see you in court”? This segues perfectly to the next point

2. Know and understand your spouse’s case in the arguments behind it as well as you understand yours.

a. The more you understand the facts that bear upon the divorce case and the more you understand your spouse’s interests and motives, the better you can craft a settlement proposal that meets as many of your spouse’s desires while still consisting of terms acceptable too you.

b. The better you understand both your case and your spouse’s case, the more confident you can be in making an offer that you’re willing to go to court to defend, if your spouse rejects it in mediation.

c. Knowing your case and your spouse’s case inside and out ensures that negotiation time is spent efficiently and productively. If you going to mediation unsure of the value of your assets, how much money is in the bank in your various accounts, if you don’t know what kind of child custody award you want and why, you’re going to waste a ton of time in mediation just trying to get up to speed. Ignorance of the facts will easily be misconstrued as misrepresentation or concealment of the facts. Consequently, both you and your spouse will be frustrated at how little progress is being made toward settlement.

3. Have a fully formed, comprehensive settlement proposal in mind before you go to mediation, and send a copy of this proposal to your spouse well in advance of mediation.

a. This helps you to frame the issues in a light most positive to you. This helps to create an agenda for discussing the issues and in the order you may wish to discuss them.

b. I am amazed at how rarely anyone does this in advance of mediation, but I am never amazed at how advantageous it is for my clients and me when we do it.

c. Sending your spouse and his/her attorney a comprehensive settlement proposal in advance of mediation helps ensure that mediation doesn’t waste time and has the effect of planting the seed in your spouse’s mind that you have a command of the situation, you have a plan where he/she does not.

d. If your spouse is too lazy and/or scared or discouraged to want to think about a comprehensive settlement of his/her own, the fact that you prepared one may have the effect of causing your spouse to accept more of your proposals than would otherwise be the case if you sprang your proposal on your spouse and his/her attorney for the first time at mediation.

4. Be as open-minded, flexible, and nimble as possible. You may be surprised when you get to mediation to learn that your spouse has a proposal for settling certain issues that is better than anything you had in mind. You may learn at mediation for the first time facts that suddenly make your case a lot better or worse than you thought. Don’t reject good ideas simply because they come from your spouse. Don’t blind to yourself to beneficial possibilities, just because you didn’t think of them. By definition, no one can be prepared for surprises, but failing to acknowledge the possibility of surprise and doing your best to ready yourself for that possibility, will help you react far more rationally, and perhaps even to your advantage.

5. Do the work. How much you get out of mediation depends upon how much you put into it. How well mediation goes depends upon how well you prepared in advance and how well you  participate in the mediation settlement conference itself.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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What is the safest way to break up with an abusive partner?

What is the safest way to break up with an abusive partner? I heard many horror stories and afraid I might be next.

While there is no one “proper” way to break up with an What is the safest way to break up with an abusive partner,

Robert McQueeney’s answer on this thread is a good one:

The safest way? When the opportunity presents itself, never put material belongings over your life. Just leave. Don’t waste time packing everything, just take what you need and go, immediately. Grab any important papers, of course.

Ghost your way out of there. Change jobs, change locations, shucks, change states if you have to. Change your phone, ghost your way out of any social media.

Don’t say anything to him, get real devious with your life, it may well depend on it. Don’t try to get any satisfaction of telling your partner to their face that you are out of there. Just leave and do it quickly and expediently.

Furthermore, I’d add two things:

  1. Don’t expect the legal system to be much, if any, help to you in the process. The legal system was not designed to help you in this situation as well and as fast as you can help yourself. Don’t try to vindicate yourself through the legal system. Work out your problems without involving the legal system any more than you must. It’s slow, expensive, and not consistently fair. Don’t break the law, but don’t expect the legal system to help you. Help yourself.
  2. Be prepared to pay the costs associated with breaking free. You may have to leave personal property behind because it may prove too hard to slip away with the stuff that’s rightfully yours. If you have to change your job and residence, you may take a hit on your pay and end up in crappier lodgings as you re-build. Understand that this is for most the cost of freedom and peace of mind—and that’s worth the cost.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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