Ending a marriage: You need an attorney from the initial decision


Divorce is an emotionally tumultuous process and a decision that is difficult to make. But once the decision is made, it is important to know this: Divorce is all about the details.

“I have helped hundreds of families work through the difficult process of ending a marriage,” says Lisa Owen, an attorney at Cauthorn Nohr & Owen with more than 17 years experience in family law. “It is extremely rare that a divorce starts out fully uncontested, even when both parties initially want one.”

This is mainly because most parties do not realize all of the issues and details that must be decided, the paperwork that must be completed, and the process that it takes to get your desired outcome.

Here’s what you need to know:

Have your pre-plan in place. You will need sufficient funds for at least three months to live on and to pay for attorney’s fees in case your spouse cuts off your joint finances. It may take up to three months for a temporary hearing with a judge who will determine on a temporary basis things like child support, custody, who can live in the house, and who pays the bills.

Prepare for the discovery meeting. Discovery is a pre-trial procedure to obtain information from the opposing party so that you can determine, among other things, each party’s income, assets and debts, what type of conduct each party has engaged in, and what type of custody and parenting time is at issue.

The financial affidavit is a key document that both parties are required to provide in this process. Financial information such as assets, debts, income, unpaid taxes, retirement funds, bank accounts, social security and pensions must be disclosed. Other details like whose name the credit card debt is in and whose name is on real estate and mortgages are also critical. Expenses related to your children will be important such as costs for after-school care, daycare, extracurricular activities, tuition, tutoring, and other childcare costs.

“Details are important,” says Owen. “For example, many people don’t know about the incredible future value of pensions. You’ve really given up an asset if you don’t know about all of your spouse’s holdings. Information gives you the power to make the right decisions for your future.”

Understand your needs related to custody and parenting time. Extensive information is needed to guide decisions about custody and parenting time. Issues to discuss include legal custody, physical custody, who will make medical decisions, steer religious upbringing, pay for education, where will children spend holidays and breaks from school, and other parenting decisions.

“To serve your best interests during a divorce, it is absolutely critical to make yourself as knowledgeable as possible,” Owens says. “Don’t make quick decisions without all necessary information and details as that may only negatively affect your future and your children’s future.”