7 Rules For Getting Divorced
The end of any marriage has unique issues — but there are a few things everyone should do when getting divorced.
By Camille Lamb
Because America has the right to know, a few details about the divorce settlement between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were just released. Breaking the hearts of tabloid editors everywhere, the details made their divorce settlement sound like … a lot of other divorce settlements. And there are a lot; although the divorce rate in America is going down, it still hovers near 50 percent.
Thing is, just because you know how one couple is getting divorced doesn’t mean yours will resemble theirs in any way. For starters, every state has different divorce laws. Plus, a divorce like the one TomKat is going through involves millions of dollars in assets, property, and e-meters. But there are general rules that everyone should follow. So if you’re getting divorced, take this advice from Florida divorce attorney Sam Troy.
1. Choose A Lawyer Who Understands You
Constantly explaining or defending what you want to your lawyer can take up lots of his time and even more of your money. So be selective and find one who understands where you’re coming from. “If you’re a prick, then maybe you want to hire a prick,” Troy says. “If you don’t want to put the screws to your wife, then hire someone who’ll take that approach.” That said, your lawyer still works for you. If he/she is pushing you to do something you’re uncomfortable with, push back.
2. Copy Important Documents
Make a record of things like credit reports, tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs, insurance policies, and stock and bond certificates from the last few years of your marriage. If your lawyer has these on hand, it’ll help the case go smoother.
3. Leave the Locks Alone
“If both of your names are on a deed or a lease, you can’t lock the person out of the house,” Troy says. “If you do, it’ll cost you more to defend your action in court.” It’ll also affect your image. “You look like the bad guy because you put your wife out on the street, and you just prejudiced your case before you even set foot in a courtroom. Retain an attorney and talk to your attorney about the quickest way to get that person out of the house.” You should, however, take inventory of big-ticket items you own.
4. Leave (At Least) Half of the Money Alone
Taking your money and running isn’t a great idea, according to Troy. “Ask every person who tells you to empty your bank accounts to hand you $5,000, because that’s what you’re going to pay a lawyer to defend that action in court.” Troy adds that if you absolutely need to take money out of a joint account, you should leave half of it there. Consider the other half hers until you hear otherwise.
5. Listen to Your Lawyer, Not Your Friends
Each divorce case is different, so just because a lawyer told one of your buddies to do something and it worked out in his case doesn’t mean it’ll work out for you.
6. Assume You’re Being Recorded
Keeping your emotions in check is way easier said than done, especially if you weren’t the one to initiate the divorce. So just assume you’re being recorded every time you speak to your soon-to-be ex, okay Mel Gibson? And then assume that those recordings will be played in front of the person deciding the terms of your divorce. If you can’t talk to her civilly, then don’t talk to her at all. Just let the lawyers take are of things.
7. Settle, If Possible
Trials are expensive and take a long time, so if you can work out a compromise and settle, do it. “Uncooperative people are run into court constantly,” Troy says. “It costs a lot of money. So get your financial disclosure done, sent to the other side, and set a date for mediation. See if you can get it settled before you go to trial.” Different states have different divorce laws, but like Tory said, mediation is often an easier, cheaper option than court is.