“My spouse and I wish to put our divorce behind us quickly and quietly. We are not angry with one another; the marriage is just ‘over.’ What is our best approach?”
In order to accomplish your goal of finalizing the divorce as quickly and quietly as possible, the two of you first need accurate information. While the Internet is a good source for browsing, the best thing to do is to schedule a consultation with an attorney who specializes in Matrimonial and Family Law.
Choosing the right attorney can be a critical part of ensuring that you achieve your goals, not only as quickly and quietly, but also as economically as possible. By speaking with family, friends, and co-workers who have been divorced, you may be able to get the name of an attorney that they utilized and recommend. Other means of locating an attorney include the Internet or a local bar association. If at all possible, secure the names of least two attorneys.
Prior to meeting with the attorney for the first time, the two of you can work together to create a list of your assets and liabilities which is as complete as possible. You can also work together to try to decide which personal property, such as furniture, each of you will keep.
Since New York does not permit one attorney to represent both of you, and to proceed as economically as you can, one of you should make an appointment for a consultation. At that consultation, the attorney which you have chosen will clearly explain the laws of the State of New York and discuss how those laws are applicable to your particular situation. Once you have provided sufficient details to your attorney, he or she would then be in a position to advise you as to any specific areas which you should further discuss with your spouse in order to reach decisions on remaining items. For example, if one or more children are involved, your attorney at the consultation might discuss with you issues surrounding the choice of joint custody, as well as a proposed parental access schedule, or even provide a draft schedule for the two of you to consider.
After you have communicated to your spouse the information which you have secured at the consultation, and come to whatever decisions were still “up in the air,” you will then provide that information to your attorney. Then the attorney would draft a proposed settlement agreement, sometimes called a separation agreement, and forward that proposal for the two of you to review and discuss further. Your spouse should schedule a consultation with a different attorney to review the proposed Agreement to ensure that he or she completely understands all of the provisions, as well as the applicable law, and that the Agreement is fair to both of you.
Once any final changes are made, the two of you can go to your attorney’s office together or separately to sign the final Agreement under your attorney’s supervision, as well as necessary documents to file for an uncontested divorce. Neither of you, nor your attorney, will actually have to go to Court for your divorce to be finalized.
A final suggestion: now that you have reached the point where you are not angry with each other but just want to finalize the divorce, you should try to do so reasonably quickly. Long delays in responding, either to each other or to the attorney, may cause the other party to believe that one of you is delaying the process unnecessarily. That belief can lead to frustration, which gets in the way of open communication and fair decision making.
Finally, always remember that the attorney is your “guide” through the process and can help you reach your destination as quickly and fairly as possible, but it is your right to make whatever final decisions are necessary and appropriate for you.
Stephen I. Silberfein has over 30 years of experience in matrimonial and family law throughout the five boroughs and surrounding counties. He is the principal of the Law Offices of Stephen I. Silberfein in Manhattan.