Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long does it take to get a divorce?
- Answer: The process of obtaining a divorce can take anywhere from 90 days to a few years. If the spouses immediately agree on how to settle all the issues, if neither party owns or has a business interest that needs to be evaluated, and if the parties do not jointly own any real estate that needs to be appraised in order to effectuate a fair distribution of the value thereof, then the whole divorce process can take as little as 90 days. However, if the parties cannot agree on issues such as with whom the children will reside or whether one spouse should pay maintenance to the other spouse, these issues may need to be resolved by a judge at trial, and this will prolong the obtainment of the divorce decree. Additionally, if one party withholds relevant information, or if one party has an interest in a business, a forensic evaluator may need to be hired to determine the value of the business and the portion of value the non-owning spouse may be entitled to.
Q: How much money will it cost to get a divorce?
- Answer: The cost of obtaining a divorce is based on the client's level of acceptance of legal advice of his/her attorney and the cooperation of both parties. Resistance or failure to cooperate results in the increase of your attorneys' time working on your case, and consequently legal bills build up. The process of obtaining a divorce may be as inexpensive as fifteen hundred dollars ($1,500) to cover the cost of filing the necessary documents in court. However, most divorces cost sufficiently more money than just the cost of filing court papers, as lawyers are usually required to expend their time and expertise in researching law, precedent cases, negotiating with the opposing side, appearing in court, and drafting documents and agreements. Additionally, in New York State lawyers obtained for legal representation in a divorce action bill clients for the actual time expended in working on the client's case. In New York State attorneys do not bill clients in a divorce action on a "contingent" basis with the fee to be paid based on the outcome of the case.
Q: What if I can no longer afford to make the child support payments I have been ordered to pay?
- Answer: If you can no longer afford to pay the amount of child support that you have been ordered to pay you should contact your attorney immediately. If your inability to pay the same amount of child support payments you've paid in the past stems from a significant change in circumstances, for example loss of employment, then it is likely that a skilled attorney would be able to successfully petition Family Court to modify your child support obligation to an amount that reflects the change in your income (in accordance with the CSSA guidelines) and that is affordable to you.
Q: What is a "retainer fee" and why do attorneys require this?
- Answer: A retainer is a certain sum of money that an attorney will require from the client upon the client's retaining the attorney for his/her legal representation. Most attorneys require a retainer fee as advance payment for the hours anticipated to be expended into commencing the action. The retainer fee varies depending on the complexity of the case. It is important to keep in mind that if one attorney requires a greater retainer fee than another attorney, this does not necessarily mean that you will end up paying more money to the attorney who requires a greater retainer fee, it simply means that the attorney who takes a lesser retainer fee will require a replenishment of the retainer sooner, as the initial amount will expire faster.
Q: What happens if I do not have enough money to pay for a lawyer?
- Answer: The Domestic Relations Law of New York provides that when there is a disparity between the spouses' income, the court may direct the monied spouse to pay the legal fees of the spouse with the lesser income.
Q: What type of relationship should I expect to have with my attorney?
- Answer: Your attorney will expect that you share all information relevant to your case in a candid manner and do not withhold any information, as this could render your attorney unprepared to deal with difficulties that may arise unexpectedly. Your attorney should treat you with respect and be available to answer your questions, whether of a legal nature or concerning your billing statements, within a reasonable period of time.
Q: What can I do if my ex-spouse does not follow our agreement or the Judge's Order or if my ex-spouse stops paying child support?
- Answer: If your ex-spouse fails to follow his/her obligations pursuant to an agreement entered into by you and your ex-spouse or pursuant to a Judge's Order, you should notify your attorney of this right away. Your attorney will then contact your spouse's attorney to give a warning. If your ex-spouse fails to immediately comply with his/her obligations your attorney will then request the Court to hold your ex-spouse in contempt and to issue an Order directing your ex-spouse to comply with his/her obligations. If your ex-spouse stops paying child support your attorney may file an income execution order and your ex-spouse's wages will be garnished to collect child support.
Recommendations to consider before the onset of a divorce action.
The following recommendations are not legal advice, but are recommendations that if followed, may serve to facilitate your attorney in protecting your interests and securing the best result for you.
1. Put your papers in order.
- Keep copies of important financial documents in a secure place. Critical financial papers include tax returns, bank statements, investment accounts, and business ledgers if you own your own business.
2. Keep inheritances separate.
- Document all assets received through an inheritance. Keep all inheritances separate from the marital estate. Do not put an inheritance into joint names with your spouse and do not use your inheritance money to pay for the family expenses or purchases or to pay off debts incurred during the marriage.
3. Don't move out of your marital residence.
- Do not move out of the family residence without first discussing it with your divorce lawyer.
4. Talk to your children.
- Reassure your children that they are not the cause of your separation or divorce and explain this in a way that is consistent with your children's ages and maturity level. It is best to be truthful and honest and give children simple and clear answers without blaming anyone.
5. Take care of yourself.
Contact our office today for answers to any other questions you may have - our consultation is free!