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Deciding to Divorce

A major decision in your life is deciding if divorcing your spouse is a realistic option. We suggest that you examine all your options before choosing to divorce.

One option for you to consider is to meet with a therapist, counselor or clergy person. Additionally, you can open lines of communication with your spouse concerning issues that are currently troubling you. Explore your current emotional and physical well being to determine that there are no other problems that are affecting your decision. Divorce should be your final solution to your problem.

Once You Decide to Divorce

If you decide that divorce is your realistic approach, after examining your options, you should consider taking the following steps before actually beginning the legal process:

  • Begin maintaining an accurate record regarding your personal expenses. Collect all of your bills regarding all of your expenditures, including food, gas, utilities, mortgage or rent payments, clothing, and any other expenses. This will provide you with realistic knowledge of the funds that you will need in the event that you request support or need to provide support to your spouse, minor children, or both.
  • If credit in your name has not been established, start establishing credit in your name with a major credit card company and/or gasoline company.
  • Keep a personal diary regarding your activities with your minor children as well as your spouse's activities with your minor children in the event that you believe issues regarding custody of these children will be in question.
  • Begin saving money for yourself, if applicable, since it might be necessary to have separate funds.
  • Start accumulating as much information as possible concerning your financial situation as well as your spouse's financial situation. This would include mortgages, deeds, stock brokerage accounts, insurance policies, car documentation, loan applications, credit card agreements, pensions, retirement accounts, IRA's, mutual funds, wills, checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit, security boxes, real estate investments, tax returns for at least the previous five years, and all other personal and business-related financial documentation that you can obtain to develop a clear picture of your financial circumstances. Try to maintain the originals of all documents; if not possible, maintain copies. Additionally, with regard to your checking account, retain all cancelled checks, which will be useful if you request support.
  • After you gather information, it is advisable to take all cancelled checks and determine your monthly expenses. It will be helpful to your attorney at the initial consultation and throughout litigation if you use folders to organize all your asset and debt information.

Choosing the Right Attorney

One of the most crucial decisions you will be making is obtaining an attorney with whom you feel comfortable and who will help you to achieve your realistic goals.

How do you know the attorney you meet with is the right one for you? We suggest the following steps in choosing an attorney:

  • Before the Interview: Contact the attorney and request an initial interview. There are some attorneys who offer a free consultation and there will be no charge for their time. However, there are attorneys that concentrate on certain areas of law, and it is customary that they will charge a consultation fee. In many instances, the initial investment you make to speak to an attorney is well worth your time and money. Even if you choose not to proceed with that attorney, you will be receiving valuable information concerning your legal problem.
  • Preparing for the Initial Interview: You should be prepared for this meeting. One method is to prepare a series of questions for your prospective attorney to answer. During the meeting, you can also jot down notes. Do not expect all your questions to be answered immediately. Many questions might require investigation of facts and research of specific legal information.
  • Idealism: Be wary of an attorney who promises you everything you requested. Remember, if your legal problems involve a factual dispute, there are no guarantees.
  • Interview: Ask your attorney what areas of law he/she practices. Inquire if your attorney has handled matters similar to yours. Discuss with the attorney if he/she prefers to negotiate matters or vigorously litigate them. See if your matter will require filing a legal suit and then result in a trial. Ask your attorney if he/she has trial experience or whether your matter will be referred to another attorney if need be.
  • Fees: Discuss with your attorney his/her fees. You should feel comfortable with the attorney who represents you, and the attorney should also be familiar with current issues regarding family law such child support guidelines, custody and parental relocation, pension issues, valuations, and tax impacts on settlement proposals.

Some methods you may use in selecting an attorney are:

  • Ask friends who have recently been through a divorce;
  • Contact your current lawyer and ask for three referrals;
  • Contact the New York State Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service;
  • Ask organizations or unions if they have any attorneys that they can recommend;
  • Review the listing in the Martindale-Hubbell Lawyers Directory for your geographical area to see which lawyers concentrate in Matrimonial and Family Law matters and how they are rated by other lawyers. This book is available at most courthouse libraries and some public libraries. Many lawyers also have it in their office. Be sure to consult the current listing, since the listings and ratings change periodically. There is also on on-line version at www.martindale.com that will give the attorney's practice areas but not the peer rating.
  • If you have access to the Internet, check the World Wide Web for various other lawyer list sites. Another general lawyer site is West's Legal Directory (www.wld.com). A website specific to divorce is Divorce Source (www.divorcesource.com). You can obtain information about lawyers in your area who handle divorce cases through all of these websites.


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In order to file for divorce in New York, on spouse must be a resident for one (1) year. However, if the spouses were married outside the state, both parties must live in the state for two (2) years before filing for divorce. These New York residency requirements must be met in order for the court to have jurisdiction over the case.
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