Here, Jeffery M. Leving, one of America's most prominent and experienced divorce lawyers, shows you how to win any divorce fair and square, even when your spouse brings out the heavy artillery.
By giving real-life examples, Leving provides essential advice on everything from picking the right lawyer and devising a winning settlement strategy to getting the most from your day in court and dealing with an ex-spouse. Divorce Wars will help ensure you are acting wisely and effectively at every stage of the process, and will help you and your children survive even the most painful and difffiicult divorce.
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Divorce WarsA Field Guide to the Winning Tactics, Preemptive Strikes, and Top Maneuvers When Divorce Gets Ugly
By Jeffery Leving
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Jeffery Leving
All right reserved.
Starting Out on the Wrong Foot:
How to Avoid Divorce Missteps
It's easy to make mistakes at the very beginning of the divorce process, especially if you're dealing with someone who is highly manipulative, abusive, or just plain irrational. Even if you are divorcing a reasonable person, it's tough to think clearly and make the right initial decisions. Most people are so angry, upset, or anxious to end the marriage that they're not thinking logically about what they should do to protect themselves or their children from an unfair settlement. As a result, they agree to conditions to which they should not agree or sign documents they should not sign. Sooner or later, they regret their actions.
If the person you're divorcing is a reasonable person, the damage is usually minor. If the individual is unreasonable, though, the damage can be significant. Recognize that a vengeful spouse may be setting you up right from the get-go. She may make a credible argument that she still loves you and doesn't want the divorce to be acrimonious. She may insist she wants the divorce to be as amicable as possible, and that, for example, she happens to know a lawyer you can use who will keep the divorce process on friendly footing. You may be so desperate toplease her and convince her to try again that you accept the lawyer she recommends. As a result, not only do you get divorced, but you may be represented by an incompetent who doesn't fight for your rights or have the best interest of your kids at heart.
At the very start of the divorce process, therefore, you need to be alert for the following reactions: denial, naïveté, and irrationality. Over time, you may be one of those people who confronts reality, becomes less naïve, and deals rationally with the issues that arise. At the beginning, though, you're vulnerable to these three common states. As we'll see, each of them can be a mistake that leads to a divorce war. Before looking at these mistakes, though, I'd like to share a cautionary tale.
Ignoring all the Clues
Erin had been married to Charlie for twelve years when she noticed that he was transferring money out of their accounts and setting up new ones. When she questioned what he was doing, he offered the plausible explanation that he had talked to a financial planner who suggested different investments that could give them a better return. Since Charlie had always handled the finances in their marriage, Erin accepted his explanation. Besides, Charlie was a tax attorney, and Erin figured that he was always looking for ways to save money.
Charlie, however, was spending more and more time away from Erin and their two small children. Again, his reasons were plausible--work trips and conferences. Still, in the past, Charlie had usually traveled during the week and been home on weekends. Now, the situation was reversed. One month, he was gone three out of the four weekends. When Erin wondered why there were so many conferences scheduled for the weekends, Charlie just shrugged and said that perhaps the conference organizers wanted to boost attendance because their members were so busy with clients during the week. This didn't make sense to Erin, but she let it pass.
She couldn't ignore, however, that she didn't feel as close to Charlie in the past year as she had before. She felt that he was more closed off to her and that he didn't share his problems or his hopes the way he once did. She had confronted Charlie about this issue, but he said that he was under so much stress at work since he had made partner at his firm that he lacked "my usual emotional energy." He promised that things would get better as he adjusted to the transition.
One thing Charlie did express concern about was Erin's emotional state. In recent years, Erin had been seeing a therapist to help her deal with what she termed a "mild depression." She had been taking Prozac, and it had helped. Charlie said that because Erin was in charge of their children, he wanted to be sure that she was making progress and wasn't sliding back into a depression that might endanger the kids. He asked her to give him a written summary of her treatments with the therapist and how she felt they were going. He said that this would also help him understand her better and lead to greater emotional intimacy between them. Erin agreed to his request.
Erin was blindsided when Charlie came home one day and said he wanted a divorce. He refused to explain why, saying only that "the love has gone out of our marriage." He had already hired a divorce lawyer and presented her with terms of a settlement. He said he was willing to give her full custody of the kids if she signed the document. Charlie added that if she refused to sign, he would use her treatment for depression to argue that he should have custody. When Erin looked at the settlement data, she noticed that the amount of their liquid assets was understated by a six-figure sum. When she challenged her husband about the missing money, he treated her as if she were financially ignorant, explaining that he had transferred the money into various offshore investments that he didn't want the court to know about and that she would receive her fair share. "Do you actually think I would cheat you or our children?" he asked her. Shocked and confused, Erin signed the settlement agreement. Though she eventually hired an attorney who effectively challenged the agreement after a prolonged, costly, and stressful battle, Erin never recovered the money that Charlie had hidden.
You may be thinking that you would never make these mistakes. Erin was a smart woman, but she was in denial. You may not make exactly the same mistakes, but if you're not prepared for the shock, confusion, and emotional trauma of the initial stages of the divorce process, you may make equally bad judgments. Let's look at the most common mistakes people make right before and just after the divorce process begins.
Excerpted from Divorce Wars by Jeffery Leving Copyright © 2007 by Jeffery Leving. Excerpted by permission.
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