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Chuck Matison's Ten Things You Should Know Before Filing for Divorce

  1. DIVORCE IS PRIMARILY A BUSINESS TRANSACTION. During a divorce, a couple must resolve their economic relationship, including distribution of property they acquired during the marriage and setting appropriate alimony and child support obligations. They must fix a parenting plan that addresses access to their children and custodial rights, or the Court will decide these issues for them.
  2. "DIGGING IN YOUR HEELS" ALWAYS COSTS MORE. To the extent that spouses allow their emotions to affect their decisions in divorce, they will enrich their lawyers - and impoverish themselves. Litigants must approach the end of their marriage as a business proposition that requires an equitable assessment of support rights and obligations and implementation of a parenting plan recognizing that each parent is entitled to continue a relationship with the children. Most important is that the litigants recognize that their children need both of them. What's more, "Digging in Your Heels" always costs more. It may sometimes be worth it, but a large amount of time and expense goes into the divorce process when two sides refuse to communicate on basic issues.
  3. THE COURTS GENERALLY DON'T CARE WHO'S AT FAULT. New Jersey has no-fault and fault grounds for divorce. The reasons that you state for filing for divorce in your divorce papers are usually accepted at face value by the court. The court normally does not care who or what was responsible for breaking up the marriage. Still, marital misconduct may become relevant with respect to parenting issues or marital waste.
  4. GOOD COUNSEL IS ESSENTIAL - NO COUNSEL IS FOOLISH. While it may be tempting to try to avoid the expense of representation, virtually no one - not counselors or even judges - recommends that you enter into the divorce process without the advice or representation of a reputable divorce attorney. The good attorney will recognize the important issues of your divorce quickly and intelligently and help you focus on and achieve the results you'll both want and need, consistent with the parameters within the system or the judge assigned to your case. Having no representation or advisor - especially when substantial assets are involved - is widely regarded as just plain foolish. The State of New Jersey Supreme Court has certified a small number of attorneys in matrimonial law following a test and peer and judicial review.
  5. PARENTS' BEHAVIOR HAS A BIG IMPACT ON HOW CHILDREN RESPOND TO DIVORCE. Divorce is traumatic enough without subjecting your children to the already difficult emotions of divorce. Protect children by avoiding speaking negatively about the other spouse in their presence. Never "use" children as strategic pawns during the divorce process. Never give them information about details of the divorce intended to embarrass, hurt, or anger the other spouse. Such behavior above all only serves to hurt your child.
  6. YOU'LL ATTEND A MANDATORY PRESENTATION. If you have children under age 18, you will be required to attend a presentation on the effects of divorce on children. You will receive a lecture and watch a video on the importance of communication and commitment to proper childrearing during and after a divorce. This program will help you move to the common goal of healthy parenting following the divorce. Furthermore, all New Jersey counties administer a Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel, a court-mandated mediation to resolve the economic issues of your case.
  7. YOUR "CASE INFORMATION STATEMENT" IS AT THE CENTER OF YOUR CASE. You will be expected to fill out a Case Information Statement, which is a court-approved from that contains significant information about your economic life, including lifestyle expenses, assets, liabilities, income, health insurance, and other insurance benefits and the like. Both sides must complete these forms. They are a critical part of the case because the courts rely upon them, in part, in the event the litigants cannot come to a consensual resolution. You may need to retain experts to value assets and you have an absolute right under court rules to do so.
  8. CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCES ARE PART OF EVERY DIVORCE. During the divorce process, the court system will expect your lawyer to show up for Case Management Conferences to report on the progress of your case to the court. After a few months, if no progress is made in reaching a settlement, the court will assign you a early settlement panel date. Most divorce cases are settled before going to trial.
  9. THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES TO A LITIGATED DIVORCE. There are two basic alternatives to the traditional divorce process - mediation and binding arbitration. They are intended to streamline the divorce process and keep divorce out of courtrooms already busy with other matters of law.
  10. NO DECISIONS IN DIVORCE ARE EASY. No one can make up your mind about whether to initiate a divorce. Many professionals familiar with the divorce process every day see individuals who are considering divorce but who have great difficulty making up their minds about doing so. Second thoughts are normal.

What's more, strong emotions - anger, grief, sadness, hostility, even denial - are regular ingredients in every divorce. These many emotions are the key reasons the divorce process can be so unpredictable, lengthy, and costly. Professional counseling - even a small amount of it before, during, or even after the divorce process - can help the participants of divorce get through it.