Common Divorce Questions
All couples going through the end of a marriage ask the same divorce questions. Regardless of how long you were married, you'll still need to find a lawyer and sort through issues regarding property, finances, children, and emotional trauma. Having accurate information is a crucial part of the healing process.
Interview with Stacy D. Phillips
Attorney Stacy D. Phillips is a Certified Family Law Specialist and the author of Divorce: It's All About Control. A graduate of the Columbia University School of Law, she represents celebrities and other high-net worth individuals in their divorce proceedings.
Recently, Stacy Phillips took time out of her busy schedule to answer some common divorce questions for LoveToKnow's readers.
How do I choose a good divorce lawyer?
"In Divorce: It's All About Control, I identify six different types of divorce lawyers with a complete description of each type," Stacy Phillips said. "Everyone differs in what type of lawyer suits them. They have to decide what that type may be. For instance, do they want a lawyer who will parent them or one who will partner with them? Naturally, there are other variables to consider as well, like credentials, reputation, background, and experience. Getting references from contacts a person knows and trusts, especially from one's accountant, business attorney, estate planning attorney or therapist, is the best way to find a good divorce lawyer. By doing these things, a person will be able to determine if he or she has made a prudent choice."
Does the end of a marriage have to turn into a battle?
"No, it does not," Stacy Phillips said. "However, there often is some battle over one issue or another-like the division of property or who gets custody of the children. Remember that it was the battles over control in one area or another that precipitated the divorce in the first place. If a couple could not get along during the marriage, often the divorce is simply an amplification of those problems."
How can parents minimize the affect of divorce on their children?
"They can and should leave the children out of their battles at all times," Stacy Phillips said. "Whether it is during the divorce process itself or long after it's over. Couples have no right bringing children into their skirmishes. They should also give the children tremendous support and understanding throughout the divorce trauma and always show respect to their ex no matter how hard that may seem."
How do courts determine the distribution of assets if one spouse is a stay at home parent or earns substantially less than the other?
"It depends on the state in which the couple resides," Stacy Phillips said. "In California, for instance, we have a community property law where both parties typically divide all assets fifty-fifty unless the asset was acquired during the marriage by gift, inheritance, or bequest. However, the issue of how much alimony or child support one must pay is often highly dependent on who is the bigger breadwinner. That is the perfect question to ask your attorney once you have hired one. He or she will know the laws that govern dissolution of marriage in their given jurisdiction."
We're getting divorced because my spouse cheated on me. How do I make him/her "pay" for this mistake?
"Seeking vengeance is never the answer," Stacy Phillips said. "That old Spanish proverb: 'Living well is the best revenge,' is what the injured party should focus on and strive for. There is no win in trying to make someone pay for any betrayal in a marriage. Often the dismantling of the marriage is the reward the cheater will receive. And, there's a whole lot of payback in that!"
I'm trying to be reasonable, but my spouse and I just can't agree on major issues like who gets custody of the kids or who should keep the house. What should I do?
"Again, seek the advice of your attorney," Stacy Phillips said. "What often works well is a mediation session with a referred judge or a respected attorney or even a four-way conference where the attorneys and the couple can meet and discuss alternative resolutions or options. This is what you pay your attorney to do: resolve major issues and help you come to reasonable solutions. If all else fails you may have to take your case to court and have the judge decide."