We Americans love lots of things. We love to fall in love, we love to get married, we “love” to get divorced, and we love to move. Almost all of us fall in love (at the very least with our pets), almost all of us get married, almost half of us who get married get divorced, and almost half of us born in one state end up living in another. When our country was formed none of this was true. Marriage was near universal, divorce was unheard of, and most people stayed put.
State rights, one of our nation’s founding principles, made sense back then. It makes far less sense today. But your state of residence determines all kinds of things. These include the penalties for crimes you commit, how much you pay in taxes, how much you can collect in welfare, what you can leave your children when you die, where you can buy beer, whether you can smoke pot, whether you can readily get an abortion, and the list goes on.
One of the biggest issues some married couples face when they move across state lines is how they will fare if they get divorced. (And, again, almost half will untie the knot.) The answer may be far better or far worse depending on the state and even the county in which you reside. I say “may,” because if you reach an amicable settlement, that settlement may be legally approved no matter where you live. But if you have a contested divorce and end up leaving it up to a judge, she’ll likely apply state or county guidelines that can be very different depending on the state or country. Indeed, since only a few states and counties in the country have formal guidelines, the guidelines are mostly those set by the local judge. These judges are, of course, influenced primarily by what other judges in their locality and state are doing.
Why ‘brutal’ divorce laws must change in Grand BlancJeff Landers , CONTRIBUTOR I write for women going through financially complex divorces. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. Heidi Klum & Seal: Getty Images via @daylife I am not in favor of dirty tricks during divorce. However, pretending they never happen doesn’t do anyone any good, either. Divorcing women need to understand the full range of tactics some husbands use, and they need to be proactive –not reactive --as they work to secure the best possible divorce settlement. To that end, if you are contemplating divorce, you need to know about a tactic I see quite often in financially complex divorce cases: “Conflicting out” all the top divorce lawyers By “conflicting out” certain attorneys, your husband can make it difficult for you to hire the lawyer that’s best for you. Here’s how it works: He makes appointments with all the top lawyers in your area. Then, he meets with each one –but only for a short time. All he needs to do during those meeting is share enough information to create an attorney-client relationship. Once he does, that particular attorney will be prohibited from representing you. Of course, your husband doesn’t actually have to hire any of these attorneys. The entire goal with this tactic is to “conflict out” attorneys so they cannot be hired by you. Celebrities frequently use this strategy –and men aren’t the only ones that do. In fact, Heidi Klum made headlines earlier this year for divorce attorney “shopping” in Los Angeles. Of course, Heidi simply may have been interviewing divorce attorneys to find the most qualified and the one she would be most comfortable with – a perfectly legitimate endeavor. The lesson here is simple. Don’t procrastinate when hiring a divorce attorney. If you do, you could miss out on the opportunity to retain a great lawyer! What are some other tactics used by husbands during a divorce? Don’t get me wrong. Not all divorces are bitter battles. Some are relatively amicable, and the vast majority are settled outside the courts. However, at Bedrock Divorce Advisors we've seen quite a few underhanded financial and legal tactics employed by husbands or their divorce teams. Many husbands will also: Stall and delay. By repeatedly rescheduling court hearings and/or filing excessive motions and requests for evidence, a husband can drive up his wife’s legal costs and stretch out the time during which she must cover living expenses. In these cases, the husband is hoping she'll run out of money and be forced to agree to his settlement offer, which is often extremely unfavorable to her. Exert pressure to proceed too quickly. A husband who wants his wife to agree to a “quick” settlement may have something to hide. For instance, very early in the process, the husband’s attorney may send over a settlement proposal for the wife to review and counter. Usually, this means the husband just wants to get the divorce over and done with quickly, and he wants his wife to settle for what appears to be a reasonable offer. The problem, of course, is that in many cases, she has not received all the discovery documents requested, so she doesn’t have complete knowledge about key financial matters, such as marital assets, income sources, expenses, what they owe and what's owed them. Rushing to get a settlement is especially sneaky if the husband has been busy hiding assets and/or income and now he is trying to get her to agree to a 50-50 split of only a portion of their total assets! Deny access to financial resources. Unfortunately, many married women do not take a hands-on approach to the family finances. During a divorce, a husband can use her lack of knowledge to his advantage. He can ensure that only he can access family funds, cut off his wife's credit cards, move funds out of family accounts, etc. Actions like these can leave his wife without the money necessary to buy groceries, much less hire the right divorce team to represent her…while he hires an excellent team to represent him. This is especially problematic for abused women who live in constant fear of harm—to themselves and/or their children. Hide assets. As I have discussed at length in earlier blog posts (see 21 Signs That Your Husband May Be Hiding Marital Assets During Your Divorce and Divorcing Women: Here’s Where Husbands Typically Hide Assets), hiding assets during a divorce is sneaky, unethical and illegal –but it happens much more frequently than most women expect. Fail to pay court-ordered support or refuse to relinquish assets. Husbands who don’t follow court orders are breaking the law –and they force their wives to try to extract the promised payments at considerable legal cost long after the divorce is over. What’s more, all this financial and legal wrangling is terribly time-consuming. Some women have to take time off from work to deal with these issues, and that can put their jobs in jeopardy. Sadly, many family courts do a poor job enforcing such orders, even when a woman follows its requirements to the letter, and even for a well-meaning judge, deception on the part of an ex-husband can be difficult to decipher or prove. Because there are so many different dirty tricks, I recommend that women maintain their own emergency fund in a separate bank account, even if divorce has never entered their minds. If you are contemplating divorce, make sure you start organizing your personal finances and important documents under the guidance of a qualified divorce financial strategist. During the divorce, you’ll need to Think Financially, Not Emotionally® so you can keep your finances intact while planning for a secure financial future.
Checklist: Issues To Discuss With Your Divorce AttorneyIf you are seeking a divorce, you may be tempted to file for divorce on your own using court provided documents or information from a book or website. While a do-it-yourself divorce may be acceptable in some situations, most people should consider hiring an attorney to represent their interests. Here are five reasons that a person should consider hiring an attorney during a divorce proceeding. Expert Advice An experienced attorney can help a person to make certain to receive everything that he or she deserves during a divorce. State laws do not necessarily support an even split of assets depending on the couple's situation. In many cases, a spouse is even entitled to retirement or other income that the other spouse will receive in the future. If your marriage has any complicated issues to settle, an attorney can be an invaluable resource. For example, if there is child custody and support issues, substantial income, debts, assets or future assets (an inheritance, etc.) then you should hire an attorney to protect your interests in a divorce. Reduce Stress Divorce is a stressful time for everyone involved. Hiring an attorney to complete a divorce is one way to reduce the stress of the divorce. While the attorney will need to gather information from you, he or she will take care of almost everything else, allowing you more time to take care of yourself and your family. You have enough things to worry about when you are getting divorced, let an attorney take care of the legal work. Avoid Mistakes There are two primary reasons that people make mistakes when completing their own divorce: the legal system is complicated and the stress of the divorce makes it difficult to think clearly. If you simply forget to address an issue such as medical or credit card debt or if you underestimate or overestimate the value of an asset, you can make a significant mistake in a divorce proceeding. Such a mistake may cause financial harm or will require future legal proceedings to correct. By hiring an attorney, you can rest assured that you case is being properly handled the first time and that you are avoiding costly mistakes that you might regret for the rest of your life. Clear and Binding Agreement Though a court will review any divorce documents that you present, the court may not understand what you are trying to do on each point of the divorce. This may result in a divorce decree that states something other than what you intended. By using an attorney, you can be certain that the legal documents presented to the court will accurately state your wishes and that the divorce decree will be free of errors or unclear language that may make parts of the agreement difficult or impossible to enforce. Avoiding Delays Though a person may use court provided documents to file for divorce, there can still be problems with completing the proper forms and providing adequate information and documentation. A person who goes to court without legal counsel may find that problems with the paperwork or other issues may result in a delay in the court's ruling. This may substantially delay the date that the divorce is final. By hiring an attorney, a person can avoid paperwork or other problems that could cause a delay and get the divorce completed as quickly as possible.