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Which Spouse Should File for Divorce?

For anyone who is thinking about ending their marriage, the NJ divorce process can feel daunting. Every divorce is different, and one of the biggest questions people have is whether it makes a difference as to who files for divorce first.

There are a few advantages for the person who decides to file first. If you have not discussed the possibility of divorce with your spouse, then you will probably be able to speak to your choice of local attorneys in the area about the process. Chances are, your spouse has not consulted with anyone. If they have, then that attorney would not be able to speak with you about your case, thanks to conflict of interest rules that lawyers must abide by. However, you should not set up consultations with attorneys for the mere purpose of making them inaccessible to your spouse.

This same principle applies to various experts that might be involved, particularly in high-value divorce cases or heavily contested custody matters. You might need experts like financial planners, forensic accountants or psychologists. You will get ‘first pick' if you decide to file first. In comparison, if you are served with divorce papers instead of filing first, you will only have 35 days to find a good lawyer, pay them, and respond to the suit.

You also will have the opportunity to gather up all the necessary documentation you may need for your case without your spouse knowing. Sometimes, once a divorce starts, it can be difficult to obtain the required paperwork, especially if your spouse is not cooperative. In most cases, you will eventually be able to get the paperwork through the process of discovery. However, this can be a fairly expensive and time-consuming process. If your spouse drags their feet, then it might require an order from the court to get them to hand over paperwork. When you're considering a divorce, find and make copies of everything you think you may need. A great way to keep a record is to scan and upload what you will need to a computer that your spouse does not have access to. Some of the most important items you should get are tax returns from the last few years, household bills, mortgage statements, bank statements, proof of insurance (including health insurance), deeds and titles of ownership.

Another advantage of filing first is that you can control the timing of the suit. Once the lawsuit begins, the court will primarily be setting hearings, discovery timelines and deadlines for mediation before trial. But when filing first, you will be in a better position to predict when these hearings will happen and have that much more control over when to initiate the process. You will be able to take various things under consideration, such as whether or not the children are in school, delaying large financial outlays (such as purchasing real estate), and overall having more control over the timeline of the case. This can be significantly positive for your emotional health as well. You will be active rather than reactive and caught on heels. So often, divorces feel unmanageable and overwhelming. By being able to exert some control in this way, even if only at the outset, it can go a long way to making you feel empowered in what can feel like an unwieldy situation.

You will also have the benefit of prior knowledge and the ability to save for attorney's fees and other living expenses. If you are able to do so, before you file, take note of your basic daily living expenses and create an estimated budget that you will need during the divorce process. You should also start creating your own accounts that your spouse will not have access to. Whether it is opening a credit card in your own name or starting a checking or savings account to set aside certain money, this will be of great benefit to you once the case gets started. As the adage goes, forewarned is forearmed, meaning you will be much more prepared to go through the NJ divorce process than your spouse may be.

An obvious benefit to filing first also means that you might get to choose where the divorce proceeds, depending on the grounds for divorce. If you file for a no-fault divorce, you can file in the county where you live. If you and your spouse have recently separated and are living in different parts of the state, this can be of great benefit to you. Going to court in a different county can increase expenses and cost you valuable time. If you file for divorce and name a specific ground for divorce, then you must file in the county where the grounds actually occurred. So, if your spouse committed adultery a few months ago and you have moved away to another county, you will still need to file for divorce in the county where the adultery occurred. That is why a no-fault divorce might be a better option for you. However, you should always seek out the advice of an experienced family lawyer to determine the best strategy for your particular circumstances.

While there are some advantages to filing first, you should not rush into a divorce. If you are filing for divorce to serve paperwork on your spouse in order to spite them or embarrass them while at work, you should re-evaluate. Filing first is not going to make or break your case, so do not despair if you do not beat your spouse to the courthouse.

Any divorce is a stressful episode, but if matters are particularly complicated and attorneys need to be involved beyond the basic legal process, it can quickly become an ordeal. A good divorce lawyer will help ensure you get a satisfactory outcome while shielding you from much of the strain. Here are some questions you should be asking divorce lawyers in NJ before hiring them, to ensure proceedings go as smoothly and successfully as possible.

What's the Practice's Divorce Experience?

Many law firms describe themselves as family law specialists, and these should be a starting point for finding a good NJ divorce lawyer. However, there are many sub-specialisms of family law, from custody to alimony, and the attorney you need will depend on the particulars of your situation. Before hiring, arrange a free comprehensive in office consultation where you can discuss your situation, and find out if your lawyer has the relevant experience.

What's the Plan?

After the initial interview, you should be provided with an outline of how the attorney plans to proceed, and of what will be required from you going forward. You should also be given a range of likely outcomes to the case, including the best- and worst-case scenarios you can expect, as well as an estimate of how long proceedings may take. While there are too many variables at play in any case to give a guarantee of a favorable outcome, a good attorney should be able to advance an honest and realistic assessment without undue salesmanship.

Who Else Will Work on the Case?

A divorce case will naturally include many personal details, and you'll need to have trust in the lawyers and paralegals working on your behalf. You may wish to meet any other practice members involved in your case, or at least to be assured of their experience, discretion, and suitability.

What are the Billing Arrangements?

Will you be billed by the hour, and if so, at what rate? What other costs may be involved, such as private investigators or forensic accountants? Will a retainer be necessary? Is there an estimate of the total cost, and are there any options to spread payment? Try to get every aspect of the billing arrangements laid out in writing so that you know exactly what you're getting into.

You'll probably find that your lawyer is unwilling to put a precise figure on the total cost. This is actually a good sign, as it means they will be working your case on its merits, and not following a set blueprint. However, you should be clear in advance about the range of costs involved.

How Will Costs be Kept Down?

A divorce lawyer in NJ should be happy to cut costs where possible, albeit not to the detriment of the case. Ask if there's anything that you can do as the client rather than relying on practice staff, or if any predicted extra expenses are likely to be truly worth the cost. Also, ask if an out-of-court settlement may be realistic to avoid the expense and stress of lengthy proceedings.

What are the Contact Procedures?

There are two parties to every divorce, and levels of enmity can vary greatly. It's a good idea to set out in advance whether you should have any contact with your spouse during the proceedings, and under what circumstances. You may wish to have your attorney assume all communication responsibilities, particularly when the other party's own lawyers are involved. Ask how you can redirect any communication attempts to your attorney, and how quickly a response can be expected. Also set in place expectations for how often you'll receive updates on the case's progress, and what you can do to contact the practice in an emergency.

It's unrealistic to expect any divorce to proceed completely painlessly. However, having a good attorney on your side can reduce the stress while maximizing the chances of an equitable outcome. Asking these questions of your NJ divorce lawyer before committing to them will stand you in good stead for coming out the other side in the best shape you could hope for. If you have any questions about divorce or family law call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen for a free comprehensive in office consultation at 201-845-7400.

The decision to seek and pursuit of a divorce is an emotionally and legally challenging experience. Consequently, when the decision is made to legally end a marriage, consulting with a qualified NJ divorce attorney is the order of the day. A person wanting to end a marriage is able to best protect his or her rights and interests by retaining an experienced, tenacious NJ divorce lawyer. Whether it is ensuring you receive all the property to which you are entitled, or if your primary focus is on becoming the custodial parent, a competent attorney can give you the best possible chances to reach your desired outcome in a divorce.

The first step in hiring a NJ divorce attorney is scheduling and attending an initial consultation. An initial consultation is a preliminary meeting that permits a lawyer the opportunity to obtain general information about a case. In addition, the session provides a prospective client with an opportunity to assess and evaluate the NJ divorce lawyer. These consultations are a crucial part of the process in selecting a NJ divorce attorney.

Because most attorneys will offer a free initial consultation, they limit the amount of time they offer. Therefore, preparation is fundamental to a successful initial consultation with a New Jersey divorce attorney. As a result, a set of specific questions need to be prepared in advance, and you should bring them with you to the meeting.

The Focus of a Lawyer's Practice

Questioning a lawyer about the focus of his or her practice is important. An attorney may advertise that he or she practices in the area of divorce law, but that may not be the focus of the firm. Although an attorney can successfully practice in different areas of the law, some people have a preference for a practitioner who focuses specifically on divorce cases. Even then, some lawyers specialize in high-value estate divorces, but do not have much experience in custody matters. The theory is that such a lawyer significantly hones his or her skills in that area when that is the sole focus of his or her professional endeavors. Determining what is most important to you and finding a matching skill set is ideal.

Education, Special Accreditations and Time in Practice

A person will also need to discuss a lawyer's education, time in practice and any special accreditations he or she may have received in the area of divorce or family law. In NJ, if the lawyer is a certified matrimonial lawyer, you can be confident that they have passed a difficult examination, received recommendations from their colleagues, and are in good standing within the industry of matrimonial law. Although a lawyer with less experience may be capable of decently handling a divorce case, depending on the facts and circumstances of a case, a person may want a more seasoned litigator.

The Attorney's Existing Caseload

Questions about a lawyer's caseload are also fair and important. A lawyer with a particularly large caseload may not have enough time for your case. A lawyer with a smaller caseload may not attract clients - and there may be a reason for this deficiency in numbers. Regardless, you should always ask who will be in charge of your case in the event the main fee earner is not around. If you have an urgent matter, you will need to ensure that someone in the office will be available to provide counsel.

Fees and Payment Schemes

Obtain comprehensive, thorough information about fees and payment expectations on the part of the attorney. For example, a person must find out what an attorney requires in the way of a retainer and what that lawyer assesses in the way of an hourly fee.

The decision to seek and pursuit of a divorce is an emotionally and legally challenging experience. Consequently, when the decision is made to legally end a marriage, consulting with a qualified NJ divorce attorney is the order of the day. A person wanting to end a marriage is able to best protect his or her rights and interests by retaining an experienced, tenacious NJ divorce lawyer. Whether it is ensuring you receive all the property to which you are entitled, or if your primary focus is on becoming the custodial parent, a competent attorney can give you the best possible chances to reach your desired outcome in a divorce.

The first step in hiring a NJ divorce attorney is scheduling and attending an initial consultation. An initial consultation is a preliminary meeting that permits a lawyer the opportunity to obtain general information about a case. In addition, the session provides a prospective client with an opportunity to assess and evaluate the NJ divorce lawyer. These consultations are a crucial part of the process in selecting a NJ divorce attorney.

Because most attorneys will offer a free initial consultation, they limit the amount of time they offer. Therefore, preparation is fundamental to a successful initial consultation with a New Jersey divorce attorney. As a result, a set of specific questions need to be prepared in advance, and you should bring them with you to the meeting.

The Focus of a Lawyer's Practice

Questioning a lawyer about the focus of his or her practice is important. An attorney may advertise that he or she practices in the area of divorce law, but that may not be the focus of the firm. Although an attorney can successfully practice in different areas of the law, some people have a preference for a practitioner who focuses specifically on divorce cases. Even then, some lawyers specialize in high-value estate divorces, but do not have much experience in custody matters. The theory is that such a lawyer significantly hones his or her skills in that area when that is the sole focus of his or her professional endeavors. Determining what is most important to you and finding a matching skill set is ideal.

Education, Special Accreditations and Time in Practice

A person will also need to discuss a lawyer's education, time in practice and any special accreditations he or she may have received in the area of divorce or family law. In NJ, if the lawyer is a certified matrimonial lawyer, you can be confident that they have passed a difficult examination, received recommendations from their colleagues, and are in good standing within the industry of matrimonial law. Although a lawyer with less experience may be capable of decently handling a divorce case, depending on the facts and circumstances of a case, a person may want a more seasoned litigator.

The Attorney's Existing Caseload

Questions about a lawyer's caseload are also fair and important. A lawyer with a particularly large caseload may not have enough time for your case. A lawyer with a smaller caseload may not attract clients - and there may be a reason for this deficiency in numbers. Regardless, you should always ask who will be in charge of your case in the event the main fee earner is not around. If you have an urgent matter, you will need to ensure that someone in the office will be available to provide counsel.

Fees and Payment Schemes

Obtain comprehensive, thorough information about fees and payment expectations on the part of the attorney. For example, a person must find out what an attorney requires in the way of a retainer and what that lawyer assesses in the way of an hourly fee.

About Peter Van Aulen

Peter Van Aulen is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a matrimonial attorney. He has over twenty-three years of experience in divorce and family law. Call his office today for a free 30 minute in office consultation with an experienced NJ divorce attorney at 201-845-7400.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
Peter has integrity, and values his relationships with his clients beyond his financial relationship with them. For me to say this about any lawyer is really saying something. He is compassionate, straightforward and knowledgeable. I would easily recommend him to anybody. Lewie W.
★★★★★
Peter Van Aulen handled my case with great diligence and integrity. He is also a compassionate individual who realizes what a difficult time divorce can be emotionally. Peter works hard and doesn't take any shortcuts in preparing for a case… I highly recommend Mr. Van Aulen and his staff. Chuck Solomon
★★★★★
Peter is an exceptionally great attorney. He handled my child custody case and was able to ease any of my concerns with honest answers. He always took the time to explain the pros/cons and was always available to answer any questions that I had… I would highly recommend this attorney to anyone who is looking for one. Jessica Cruz
★★★★★
Peter Van Aulen is a very compassionate, honest and straightforward person. He was there for me at my lowest point with a genuine concern not only for my situation, but for me and my child's well being above all… He is fair and he is strong and when push comes to shove he is there for you. Cathy Dodge
★★★★★
Our cousin used Peter's law office to help with a sticky custody situation. He was extremely responsive, very nice and most importantly did an awesome job with the court! He is awesome. Lawrence Polsky

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