As a Divorce Lawyer on Long Island, I have helped many individuals through the process of divorce litigation and many couples through the process of divorce mediation or collaborative divorce law in order to settle their divorce cases. While many individuals or couples getting divorced believe the only option is to fight to win or prove a point, eventually most divorce cases settle.
In my experience, I have observed the following common keys to settlement of divorce cases on Long Island:
- Know Your Goals: In a divorce case, obtaining a divorce is always a general goal, but, you also need to determine your specific goals for yourself and your family. A goal isn’t just, “I want the house,” it is more abstract than that. You need to understand the “Whys” of your goals. I want the house can mean “I want a sense of security,” or, “I don’t want our children to be forced to move.” Goals are very rarely about objects or things. Goals are statements about our desires. You will be best served to write down your goals for yourself and your children because if you don’t, it is just a thought. Writing it down gives your thoughts meaning once you understand the “Whys” behind it. Once you have written your goals down, you can work with your divorce lawyer to develop a plan to achieve those goals. There are many methods to achieving your divorce on Long Island and understanding your goals and objectives will go a long way toward determining the best, most practical method of achieving your divorce. Some goals are better achieved through divorce litigation, but, if you and your spouse share common goals regarding your children, then, settlement is probably your best option. If you and your spouse can agree upon your goals, you might be best served with an alternative dispute resolution process like divorce mediation or collaborative divorce.
- Know the Law: Knowing the law is key to formulating a good settlement. Clients often ask me, “How do I know whether a settlement is good without knowing the law?” The law is an important factor in developing a settlement, but, it should not be the deciding factor. What I mean is that if you want the resolution of your divorce case to mirror “the law,” then you can simply have a trial and let the judge make the decision. The judge is bound to follow the law, but when you and your spouse negotiate your own settlement, you can pick and choose what aspects of the law to follow and others from which you want to deviate in order to achieve the best resolution for you and your family. On Long Island, divorce cases are governed by the New York State Domestic Relations Law.
There are 3 Main Elements to Resolve:
- Custody and Visitation of Children.
- Support of the children and/or a spouse.
- Equitable Distribution of Assets.
The main principle which governs custody and visitation is the best interests of the children. Support of children is governed by the Child Support Standards Act which provides a formulaic way of calculating child support. There is no formula for calculating spousal support upon the conclusion of a divorce case it is governed by 20 statutory factors. Finally, distribution of marital assets and marital debts are governed by the Equitable Distribution Law which basically guides courts in determining a fair distribution of assets and debts. Fair does not necessarily mean equal.
- Know How to Compromise: A wise Long Island Divorce judge often told litigants that a good settlement in a divorce case was like dining at a fine French restaurant: the meal tasted good, but on the way home, you need to stop for a sandwich because you are still hungry. A good settlement is much the same: some aspects taste good to you, but, you are still craving more. If your spouse feels the same way, then, the settlement is probably fair. In other words, no one gets everything they want from a fair divorce settlement. You have to give a little to get a little. A good settlement would not leave one spouse completely happy and the other upset and feeling taken advantage of. When both individuals feel they got what they needed, but not everything they wanted, then the settlement is probably fair. Another way of saying this is you are probably not going to get everything you want. You may be thinking “Why is my divorce attorney saying this?” I tell clients that I am saying this because it is true. If you both want the house or custody of your children, someone is going to lose, but, if you settle and compromise, you might find a way for both of you get something you want without feeling as though you have lost everything.
- Know When it is Time to Move On: Divorce is not easy and brings with it a wide range of emotions. Sometimes individuals fight during a divorce to prove a point to the other side. But, standing on your principles can come at a cost. The practice of divorce law is an hourly practice just for this reason. Your divorce lawyer has no idea how long your divorce case will take to resolve. One hour, 10 hours, 100 hours, etc. – it all depends upon you and your spouse and how willing you are to negotiate. Also, the Divorce Courts on Long Island are over worked; there are simply not enough judges for the number of divorce cases waiting to be heard. So, if you wish to battle to prove a point, plan on spending 10s of thousands of dollars and possibly years of your life. If your divorce case lasts two years and you live to be 80 years old, that means you would have spent 2.5% of your life fighting against one individual. Is that how you want to spend your life. Life is too short, let your divorce lawyer help you make calculated decisions so that you can find a fair compromise and settle your case so that you don’t spend your future and needless years of your life fighting in court. Also, if your divorce lawyer seems more interested in fighting with your spouse or the other attorney than you are, it is possible that your divorce lawyer is looking to play your emotions into a long drawn out divorce case to make more money. Don’t become a victim in that regard either. Your divorce lawyer is supposed to be working for your interests, not his or her own. Always remember that you are allowed to change divorce lawyers during your case if you are not happy.
Practical Insight from a Long Island Divorce Lawyer
I hope that sharing the insight I have gained as a practicing divorce lawyer on Long Island helps you reach a fair and amicable settlement of your divorce case. If you have any questions regarding the unique circumstances of your divorce case please contact our office at 631-923-1910 to schedule your free consultation.