Our adversary system of justice may not be the perfect method for resolving your divorce. But it is the only forum unless you and your spouse come to an agreement, and I believe that it is the best way to inspire a settlement.
What is involved in a divorce trial?
A divorce action is a lawsuit. At a great expense the State of New York maintains a Court system for the peaceful resolution of disputes such as a divorce. What we are doing during a divorce action is negotiating through the Court system for a settlement with your former partner. There may be a temporary spousal support order and a temporary custody and visitation hearing. There may also be legal skirmishes involving pre-trial discovery, all to make sure you get all of the important documents and bank records your are entitled to and require to enter into a fair and informed settlement.
Many people think of a divorce trial as a fight to the last dying dog. This is seldom the case. Most divorce cases are settled out of court. As your attorney, I will work to give the other party a very strong inducement to come to the table and settle on terms that make sense for you. If not, we will complete the trial.
Some spouses don't want to settle. Divorce trials are both complex and costly, and for these reasons you need a lawyer who understands the laws of evidence and how to efficiently prepare your case for trial.
A few things to bear in mind:
- New York's courts process thousands of cases a year, far more than the federal courts or any other state. About a third of them are divorces.
- All divorce cases are confidential. The file is sealed. Only the spouses and their lawyers get access to the file. Unless someone runs to the press or someone's employer, everybody's dirty laundry remains the family's secret.
- Judges are mandatory reporters. If there is child abuse, or tax fraud, the case could be forwarded to the appropriate agency.
- Half of all marriages result in divorce. The judge, who has probably presided over hundreds of cases, has heard it all already. Of course, the judge is committed to dispense justice, but the judge may not be as patient or sympathetic as you may desire to listen to your grievances about your spouse. It is my job to educate the judge on the applicable law and persuade the judge that we need to be there.
- All New York lawyers are not created equal. The process of a divorce trial is more like a raft ride down a river rapids, filled with unexpected turns and challenges, than a Charles Dickens novel. In telling your story to the court, there is a science and art in knowing when to ask a question and how to frame the question, especially on cross-examination. Franklin D. Roosevelt reportedly reminded his aides on the campaign trial about the 3 B's: be sincere, be brief, and be seated. The modern age of television and the internet do not fit into the legendary days of cross-examination that were conducted by Clarance Darrow. Besides, in a divorce case, you probably cannot afford it. So it is important to act with thoroughness and surgical precision that requires preparation, skill and discipline.
- As Shakespeare observed in Hamlet: "the play's the thing". Your divorce case might not be instantly settled. And if it is not it is wise to think of it as a one performance play. The judge who did not spend a decade or more living with your spouse, might not understand the context and justification of your emotions, or care.
Before The Trial.
Once a divorce summons is filed, the marital clock on additions to the marital estate stops. There will be an automatic stay on the transfer of marital property.
Papers need to be prepared and filed. One of the skills of a good divorce lawyer is to draft legally sufficient papers that tell your story. Great care and attention should go into the preparation of the sworn matrimonial net worth statement.
Provisional relief will be sought. The temporary support motion may define the life of the divorce litigation. It is decided quickly on the basis of conflicting claims in the opposing papers of the spouses. If it is a very high temporary support award the non-monied spouse may be induced to delay the conclusion of the divorce litigation. There may be child custody evaluation. There will be pre-trial discovery of everybody's finances.
Preparing For Court.
Thirty eight (38) years as a New York trial lawyer has taught me to assess my client's strengths and challenges as a witness from the first moment we meet. I will prepare you to understand how you will be viewed as a witness. My mantra is to remember the 3 R's: respect, restraint and rehearse. Many litigated divorce cases have sworn testimony at a pre-trial deposition. Fewer cases are not settled until after the trial starts.
At The Trial
To avoid disaster, inside the courtroom you will need a skilled technician who knows the law of evidence, which evidence to introduce and what objections to make. Not all lawyers have both the "inside skills" and the "outside skills".
After The Trial
Pioneers die with arrows in their backs. What is our theory? What is our strategy? It takes a good lawyer to win a money judgment, but a great lawyer to collect the money judgment. You will need a skilled lawyer to protect your interests. There may be an appeal. My appellate accomplishments, dating back to 1974, are listed in my attorney profile.
Contact Me to Discuss Your Divorce
Either call my New York office or contact me online of a free initial consultation.