A prenuptial agreement is a legal document signed by both parties previous to them getting married. In that states what assets they came to the marriage with and what will go to which partner should they end up divorced at some point in their future. Since the division of assets is one of the most contentious points in a divorce, a prenuptial agreement, or prenup as it is called is meant to act as a modicum of protection. Some people feel they are necessary in a social climate where 50% of marriages end up in divorce. Others believe that it is setting a wedding off on a negative tone. It may plant the seed that the marriage is doomed to fail, instead of encouraging the couple to work on the marriage and get through difficult situations, so say detractors. If you are planning to get married, should you have a prenuptial agreement? And how do you know if it is right for you? Remember that both parties have to sign the document for a prenup to go into effect (wikihow.com). So discuss the pros and cons with your partner and see if it is right for both of you.
Often when one member of a couple has a significant income or net worth, they want to protect it. If that person has children from a previous marriage, or others involved who stand to gain or lose out due to a contested divorce, a prenup may put those others at ease and help them to accept the marriage. How do you two interact with one another? Is this a marriage of deep love and commitment or one of convenience? Is this a trophy wife or husband or a partner whom you plan to spend the rest of your life with? These issues should be considered carefully. Even when the relationship is solid, many people get a prenup just in case. There is no shame in doing this. But you need to talk with your future partner to see how they feel. Do some soul searching, too. Research prenups online. If you are ready or want to find out more, do some research on attorneys in your area who handle prenuptial agreements and make an appointment. Make sure the attorney you choose is respectable and has a good reputation. Many times attorneys will give you one free session. See if you can come with your spouse-to-be and get all of your questions answered before deciding to move ahead. If you decide a prenuptial agreement is for you, stick with your decision. Don’t back out of it.
A new independent film documentary called Divorce Corp. has been released in 15 states this month, and many scenes in the film are shocking and disturbing audiences (Huffington Post). A blogger who criticizes a judge on his site sees the inside of a prison cell. Another man is put in contempt of court for comments he made on his Facebook page. Divorced couples with children are ordered to put their houses on the market. Attorneys make donations to judges reelection campaigns in order for things to go their way in court. We think because we live under the constitution that we are shielded from these kinds of rank corruption. But in fact it lives and breathes in American family courts. The film reminds many of what we already know that a divorce can be a long, painful and expensive process. But it goes beyond that. What is shocking is the wanton abuse that power judges exercise in these courts invading the relationships, family troubles, interactions with children, finances and even the couple’s ability to speak freely, whether on the internet or otherwise. Though there is an appeal process for some of these issues, appeals most often don’t succeed. When cases look like they can succeed, they are often dropped because they become too expensive to sustain.
Joseph Sorge is the creator of Divorce Corp. He’s a L.A. producer whose worked on the Oprah network. This is Sorge’s latest career change after finishing medical school and founding and selling a biotech company called Stratagene. The film cost him $2 million. He financed it himself. He was inspired to make the film after his own time in family court. He went through a divorce that ended reasonably well. He started to notice some weird happenings in his time there. Lawyers and judges seemed too cozy. Judges would allow lawyers to drone on and on for instance, increasing their bill. This film makes a strong argument for the revamping of the family court system in America. The film is moving and looks believable, though some could argue that Sorge picked the particularly worst cases. Most of the film is narration as things move along. The narrator is Dr. Drew Pinsky of Celebrity Rehab. One thing this film misses is exactly how to change family courts. Does it happen in the form of Congressional legislation? Or is it more a realm for the states to decide? How could deals between lawyers and judges be made repellent by both parties? Really the only way to see any real change is for public opinion and outrage to be behind it. Possibly a series of public advocates could be put into place to ensure fair proceedings and fair rulings. They could also be sure to keep judges and lawyers in check too. If you are interested in this issue, watch the film and learn how to get involved.
Although you’re probably paying your attorney big money to defend you in your divorce case, don’t assume that you are also paying for their respect or admiration by any means! Unless you were already friends or a close acquaintance with your attorney upon hiring him or her for your divorce, it isn’t likely that your legal counsel will have much personal commitment to your divorce case. Of course, the better the outcome for you is also a better outcome for your attorney because you are partners in a legal battle from a lawyer’s perspective, however, this is financial motivation to defend you, not personal.
If you show a lack of respect for your legal counsel by the way you communicate with them or a lack of respect for yourself during your divorce, it would be unwise to assume that respect will be given to you in return. This can be easily reflected in correspondences between your counsel and that of your ex by how much elaboration and effort is put into letters on your behalf. If your counsel is writing short letters that don’t seem to strengthen your case and consist of the bare minimum of what they are getting paid for, then they are showing a lack of personal involvement and therefore a lack of motivation in helping you prevail in your divorce.
Your legal counsel is rendering a service for you that is complex and this is why it’s so costly, however, if you don’t also show respect and appreciation for what your counsel is doing, the work they do for you will be less than optimal. Granted, many attorneys are passionate about what they do and only accept stellar work out of themselves, but if they have other clients who are showing them respect, you can bet that they are putting more into those cases than your own.
Attorneys are people, too, which might seem like an obvious statement, but if you empathize with your attorney as a human being who deserves respect and recognition, you will benefit greatly from what they will give you in return.
The back and forth conversations between divorce attorneys in a contested (disputed) divorce consist of language that is used to intimidate the opposing side in order to gain leverage or favor in the case. For instance, when a couple is disputing over who gets to keep the family home, an attorney will likely use language to make the adversary appear unworthy of getting the home as compared to his or her client. If the husband, for instance, left the family home upon separation, the wife’s attorney could use this fact against him in litigation by stating that he abandoned the family home and therefore it should belong to the wife. Another scenario would be, one spouse left the other with full responsibility of their children, then the attorney for that parent would suggest that the person taking care of the children should keep the marital home.
If an attorney is obviously getting backed into a corner without a good rebuttal, that attorney might decide to let the issue be brought before the judge to save him or her from any further attacks. This could occur if one party has a clean slate in the case with nothing to hide while the other party has a laundry list of issues. A legal team can only dig up so many non-issues to distract the court until they finally have to give in to the opposing side and hope that the judge shows some empathy for their side.
If you’re involved in a contested divorce and see that your adversary’s attorney has backed away by omitting to comment or “leaving it to the judge”, this is likely a positive sign for your side. Attorneys will use whatever tools they have at their disposal, so the lack of a rebuttal or defense is a clear sign of a lack of ammunition or support for their side.
After the divorce proceedings have gone on long enough, you might want to discuss striking up a bargain with your attorney. It’s possible that your ex-spouse is ready to throw in the towel and move on with life just as you would like to. In this scenario, you should discuss what bargaining options you have with your legal team. Perhaps you could offer a compromise that meets your ex halfway in his or her demands. Maybe you can create an option that offers something new, while not having to give up something you had been fighting over for some time.
It’s even more important to consider your bargaining options if things start to get messy with financial documents. It’s standard industry practice for lawyers to seek more and more discovery documents in the process of revealing your financial assets. Just when you think you’ve handed over everything the opposing wants, they’ll request even more from you. It’s at this point that you might want to strike a bargain, if you can. If you feel you have bargaining power, discuss your options with your attorney, and then make an offer. You should try to do this before revealing all of your discovery documents, so that there is less leverage for the opposing side to refuse your offer.
Keep in mind, however, that your attorneys may not want to strike a bargain, because this means that the divorce case could potentially come to a close sooner. The sooner it ends, the sooner their paycheck from you stops coming in. Although divorce lawyers are supposed to aim for a swift and peaceful divorce resolution, they are also business people who want to make money just like anyone else, so don’t be surprised if your attorneys are reluctant to create a deal with you. Try seeking legal advice outside of your divorce to gain more objective insight. Making a bargain with your ex-spouse and bringing the divorce to a swifter close could pay off for you in the long run.