What is the first thing a woman should do if her husband leaves and states he wants a divorce?
Get all her “ducks in a row.” Obtain copies of all financial statements and bank accounts that she can locate. Try and find copies of loan applications, escrow instructions, bank documents, retirement accounts etc… Look through the home office desk, file cabinets and the garage. The more information you have, the better to arm yourself during the process (and the less likely he will be able to hide assets).
What should a woman consider when choosing a divorce attorney?
Divorce is one of the most difficult life events a person will go through. Women are more emotional by nature and often have a hard time with putting aside the emotional aspect of the divorce and focusing on ‘division of assets.’ I find for women especially it is very important to find an attorney you feel comfortable with, on an emotional as well as an intellectual level, and who reflects your morals and character.
What is collaborative law and how is it different from mediation?
Collaborative law is a voluntary process divorcing couples can chose in which the couple signs a contract (“participation agreement”) binding each other to the collaborative process; essentially, agreeing to stay out of court. The parties and the attorneys solely focus on working together to reach a global agreement without resorting to litigation. If the process is unsuccessful your attorney cannot represent you in litigation.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties (with or without attorneys) meet with a mediator in an effort to try and resolve one or more issues. It is completely voluntary, but unlike collaborative law, litigation can be on-going during the mediation process. Parties can mediate just one issue, custody for example, or try and resolve all issues through mediation. Parties can have an attorney present if they wish.
How do you handle couples that are involved in a high-conflict divorce?
I often suggest my client attend counseling to address the emotional aspects of a high conflict divorce. I try, as much as possible, to de-escalate ‘divorce wars’ as, in the end, neither party ‘wins’ (and if there are children it can be extremely emotionally destructive). The best approach is to try and always be civil to the other attorney and try and not personalize your client’s issues. One can, almost always, zealously advocate for one’s client without becoming a nasty attack dog, whose sole focus is just to hurt the other party. Unfortunately there are always cases where you have to lower yourself to the street fighter or your client will be taken advantage of.
What would you say to a woman that was insisting on having her day in court?
It depends on the likelihood of success. I try to be brutally honest with my clients and explain to them the strengths and weaknesses of all their positions. Most people don’t want to spend the time, money and energy pursuing a losing position; but of course sometimes one or both parties need to hear the judge make a ruling, and I understand that.
What advice would you give clients to get a divorce with the least possible conflict and pain for all of those involved?
Be honest, realistic and keep the lines of communication open. I am a big proponent of mediation if both parties are open to it.
Under what circumstances would a judge grant sole physical and legal custody to a parent?
Rarely. Abuse and drug use are the only times I have seen a court grant one party sole custody over the other parent’s objection.
If a woman’s husband and his attorney is lying about her or their marital property to the courts, what should she do?
Prove it (if it is material). Unfortunately people lie in divorce cases all the time. Declarations filed in divorce cases are filled with hearsay, character assassinations and vitriolic hyperbole. People also have to learn to let things go; if he says in his declaration regarding custody that mom is a bad cook and a slob, this isn’t going to affect the custody ruling — focus on what matters. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” should be a mantra when getting a divorce. Of course, if one side is hiding assets or lying about a material and significant matter, then this needs to be addressed early on. The discovery process is an important tool in an attorney’s arsenal and, when used correctly, can change the course of a case dramatically.
How often do you see cases of Manimony?
Maybe about 10% of cases.
What advice would you give a woman regarding social media and texting during the divorce process?
DON’T SAY ANYTHING NASTY ABOUT YOUR EX ON SOCIAL MEDIA!!!! It can really hurt a parent in a custody case. As for texts and emails, they can be very useful tools for confirming an agreement, letting the other party know you are running late for a custody exchange, or that Junior is sick. But they can also be detrimental and harmful. I advise all my clients to picture the judge sitting on their shoulder every time they are drafting an email or text to their ex.
Is there any other advice you would like to give women who are just beginning the divorce process?
It is the death of a marriage, the death of the family unit; it will likely be painful and emotionally wrenching. You will get through it and you will come out stronger on the other end. Try to keep your integrity and don’t let your ex’s bitterness or anger drag you down.
Also, be a boy scout and BE PREPARED.
Finally, as much as I hate to say this, don’t expect your husband to do the right thing.
2033 North Main Street, Suite 430, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
Years in Practice: 11
Is there anything else that you would like potential clients to know about you?
I am a woman, a mother and an attorney, and as such I feel I am able provide both compassionate understanding along with advocacy. An attorney is a ‘counselor at law’ — this is particularly true for family law attorneys.