Next Steps in the Process
What to expect after you retain the Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., in connection with a dissolution:
- First and foremost, the dissolution process takes time. You should expect that the firm will move your case as quickly as possible within the constraints of the law and the judicial system; however, you should expect your divorce to be more like a long-distance run than a sprint.
- You should expect to work closely with your lawyer and the firm’s staff. Your case undoubtedly involves facts unique to you. It is imperative that you stay in touch with your attorney — timely respond to emails and phone calls and provide requested information and documentation in a timely fashion. This will allow the firm to best present your case and to ensure that we have all of the information to represent you to the best of our abilities.
- You should expect to have to produce significant financial information. At a minimum, you will need to produce pay stubs, bank statements, and several years of tax returns. If your matter is complex and involves numerous assets, stock options, equity compensation, investment accounts, real property, or any combination thereof, you will likely need to produce more financial information. Talk with your lawyer about the needs of your case and expect to make a plan to provide and update financial information throughout the pendency of your dissolution.
- You should also expect to have to complete financial forms and provide financial information to your spouse and his or her attorney. Once a dissolution is commenced, you will need to complete a Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure. The Firm will assist you with the disclosure process, but you will need to provide the pertinent information to the firm. This includes your current employment and income, a sworn statement of all assets and debts of the marriage and a preliminary statement as to value, all supporting documentation, a sworn statement of your actual living expenses, and other financial information and legal statements. This Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure is one of the very first tasks you will complete after you retain an attorney and file for divorce.
- After you either file and serve or are served with a summons and petition for dissolution, you will be bound by certain automatic temporary restraining orders. These orders preclude you and your spouse from accessing community funds, changing beneficiaries, moving or transferring funds, or otherwise altering community assets without the written consent of the other party or an order of the court, unless you need to access those funds for attorney fees and the necessities of life. Expect that financial accounts will be “frozen” and take no action to deplete, withdraw, transfer, or conceal any asset of your marriage, no matter how large or how small.
- It takes time and effort to be able to prepare a dissolution for trial and for meaningful settlement negotiations. Oftentimes, one or both parties will seek interim relief well before the case is ready for trial. Interim relief may be sought on attorney fees, custody, support pending trial, or other matters such as date of separation or the characterization of a particular asset. This relief is requested via a motion, otherwise called a “Request for Order.” You should expect to have to go to court on a motion — if not several motions — before you go to court on trial.
- If you have minor children, you will have to go to court-ordered mediation before the court will issue any orders regarding custody. If either you or your spouse wants temporary custody orders pending trial, a motion will need to be filed. The filing of that motion will trigger your obligation to go to mediation. You and your spouse will have the opportunity to try to agree upon a custody and visitation schedule that is in your children’s best interests. If you cannot agree, then the court will make orders.
- You should expect to enlist the assistance of experts in your dissolution. This is especially so if you have a sizeable marital estate, stock options, numerous investments, valuable realty or personal property, or if you had property before your marriage or were gifted or inherited property during your marriage, or if custody is disputed and you and your spouse cannot reach agreement. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your matter, you may need to retain certified public accountants, appraisers, licensed psychiatrists or family therapists, or other such experts. These experts can add additional cost above and beyond attorney fees. You should discuss the need for experts with your attorneys early on, and plan for these additional fees.
- While it may be difficult at times, you should endeavor to be patient. The Firm will diligently move your case forward; however, there are many moving parts to a dissolution and many players. Delays are often inevitable despite best efforts.
Here Is A List Of Helpful Tips:
- If your case involves urgent matters (i.e. domestic violence, custody, interim support) be sure to bring these matters to your attorney’s attention at the very first opportunity.
- You will need to provide the firm with several years’ tax returns and several months’ bank statements, among other financial documents. If you do not have access to these documents, advise your attorney early on so that they can be requested from your spouse and/or other appropriate avenues.
- Begin completing the financial forms you are provided with during your first meeting. While the firm will assist you in completing these documents, you can help control your fees and costs by working to compile this information on your own.
- Start making plans for how you will pay for your legal representation. Many clients borrow to cover the costs of dissolution.
- Be realistic and objective throughout the dissolution process. Divorce is not about winning and losing; it is about untangling your marital relationship.
- Lean on your friends and family for emotional support. See a therapist if you are so inclined. Trust that your lawyer will help you with the legal side of things, and take care of yourself.
Reliable Counsel For A Difficult Process
The Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., practices in divorce and family law in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara and all the Bay Area counties. Contact us online or call 415.834.1120 to schedule a confidential consultation.