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Divorce Options: Did you know that there are different ways to divorce?
The divorce of your nightmares does not have to happen.

  • If you and your spouse want to make your own decisions regarding the future of your children rather than leaving those decisions up to a judge or a court mediator, you do have options.
  • If you and your spouse want to avoid going to court at all, you do have options.
  • If you and your spouse want to keep your personal lives and your financial lives private and not part of the public record, you do have options.
  • If you and your spouse want to end your marital relationship while preserving the best parts of your relationship as parents and people you do have options.
  • Two options exist which are attorney-involved but avoid litigation:
  1. Collaborative Divorce and
  2. Private Mediation

Collaborative Divorce: In a collaborative divorce, a team involving a neutral financial professional, a specialist for the children (if required), two attorneys and divorce "coaches" (specially trained mental health professionals) work with the parties to help them design their future as a divorced couple. For more detailed information regarding the collaborative process, please review the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals' website. Ms. Guiliani will discuss the costs involved in her consultation with you. The basic principle in collaborative is the agreement of the parties and team members that they will not go to court. Almost no documents are filed in court so there is a minimal public record and your privacy is protected as well.

Private Mediation: In private mediation, the attorney acts solely as a mediator to assist the parties reach resolution of the issues involved in divorce. Consequently, the attorney does not (and cannot subsequently) represent either party. Mediation can take many forms and can involve the use of outside attorneys and other professionals to assist in resolution of all issues outside of court. The parties sometimes reach agreement on almost all issues through mediation and need to go to court on a single issue--for example, child visitation or spousal support. If mediation is something that you might be interested in, it is important for both parties to meet with Ms. Guiliani at the initial consultation so there is no feeling on the part of either party that there is any bias.

Annulment and Legal Separation: Annulment is the legal process after which the marriage is deemed to be void or voidable. There are very specific statutory grounds for annulment and, quite frankly, there are not that easy to obtain. Even if a marriage is annulled, some rights may still exist for the partner. A legal consultation is necessary to explore whether this is an option.

Legal separation is the process after which the parties remain married but property is still divided and support can be ordered. A judgment of legal separation can ensue without a judgment of dissolution. Legal separation is generally pursued when the parties do not wish to divorce, but do wish to define their legal partnership differently--either for religious or philosophical reasons or to attempt to protect existing benefits.

Custody and Visitation of Minor Children: Joint custody does not necessarily mean sharing the children on a "50/50" basis. Custody determinations revolve around making decsions regarding the health, education and welfare of the children in addition to determining how (and if) the children's time will be spent with both parents. The term "visitation" is an unfortunate one; what it actually means is time spent with the parent with whom the child does not live the majority of the time. Of course, schedules can be established where the children are shared on a relatively equal basis. Many factors are involved in the custodial decision. Factors most directly affecting a joint custody award are a history of domestic violence or substance abuse.
(New laws allow orders regarding the sharing of pets also.)

Child and Spousal Support: The law requires that both parents provide support for minor children (under 18 and full time high school students) to the extent of their ability. There is a statewide formula for determining child support--called "guideline" support. The attorney can advise you concerning guideline support factors and variables.

Spousal support is not treated in the same way as child support. The guideline formula can be used to determine temporary spousal support only. The duration and amount of spousal support that is set with a dissolution judgment is determined by the consideration of a long list of factors. Marriages in excess of ten years are considered to be long-term marriages and spousal support may be ordered as long as the need for support can be established. The law does state, however, that the expectation is that the supported spouse will become self-supporting within a reasonable period of time--usually half the length of the marriage. Spousal support orders are among the most litigated issues in a dissolution of marriage case.

Prenuptial Agreements (Premarital Agreements): Having an agreement regarding finances and property before marriage can greatly simplify the parting if the marriage does not work out. There are very specific statutory requirements for an effective agreement, however, and the cost of preparation of the agreement depends on the number of issues and assets that need to be addressed, so attorney involvement is important.

Guardianships: The guardianship process is actually very complicated--what appear to be a pound of documents need to be prepared. Guardianships are also subject to challenge. Ms. Guiliani has considerable experience in guardianship litigation as well as in uncontested guardianships.

Domestic Violence: Because this is a factor in child custody and spousal support, a domestic violence conviction can have far-reaching effects of which many attorneys who only handle criminal cases are not aware. Whether you are accused of domestic violence or are the victim violence, a consultation with Ms. Guiliani will educate you as to what your rights (and your children's rights) are and what orders can be obtained in a domestic violence case.

Restraining Orders: Domestic violence restraining orders are often a consequence of a criminal complaint, but can be pursued even if there is no criminal complaint. If there is a criminal complaint, such orders can take the form of criminal protective orders or emergency protective orders. Orders can also be issued by family court judges. None of these orders issues automatically without the involvement of a judge. An attorney consultation can help explain how to obtain these orders if you think you need one or how to defend against them if you have been falsely accused of domestic violence.

Property Division: What is marital property? What is separate property? How does inheritance or gift property get treated? If one party used their own money or money from their parents to by a house, is that money lost in a divorce? What happens if there is nothing left but debt?

Property (and debt) division in the context of a marital dissolution is sometimes not as straightforward as it would seem. Consultation with an attorney can relieve some of your concerns, warn you of pitfalls and even save you thousands of dollars by recommending a course of action before any papers are filed.

Stepparent Adoption: There are statutory qualifications before a stepparent adoption can proceed. If those requirements are met, the biological parent must either consent or be notified of the potential adoption and have the opportunity to appear in court and contest the adoption. Problems can also arise with regard to the appropriate jurisdiction where there is a previous order involving the child(ren) in question. Even if you do not have the funds to retain an attorney to handle the adoption, a consultation will help you through some of the more difficult issues.

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