Below is a Podcast Transcript of our episode on the subject of Frequently Asked Questions. You can also listen to it by clicking here.
I know when I majored in English during college and I thought about a career perhaps in journalism. We heard about who, what, when, where, why, how. Those were the important questions that essentially served to cover everything.
In divorce, it’s simplified. You already know who; your spouse, you already know where; the jurisdiction where you reside, that’s usually pretty simple. Sometimes it’s not, but usually it is. My clients, they provide the why, they know why they’re there. The questions for me as a divorce attorney, with my practice located here in Hunterdon County and serving central New Jersey, is a lot of when, how and what.
The what questions are pretty simple. What will this cost? What would it cost for my divorce attorney? What would it cost in terms of what I have to pay to my spouse? What will this cost in terms of how much time I have to give up with my children? The what questions dominate – these are the dominant questions in a divorce. Then the other major question I always hear is “when?” Invariably, this is the number one question. How long is this going to take? How long until I’m divorced?
Of course being a lawyer, I say, “Well, depends.” Then I say, “Normally, a divorce in New Jersey can take anywhere from a couple months up to a couple years.” I’d say for my practice, most cases last four to eight months on average.
The real general rule of thumb that I tell clients, or prospective clients is once you come to a settlement and you’ve got a drafted marital settlement agreement, you take that period plus about a month for the court to get you scheduled to finalize your divorce and that’s how long it takes to get divorced. How long it takes you and your spouse with or without the assistance of counsel to come to written agreement, plus about a month.
So, four to eight months on average to get a divorce, but it’s so personal and so fact-sensitive, all you can really do is attempt to move it forward quickly and efficiently. Our firm tries to be efficient. We aim to move the matter forward as quickly as possible, given the factors. There’s obviously factors outside of our control. The court system itself has timelines in place and scheduling, but mostly, it’s how long to take for you and your spouse with or without the assistance of attorneys to come to an agreement.
In terms of cost, again—me being a lawyer, it’s somewhat variable. Most divorce attorneys in New Jersey, almost all charge by the hour for certain ethical guidelines in place that make it hard for us to charge otherwise. We can’t do a contingency fee that you couldn’t bend and a personal injury case or something like that. It’s hourly cost. Then how many hours takes to get a divorce. I usually ask for a $5,000 retainer for most contested divorces and closer to $2,500 or $3,500 for uncontested. Then you bill against that retainer amount every month. If there’s money left over at the end, you’re refunded. If the matter hasn’t resolved at the time that the money has run through or almost run through, I have a discussion with my clients.
The important thing is as I tell clients unfortunately, we’re not building a deck, or doing something that we can map out how long it’s going to take and we’re going to have a finished product, a lot of it is going to come down to how long it takes people to come to terms of settlement. The more that they can do to work out those terms before they come to us or between themselves, that’s really only beneficial to them. The more you get into the discovery, or complex matters it really can take a lot of time.
Unfortunately, as efficient as we are it can also take a good deal of money to get through the divorce process, depending upon the case, the emotions of those involved, the personalities of those involved and the attorneys involved. Regarding general issues in a divorce, if you have children, it’s going to be what kind of parenting time can you agree upon? Who’s going to have custody? Will it be joined 50/50 custody?
We have some variation where one parent is the parent of primary residence and the other is alternate. Courts more and more are moving towards 50/50 parenting time and asking you to put the burden on you to explain why it shouldn’t be 50/50, if you’re seeking more than 50/50 parenting time.
Child support is calculated based upon a number of factors; most importantly, the number of overnights each parent has with the child or children. The income of the parents, alimony also comes down to the differential in your income, along with how long you’ve been married and there’s a number of factors that go into play to determine whether or not there’s an alimony obligation.
Another major issue they’ll be confronted in divorce is equitable distribution; everything from how you divide your cars, your house, your stock options, your pensions, down to how do you divide your debts, your credit card debts, everything that you’ve commingled, or earned, or get encumbered by during your marriage, you’ll have to now split in some fashion. Usually, it’s a 50/50 split, but not always. That’s something your divorce attorney will walk you through and determine what kinds of rights and responsibilities you have regarding not just alimony and child support, but also an equitable distribution.
Regarding what types of questions you should be prepared to be asked a divorce initial consultation, we’ll review basic things, like when you go to a doctor’s appointment, they ask for your address, your phone number, or just basic information and then we’ll get into more specific information to the divorce; your income history, your education, your employment, your spouse’s employment, any issues with your children, any issues with your health, any possible custody issues, any history of domestic violence, how much your property may be worth, your assets, your bank accounts, investment accounts, college costs, health insurance and life insurance issues. If you have a business, how do you value the business? You have profit sharing, how do you confront profit sharing and pensions?
The divorce consult generally takes about one and a half to two hours to get through depending upon the complexity of the case. We charge a flat rate of $250.00. During that divorce consult, we’ll figure out whether we’re a good fit for you, you’ll decide whether you’re a good fit for our firm. From there, we’ll drop a retainer agreement and start a formal attorney-client relationship, if that’s something both parties wish to proceed with.
Our firm is located in Raritan Township, Hunterdon County. Again, we serve all of Central New Jersey, especially Hunterdon County and Somerset County. If you’d like to check us out on the internet, our website is mynjdivorcelawyer.com. If you’d like to schedule a divorce consult, you can do so at that web address using our scheduling feature. If you’d like to call to setup a initial consult, you can call 908-237-3096. During the divorce consult, we can go through not just these questions, but all the questions pertaining to your divorce more specifically.
I hope this frequently-asked-questions feature is helpful. Thanks for listening. Take care.