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Working With the Other Spouse

Reality has set in and you are now prepared to accept the fact that the marriage is over.  You have cried, complained, threw a few tantrums, and prayed but none of this has worked so far.  You are still living separate and apart.  You must come to terms with the fact that nothing will bring your spouse back.  It is time to wash away your tears, brush yourself off, and get on with the business of this divorce.   The relationship is over and stalling will only cost money.  You are now ready to formalize the separation, without spending all of the marital assets on legal fees.

You have a good rapport with your lawyer and have been advised to explore alternative dispute resolution.  In other words, you have weighed the cost of litigation against the certainty of settlement and you want to consider a settlement,  if possible.  Unfortunately, you are not looking forward to dealing with your “cheating spouse.”  The very idea of sitting in the room with the person who betrayed your trust is daunting.  You no longer hold your spouse in a position of trust.  Frankly, you have serious doubts about his or her motivations.  Yet, you are aware of the positive benefits associated with settlement and want to give it a try before concluding that court is the best option.

Working with the other spouse will require a minimal degree of trust.  If you do not have a working knowledge of the family assets, you can make a request for  bank statements, paystubs, retirement statements, etc., to verify the value of the marital estate.  You can make an informal request for these documents.  By looking for specific dates, date of acquisition, separation, etc., you can limit the scope of your informal discovery.  The goal is to obtain enough information about the value of the marital estate to make sure that you have an accurate snapshot of the family wealth.  Further, you want to make sure the other spouse has not removed or otherwise disposed of marital assets, without your knowledge or consent.  If the other spouse is represented by counsel, keep in mind that all lawyers are bound by a code of ethics mandating honesty and adherence to the law.  Therefore,  if you make a request, chances are the other spouse’s lawyer will comply with your request.

If your spouse is represented by an experienced family lawyer, rest assured that his or her lawyer is sharing the same pros and cons shared by your lawyer.  In other words, both sides should have an incentive to work together, based on the pluses and minuses on both sides of the case.  Although your trust in your spouse may be low, trust the process and the skill of your lawyer to implement the necessary safeguards to protect your interest.

Finally, the scope of this blog is limited to traditional family law issues.  This discussion offers no information on unique family law issues, such as child and spousal abuse, molestation, kidnapping, etc.  These issues by definition are of a special nature and may require third-party intervention by entities, such as law enforcement, child protective services, etc.