If you plan on charging that joint marital assets were squandered on a mistress, drugs or gambling, you can most likely get some of that money back, but you need proof of what was spent. More reason to dig through the trash, credit card bills and shared computer. By the way, if you find out about an affair and then resume a relationship with your husband -- go on vacation or even have marital relations -- you can no longer hold the affair against him in court. So if it's over, make sure it's over!
Hire a Lawyer Who'll Work With You
This may seem like an obvious one, but women often go from letting a man at home dictate their lives to letting a lawyer do the same, says Rubin. "You need to educate yourself about your rights, so you can direct the lawyer. The lawyer is going to walk away, he'll be paid and you'll never see him again. Meanwhile, you have to live with his decisions forever."
Rubin shares how, during her divorce 15 years ago, her lawyer routinely made decisions without consulting her, and even went so far as to tell her that she didn't "need" a car when she requested one of the family automobiles. "I should have known from the beginning that he was talking down to me," she says. "The way your lawyer talks to you is a big deal."
It's better to fire a lawyer you feel uncomfortable with sooner rather than later, says Rubin, because after a while, he or she will be too entrenched in your case. "If you are always being forced into a corner and constantly giving in to the other side, that is a bad sign."
Face Today's Tough Economy
The economic downturn has made divorce more complex than ever. Because a couple's largest asset is often their home, and most homes have lost some if not all of their value, selling a home and splitting the sale 50-50 is less attractive than ever. The situation is so bad, says Nancy Chemtob, a New York City divorce lawyer with celebrity and billionaire clients, that many couples are putting off divorce until their financial situation improves. This way, homes and stock options don't have to be sold and split with neither party making a dime.
"They might agree to stay together until the fair market value of the house is X amount of dollars," says Chemtob. However, since 2008 tax returns are used for a divorce filed in 2009, some parties might decide to take their chances and "cash out" of the marriage before things get even worse. One may hope for a lower than usual valuation on assets, so that they can buy out the other party at a discount.
Consider Legal Alternatives
Divorce can be acrimonious, but for those couples that are amicably going their separate ways, or maybe just want to avoid the trauma of a courtroom, something called Collaborative Law, a fairly new process offered as an option in most states, may be the way to go. "At the end of the day, it can be a better outcome because both parties arrive at a solution, rather than leaving it to someone in a black robe," says McCormack, who says about 10% of her clients decide to use the collaborative method. It can also be much less expensive and less taxing on children.