The Anatomy of a Complex Family Law Case
A seasoned attorney can tell the complexity of your case after a short conversation, yet many times clients are surprised to learn that they are in for a long fight. If two or more of these factors exist in your potential divorce, understand going in that the complexities of your case can be expensive to resolve.
You or Your Spouse is Self-Employed
Beware if either you or your spouse is self-employed. The nature of self-employment can bring into question whether income or assets are being accurately reported. It’s not uncommon for a business owner to set their own salary, make personal expenditures out of a business account, or skirt the line regarding deductible expenses. A careful analysis of business accounts is needed to validate information about a self-employed spouse’s income and there is typically push back from the spouse in obtaining this information.
Business valuations can also be a source of contention. If the business was started during the marriage with marital funds, at a minimum a portion of it should be considered as part of the marital estate. However, I can count on one hand the number of clients I’ve had who would openly state the value of their business and even those clients undervalued their business. For a dependent spouse, the cost of appraising a business can be prohibitive and is often bypassed.
If you or your spouse is an entrepreneur, be prepared to incur significant attorney fees if you’re not able to resolve your matter via settlement.
There is Significant Credit Card Debt
When a couple has significant credit card debt and one spouse is not aware of how the debt was used, it’s a recipe for conflict. Frequently credit cards are in the name of one spouse and the first time the other spouse learns of the debt is during the divorce. Inevitably, the cardholder claims that the expenses on the card were used on things like household items, on items and activities for the children, and on medical bills. The problem is it’s difficult to tell whether a bunch of Amazon charges on a card statement from 4 years ago was for the benefit of the marriage.
If you have significant debt and can’t come to a resolution on how to divide it, expect a long expensive road to resolution.
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Infidelity: Actual or Suspected
When an affair is a driving factor in a divorce or separation, emotions run high and trust is low. Low trust and high emotions are a recipe for failed negotiations; the offending spouse either doesn’t trust offers from their spouse or emotions run too high to consider fair offers. In many custody cases, understanding that your significant other can still be a fit and proper parent despite having an affair is a tough pill to swallow. Compartmentalizing emotions is key to resolving divorce related issues and hiring an attorney can provide a much needed objective opinion.
We frequently deal with child abuse cases in our practice and the issues are numerous. Emotions and trust are big factors in divorce and custody cases in which child abuse is confirmed or suspected. Cases in which child abuse is suspected but not confirmed can be extremely difficult to reconcile. Typically you have one parent who is convinced their child has been abused by the other parent, however the local Department of Social Services and/or mental health professionals have not confirmed the suspected abuse. This often leads to a deadlock, where one parent is adamantly against visitation by the other parent in any form and everyone else involved believes visitation is appropriate. These cases very rarely are resolved outside of trial.
You Don’t Have Access to Financial Accounts
If you are a dependent spouse or don’t manage your family’s financial affairs, you may find yourself in the dark with regards to the amount and location of marital assets. Once a lawsuit is filed many financial documents can be obtained, but if the other party is not cooperative getting documents can be a long an arduous process. If you don’t have a clear picture of martial assets it is not advisable to settle any support and property distribution claims.
Retirement assets are often some of the most valuable assets in a marriage. However, pensions often require a professional evaluation in order to determine their true value. If you’re attempting to settle your case without knowing the true value of your spouse’s pension it’s a risky proposition.
If any of these scenarios apply to your divorce, be prepared for the long haul. While some cases with one or more of these factors are resolvable out of court, these are frequently the types of cases that require litigation to obtain information necessary to make an informed decision.
Our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to help resolve your situation. You can rest assured knowing you’re working with attorneys who’ve dealt with situations similar to yours and who’ll be honest and upfront about what to expect legally, emotionally, and financially. We are upfront about your fees which will allow you to budget and know what you’re getting into. Contact us today to get started.
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