By Robin Roshkind, Esquire – West Palm Beach, Florida
I often get this question at the initial consultation with a client. My answer does not depend upon whether the client believes the case will settle or go to trial. My answer depends upon the circumstances of the marriage and current relationship of the parties.
1. If the parties are still living under the same roof:
I advise my client to not say a word about divorce until he or she can photocopy as much evidence of the marriage as possible. This includes bank statements, credit card statements, tax returns, mortgages, deeds, loan applications, loan documents, promissory notes, car titles, income statements, pay stubs, health insurance policies, life insurance policies, medical bills, brokerage accounts, and any other documents to prove lifestyle of the marriage. Only after the client has set up in this manner would I advise a client to discuss divorce with a spouse. If the situation is amicable, that is, BOTH parties know the marriage has failed and just want to get on with life, then the discussion should be about a COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE. If, on the other hand, one party is hurt and angry, a spouse should protect himself or herself from a situation conducive to domestic violence. See a lawyer and get the divorce papers filed as soon as possible.
2. If the parties are already living separate and apart:
The husband and wife know that divorce is coming and that it is just a matter of time. In situations such as these, I advise clients to have us file the divorce papers and simply serve the other spouse without any tip offs. If a client has a conscience, and wishes to tell the other spouse “you will be served”, oftentimes the receiving spouse avoids service of process of the divorce papers just for spite. Without service of process, or an opposing lawyer accepting service, there can be no divorce.
A very important point to remember is that the filing date of the divorce papers is often used as a cut off date for marital assets and debts. Once the papers are filed in the courthouse, each party is responsible for himself or herself. Until then, you are married, and may share the marital debt.
For more information, see our Firm’s web site at www.familylawwpb.com or call Robin Roshkind, P.A. at 561-835-9091 for a consultation with one of our attorneys. The Firm services husbands and wives of Palm Beach County, Florida.