Why The Smarter Divorce Was Created
We have been handling no less than 500 divorces per year for well over a decade. I have been personally handing divorces for more than 20 years. As the largest divorce law firm on Long Island, we have noticed that a few specific needs of divorce litigants are not specifically met by traditional divorce, uncontested divorce, collaborative divorce, and mediation. In response to these needs, I created the seven-step process called The Smarter Divorce. I am certain this is the best way to handle most every divorce. The Smarter Divorce process provides our divorce clients with a linear seven-step program so they always know exactly where they are in the process by what step they are on. This is unique and it has made our firm very successful. It has been the system by which we have successfully resolved thousands and thousands of divorces. The Smarter Divorce is a process that will get a divorcing litigant through their divorce with the least amount of wasted time and expense, and with the very best results.
The needs of divorcing clients
The following list is an example of what we have been hearing from divorce litigants since the 1990s. These statements and concerns are universal:
- Almost everybody wants an uncontested divorce, but they have no idea what it really means.
- Almost everybody that wants an uncontested divorce ends up with a contested divorce and they do not understand why.
- Almost everybody wants "mediation" instead of divorce, though there is no real enforcement mechanism during mediation and most every case was not appropriate for mediation.
- Almost everybody wants to tell their story and feel like they have told their story to Almost everything that they have to say will never be used to resolve their divorce; it will only make it longer and more expensive. People do not have any concept of what needs to be presented to a court, so they end up presenting testimony and evidence that may not help them. Most everyone should refrain from testifying in court.
- Almost everybody believes that the court system and judge will take things into consideration that they really don't. People think the court knows far more about each case than it really does.
- Almost everybody feels a loss of control and a complete lack of information regarding almost everything involved in their divorce, whether it is their case, the law, the facts, or the process itself.
- Almost everybody wants to stay out of court, yet people don't realize that there are no time frames for out-of-court negotiations, nor is there necessarily an end to them. Cases have a beginning and end, but out of court matters have no beginning or end that is defined.
- Most importantly, not one single divorce litigant has ever felt like they know where they are in the process; the ones that believe they are fully aware of where they are…have no idea where they are.
The seven-step Process of The Smarter Divorce
“The Smarter Divorce” is based on a seven-step system that allows the client to make decisions that are more informed. It is a procedure with steps designed to give clients more information and more control of their matter, whether it resolves by settlement or trial.
1. Exchange of information. The client tells us what they really want, what they cannot give up, and the facts of the situation. At this stage, our clients disclose their finances to us and we review everything. We prepare a statement of our client’s net worth. We receive and exchange information with the adversary regarding the finances of the parties. We then tell the client exactly what the law is, and we give them information on how to focus themselves and their case. Profound focus is required in divorce.
2. Survey and assess. After information is exchanged, the lawyer makes a complete assessment of the case. The client’s case is compared to other cases in our firm, in the same county. Our firm has handled more cases than any other firm on Long Island. We have been handling more than 500 divorces successfully each year for more than twenty years. We have 10 full-time lawyers on staff at all time Our database of clients and cases is different than any other database. The courts and the court reporting books only report the extreme cases, the ones that are worthy of printing. Our database contains cases that were handled by local Judges, that didn't make it to the law books. These are everyday cases from everyday people with no special "wrinkles" that are handled by our firm. It is through this huge database and through our knowledge of the specific judges and the specific counties that we better able to assess the battlefield and/or the terms of any negotiations because we have handled more cases. More data equals more knowledge which equals better decisions. Mediators often are not even licensed; people who handle uncontested divorces have no idea what's being handed out in court; our assessment is best. Also, experts and forensics are discussed and hired here.
3. Conduct Settlement Meeting with Opponent. At this point, a settlement meeting is needed. Both sides should have knowledge of the case and their own agenda. At this time the case can be settled. If there's anything that is preventing settlement, it is an issue for court intervention.
4. Request a Judge. There is a form in New York State called a Request for Judicial Intervention. Many people are of the mistaken opinion that a judge is automatically assigned to each case. A judge may not be assigned to your case and/or know anything about your case unless and until you file this form. It is only when there are issues that cannot be resolved by the best intentions of the parties and the best efforts of both experienced divorce attorneys (an attorney for each party to explain the nuances of each settlement offer) that a judge is necessary. Experts will be appointed as well from the courts if there are issues such as: the valuation of a business or the use of a professional to determine who is a better parent; any issues regarding custody, parenting, and the divorce itself which need an evaluation as to an item, business, or property price, or value to a forensic psychologist for the emotional needs of any of the parties; if there are drugs or alcohol or mental illness involved; and/or if the parties cannot relate and communicate. Know that the only reason judicial intervention is ever necessary is if the parties cannot agree. If the parties have agreed in theory to anything, they can agree to an expert to evaluate the business or a forensic psychiatrist/psychologist. They can also agree to be bound by the recommendations. Nothing is immediately enforceable in private agreements as opposed to an active divorce case. The case has already been started, so at this point if a Judge is requested, the Judge will direct the litigants and the attorneys towards experts and the course of litigation. The attorney at the first meeting will take the temperature of the judge and the name and identity of the judge to be assigned, is a true mystery until that first meeting. Know that there are only a handful of the matrimonial judges in each At any given time, we have 12 active cases to a judge in our surrounding counties.
5. Reassess the Case Based on the Settlement Meeting. Now that the facts and law are known, and the judge is known, the case is reassessed for settlement or trial. It is at this stage that the client formulates their take-it-or-leave-it strategy based on the information we have received at the next settlement meeting, and they should leave that meeting with their case settled.
6. Attend Second Settlement Meeting. At this point, cases go into a holding pattern. Lawyers tell the court, "I think we can settle," and the parties keep thinking, "I think we can settle," but reality is writing a big check. Each day that passes, the divorce gets more expensive, and the line in the sand becomes greater. Why meet two, three, or four times? Adults are adults, and the numbers are in front of us. With the direction of a judge and two experienced divorce attorneys, if the parties cannot agree to settle, they should each fully realize the cost of litigation and then take that into consideration together with the uncertainty of the They should revisit the settlement right then and there and leave that meeting with a full and final agreement.
7. Proceed to Court with Settlement or for Trial. Whether you settle your case or go to trial, the final papers must be signed by a The judge that was selected during the process (step four) is the judge that will most likely sign the final divorce judgment. If the parties have settled, they can attend a final court appearance and make statements on the record as they have their papers "so ordered" by the Judge., but that is never advisable. The case should settle, and the attorneys should present the papers without the parties’ appearance. When a judge signs a divorce or a settlement, it becomes a fully enforceable court order.
If you can’t settle your divorce by step six, you know the next step is trial. It is here that the clients have to make the decision. If we’re in the courthouse at trial, something has gone wrong, and one of the two parties is not comprehending the facts and the law, or otherwise doesn’t care. In either event, this needs to be addressed at each step, and if the case does not settle by step six, it should proceed to trial. The seven steps listed above are the most cost-effective and efficient way to handle divorce in New York State. By step seven, you are either filing your settlement papers, or you are proceeding toward trial. Proceeding toward trial is a very lengthy and expensive process.For over 20 years, I have found it very sad that nobody truly understands what an uncontested divorce is, what mediation is, or what the steps of the divorce process are. With this seven-step process, the clients will know exactly what step they are on. The Smarter Divorce is the result of thousands of clients who all expressed the same concerns regarding the law and the process of divorce. We have developed The Smarter Divorce in order to provide our client with a linear time line, broken up into separate steps so they always know where they are in the process. Only our clients will know where they are at any given time. Our clients know where they are throughout the process. There are seven steps, and our clients know what steps they are on, at any given time.We have forms in our lobby, and we ask clients to check why they are seeking our services. More than half of all the clients who have a highly complex case came in originally for an uncontested divorce. A huge percentage of all divorce litigants start their case with misconceptions and false beliefs. Our firm and “The Smarter Divorce” process provides the information and detailed seven-step process to handle most all divorce cases, no matter how large or small.Without the seven steps of “The Smarter Divorce” process, the client’s case languishes without any real progression toward settlement or court. Clients don’t understand that Judges are not assigned until someone asks for a judge and that a case can linger for years without a Judge.Clients also do not understand that not only is a judge not assigned to the case until requested, but their case may never be aired in public. Clients often want to “tell their story”. This need has caused untold fortunes to be transferred to attorneys for no reason. Almost every divorce settles without the judge ever hearing one word of the client’s story. The law does not provide a universal, easy-to-understand breakdown of the steps needed to get a divorce in New York. There is not a procedure or a timeline for divorce that involves these steps. This was created by me for me, and it has made my firm very successful. I own the largest law firm in Long Island that handles only divorce and Family Law. I developed The Smarter Divorce.
This is how we settle divorces. These are the steps we take. These are the steps that should be taken. The seven-step Smarter Divorce works.