The High Income Earner’s Ultimate Guide To Surviving Divorce: Part III
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If you missed part I and II to this guide, please check it out at The High Income Earner’s Ultimate Guide To Surviving Divorce: Part I and Part II
Step IX: It Begins.
This stage marks an additional barometer for the divorce proceedings.
Your spouse has likely retained his or her counsel by now.
The type of lawyer that is representing your spouse can also play a factor of how contentious the divorce will be.
If you are lucky, opposing counsel will serve as a balance and a voice of reason to your spouse if indeed he or she has gone into full nuclear meltdown mode.
Of course they are going to represent the client to the best of their ability and get the maximum amount possible, but they can also quash any vindictive type desires as, through experience, they know that this is a futile endeavor.
Then there is the possibility that you get an unscrupulous lawyer who perceives you as one with deep pockets as a physician or other high income earner.
This type of lawyer encourages your spouse to make this as highly contested a divorce case as possible.
Almost any point of fact will be disagreed upon and they will inflate numbers to create their case.
An unscrupulous lawyer and a vindictive spouse is by far the worst combination you can encounter when you play the divorce game. (Guess which combination I got?)
[Example: At one point my ex-wife and lawyer submitted to the court that the home furnishings that would go to me was worth $300k.
I had to furnish pictures and material to the court stating this was overinflated and the court assessed the value at around $25k]
Again it is the luck of the draw of which type of lawyer you will be dealing with.
Step X: Mediation.
It is common practice for the courts to order both parties to attempt mediation prior to pleading before the court.
The hope is that the easier cases can be settled with very little court time required and has an added benefit of decreasing overall legal fees assessed to both parties.
Typically there is a neutral person, the mediator, who facilitates discussions and negotiations between the two parties.
Besides being a much less expensive process than going through the court system, another added benefit is that the mediation proceedings are kept private (while court proceedings are typically accessible by the general public).
If you can come to an agreement through mediation, it is in the best interest of everyone to do so.
If both parties are reasonable, all the details of the divorce can be essentially completed including division of assets, parental time with kids, custody, etc in one setting and the proposed agreement will be sent to the judge to sign.
However if you have the bad luck of the draw (aka Xrayvsn), there will be no appeasing your spouse and his or her lawyer and this was just another expense and waste of time you have to endure (the mediator will get paid regardless of whether there is an agreement or not).
Step XI: Opposing Counsel Interaction.
Prior to the actual divorce hearing, be prepared to undergo a deposition performed by the opposing counsel (of course your own counsel will also have the ability to depose your spouse).
Your own lawyer will, and should, accompany you to this meeting which can last over an hour or so.
There are many times my lawyer would interrupt the line of questioning citing some legal defense.
Without him present I would have likely answered it all without a blink of an eye.
There are several tactics I have heard employed by lawyers to gain information that they hope they can use to their advantage later.
Some lawyers will take the “I’m your best buddy” approach and ask you questions more along the lines of a conversation rather than a grilling.
Others can be more intimidating and press hard on information hoping to trip you up.
These depositions are typically recorded (audio or video) and can be used at the actual court hearing against you if you say something contradictory.
My advice is to always tell the truth no matter what is being asked.
You are sworn under oath at the beginning of the deposition and everything you say can be used as evidence later on against you if you say something contradictory in court.
It is much easier to remember the truth during the court proceedings than trying to recount some web of lies told earlier. [This was evident when my lawyer trapped my ex wife multiple times in the subsequent lawsuit she filed against me as she often contradicted herself while under oath. I believe it was the primary factor why the jury awarded her no money.]
When being questioned by opposing counsel whether in a deposition or in court, it is important to pause before you begin speaking and analyze the question being asked.
In the back of my mind I always was thinking what is the ulterior motive of this lawyer asking this particular line of questioning?
Try to curb your instinct to keep talking after the question was answered appropriately.
If the question asks for a simple yes or no answer, by all means that is all you should provide.
A trick I noticed was that sometimes her lawyer would have some lengthy pauses between questioning.
There is no reason for you to break the ice in these situations.
Just wait quietly for the line of questioning to resume.
If you are a busy professional such as a physician, the court will often limit the number of depositions you are forced to undergo.
My lawyer often mentioned that with regards to deposing me, he was only going to allow her “one bite at the apple” as I was an incredibly busy physician.
Step XI: Arm Yourself.
If you are unlucky like me, you will find yourself in a literal war with an unscrupulous opposing counsel and a very vindictive spouse.
It may become a necessity to have expert witnesses testify on your behalf under these extremely unfortunate circumstances.
Both parties in my divorce ended up getting expert witnesses in the field of psychology.
This is an expensive process and cost me around $7,000 to hire just one to go over the details and then show up to court to testify on my behalf.
These expert witnesses tend to be paid guns and appear to support which side the bread is buttered on.
I am positive if I hired my ex-wife’s expert witness he would have flipped the script and supported my side instead.
It is really a market ripe for unscrupulous practitioners to make bank and most lawyers have a list of these expert witnesses that support anything as long as the check clears.
The one thing you do not want to face is your opposition bringing in an expert witness while you try to be frugal and do without one.
I advise taking a reactionary stance and respond in kind by hiring an expert witness once you know the other side has one.
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