Q: How long will my case take? – It is impossible for us to predict how long any case will take. The law prescribes certain time requirements in divorce cases. Some require us to wait to do certain things until the other side has been given a set amount of time; such as, we need to wait 20 days after serving your spouse with the Summons to take any further action. Some require us to do a task within a set amount of time; such as, we have 60 days to submit your divorce papers after you and your spouse sign a Settlement Agreement. Also, you will need to fill out paperwork like your Statement of Net Worth and provide us written documentation of some of your assets and debts. That takes our clients varying amounts of time to do. If your case goes to court, we may end up at the mercy of the Court’s calendar and the schedule of opposing counsel. While there are some steps we can take to slow down or speed up a case, due to the time requirements under the law, the court’s calendar, and our need to receive paperwork from you, the amount of time any case takes is unpredictable. By promptly responding to our requests to fill out paperwork or provide documentation, you can help move your case along.
Q: How much will my case cost? – At Wesley Clark & Bates, we try to set our retainer agreements at a sum that is reasonable based on what you tell us about your case. However, a retainer agreement is by no means a guarantee that your case will cost that much, and sometimes unforeseen circumstances arise. Many cases cost more than the initial retainer and many cases cost less, resulting in the client receiving a refund. Some things you can do to keep your costs down are to call the receptionist with questions such as when your court date is, to schedule appointments, or to arrange dropping off or picking up documents. Emails are typically a large portion of our clients’ invoices so try to keep emails to your attorney relevant and to a minimum. Also, fill out your Statement of Net Worth as completely and accurately as possible before turning in your draft to us and promptly provide us complete copies of any documents we request.
Q: What is a Statement of Net Worth? – The Statement of Net Worth is perhaps the most important document in your divorce case. It is a long and detailed form wherein you must list some basic information about yourself and your family, list all of your monthly expenses in detail, disclose your income and list detailed information about all of your assets (things you own or have) and all of your liabilities (things you owe). This form is a NYS form and must be filled out by both parties in every contested divorce case. The forms must then be filed with the Court and exchanged between the parties. The form is what allow us, as attorneys, to begin to negotiate on your behalf, to know what needs to be included in a Settlement Agreement or prepare for a trial when a trial is necessary.
Q: What is the difference between litigation, collaborative law, and mediation? – Litigation is what you think of when you think of getting divorced and going to court. However, litigation is not what it used to be now that the majority of divorce cases are filed on “no-fault” grounds. Litigation means that your lawyer can and will involve a Judge if necessary, which may be as simple as a conference with a Judge or may be as complex as a trial. Many litigation cases settle outside of court. Collaborative law is when both sides hire attorneys who are trained in collaborative law and everyone signs an agreement not to take the case to court and, instead, to resolve the issues in a series of meetings together. Mediation is not offered by most family law firms but at Wesley Clark & Bates we currently have two attorney mediators. Attorney mediators are different than regular mediators you may hear about in our community because attorney mediators have a legal education and courtroom experience. If you choose mediation, there will be only one professional involved in your case and that person will work together with you and your spouse to craft a custom settlement that does not involve going to court.
Q: What is an AFC? – An AFC is an Attorney for the Children, which used to be called a “law guardian”. The term “law guardian” is no longer used because the courts felt it was confusing and led parents to believe that the individual was to look after the best interests of the children during a divorce or family law case. An Attorney for the Children is assigned by the court in any contested case where custody is at issue. An Attorney for the Children must meet with the children and will take a position regarding custody based on what the children say they want, not based on what the Attorney for the Children believes might be in the children’s bests interests. Depending on your family’s income, the Attorney for the Children will either be paid for by NYS or by you and your spouse.
Q: If my spouse and I sign a Settlement Agreement, am I divorced? – A Settlement Agreement does not divorce you. It is a contract that is signed by you and your spouse wherein you agree to what all the terms of your divorce will be. You can think of it as a road-map for how you will live your lives after you are divorced, as it relates to each other and your children. Once a Settlement Agreement is signed, one of the attorneys must draft and submit a large packet of forms called the “Judgment Roll”. Those papers are reviewed and signed off on by the Judge. One of the papers in the Judgment Roll is called a “Judgment of Divorce”. The Judgment of Divorce is the document that, once signed by a Judge and filed with the County Clerk, officially divorces you. If you do not sign a Settlement Agreement, a Judge will determine the terms of your divorce after a trial.
Q: Will my ex have to pay my attorney fees? – The law provides certain grounds wherein a spouse must contribute to their spouse’s attorney fees. Most often, it is when the parties have a large disparity in their incomes. Sometimes, if it is found that one spouse has acted frivolously in the litigation such as unreasonably withholding documents, purposefully delaying the matter, or violating a previous court Order or written Agreement, the Court will award attorney fees. No matter what the situation, you are required to pay your retainer fees and any overage fees in full. Any contributions towards attorney fees that are negotiated or ordered by the Court will be applied to your balance and any refunds will then be given to you.
Q: What other legal matters can WC&B help me with? – At Wesley Clark & Bates, all our attorneys practice primarily in family and matrimonial law. We come from diverse legal backgrounds with extensive litigation practice and have experience in many areas of the law. We commonly help clients with matters that tend to go hand-in-hand with their divorce case such as buying or selling their home and establishing or revising their estate planning documents such as a will, health care proxy, and power of attorney.