My wife said that she needed counseling to work on issues between her and her parents. One month later she told me that she needed space and asked for us to separate for a while and asked me to move out. I did as she asked and now one month later she has spoken with an attorney and he has sent me a divorce draft.
1) When do I have to respond.
2) Since we have a child (17), she now has stopped talking to me with no indication of any prior problems. Will she be used against me?
3) Do I have the right to request Marriage Counseling prior to continuing with the divorce?
4) Do I need to have an attorney review the documents before I respond?
5) How much is all this going to cost on average?
Your situation is a common scenario in which husbands, in attempting to be accommodating, find themselves having to catch-up to the wife’s planned approach to a divorce. The family situation may have warranted some time apart, but men should consult with an attorney prior to removing themselves from the home to assess what issues may arise and what protections may be employed in doing so. Preservation of financial records, protection of irreplaceable property, and maintaining involvement with children are some of the concerns that arise is such trial separations.
You are under no obligation to respond to any draft or proposed divorce documents. Until you are served with a filed divorce petition, there are no procedural timelines in play. However, the draft or proposed divorce settlement may be an opportune time to negotiate the terms of the divorce before the court proceedings impose stricter timelines and the passage of time hardens attitudes or changes circumstances.
The opposing party in a divorce will use whatever information is available to press any advantage, such that your wife may use the deterioration of your relationship with your daughter “against you” in some manner. As your daughter is 17, and the issues of her custody and child support generally end at age 18, the situation should not be a significant legal issue in your case.
Marriage counseling, as a form of therapy or reconciliation, may be beyond the authority of the court in your State. Your wife’s separation strategy indicates she is resolved to a divorce. Even if the court could order counseling, your wife can simply refuse to participate in any meaningful manner making the process futile.
The initial divorce judgment or settlement is critical, as it will determine the property and support issues. Failure to address all issues and fully explore all options may result in a less than appropriate judgment that can not be corrected later. Without a review of your situation and any proposed settlement by a qualified attorney, you may agree to conditions that are not appropriate or forego rights of which you are unaware. Retaining counsel to review your situation does not presume a contested case. Her attorney should welcome you having your counsel review the proposal to avoid any issue of you not having been fully apprised as to what you may agree upon.
The costs of a divorce are entirely dependent upon the issues the parties need to explore. It is not possible, nor reasonable to expect, an estimate of the cost of a divorce before the issues are identified. Once your attorney is fully apprised of the issues, you can discuss what may be involved for each option presented by those issues. You can then decide which issue you wish to pursue and which items are not worth the time and expense. The costs of pursuing your issues will also depend on how much information and documentation can be produced without controversy or if subpoenas and depositions are required to obtain all the relevant information. Finally, settlement is going to be less expensive than a trial or hearing, as preparation and court time to resolve contested issues can be an extensive.