Divorce, like all litigation, often moves at a frustratingly slow pace and costs the parties thousands of dollars in legal bills. Some of this cannot be avoided, however, there are certain mistakes that I see made over and over again, despite the fact that they are easily avoidable. Avoiding these common errors will help to minimize delay in the divorce process.
1. Service of Process – IT MUST BE IN PERSON.
In New York, a divorce summons must always be served in person. Mail, fax, email and other methods are not acceptable, absent special permission from the court. If the divorce summons is served improperly upon the defendant then the case is subject to dismissal.
2. Durational Residency Requirements
In order to plead a valid cause of action for divorce, a client must fulfill at least one of five possible “residency requirements.” The residency requirements are elements of a divorce action, which must not only be fulfilled by the plaintiff, but also pleaded in the complaint. Failure to meet the requirements, or even simply forgetting to specify that you have done so in your complaint, could result in the dismissal of your case, on the basis of failure to state a cause of action.
3. Failure to consider Uncontested Divorce
Part of the reason that divorces drag on for so long is contentious litigation over things like equitable distribution, maintenance, child custody, or child support. Many parties, however, do not have children or have few marital assets to divide. These parties should consider an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, all ancillary issues like child custody and equitable distribution are resolved beforehand in a settlement agreement. Because the court’s intervention is only required for the purpose of entering the divorce judgment, the divorce process is expedited and all parties save time and money.
4. Choosing to Proceed Pro Se
One of the worst aspects of getting a divorce is the legal fees that never seem to stop accumulating. In order to avoid legal fees, some litigants choose to represent themselves in the action – this is known as proceeding “pro se.” Although tempting, this decision is ill advised and shortsighted. The pro se litigant’s lack of experience and legal knowledge will delay the process and result in frequent errors. Moreover, in the long-term, proceeding pro se often results in even more financial loss to the litigant. Without adequate representation, it very likely that a party will not receive a favorable settlement. Years of paying maintenance that could have been avoided, or an unfavorable equitable distribution decision, can result in far more financial loss than hiring an attorney would have.
Divorce lawyers are notoriously expensive – many charge between $500.00 and $1,000 per hour. However, it is possible to find affordable and high quality legal representation. Here at Lehman Law Group we will provide you with quality representation without charging exorbitant legal fees. Please give us a call if you’d like to schedule a consultation.