Divorce lawyer to the stars Laura Wasser has a new book out with practical tips for people who are trying to disentangle themselves from their spouses.
Wasser — who has represented Kim Kardashian, Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears, and Ashton Kutcher — offers her advice in a a book called "It Doesn't Have To Be That Way: How To Divorce Without Destroying Your Family or Bankrupting Yourself."
We culled Wasser's book for her wisest tips:
1) Tell Your Spouse It's Over In A Thoughtful And Loving Way
The way you say that it's over will set the tone for your divorce proceedings. Wasser gives a pretty great example of how not break up with your spouse. One of her clients answered her door on Valentine's Day to find a delivery man holding a box of dead, long-stemmed roses. A court summons was speared into a thorn.
Instead of that tactic, Wasser writes that you should try saying something along these lines: "I want us to do this the right way. You are the father/mother of my children, and I will always care for you. You have been my lover, my best friend, and my support. You know me better than anyone, and I would like to preserve some part of our history and good feelings for each other."
2) Get A Good Therapist
People going through divorce need an objective person who can help them deal with the trauma of their splitting up. "Just about every therapist or counselor or social worker is practiced in dealing with people going through failing relationships, ending them, and confronting issues of custody and support," Wasser writes.
3) And An Excellent Lawyer
You don't necessarily need a "Pitbull" lawyer these days, since all U.S. states have adopted "no-fault divorces" which don't require the court to find one party in the divorce guilty of wrongdoing. Here's what you do need, according to Wasser: "A problem-solver, an advocate, an expert advisor on the law and on your rights and responsibilities, a strategist, a negotiator, and a litigator."
Try asking other professional people in your life (accountants, doctors, or the aforementioned therapist) to refer you to a good divorce lawyer.
4) Don't Try To Hide Any Of Your Assets
The cardinal rule of the discovery process — the disclosure phase of a lawsuit before a trial — is "to put it all out there," Wasser writes.
It's nearly impossible to hide your assets in a digital age, and doing so could make you look bad. A notorious asset-hider is a woman named Denise Rossi, who won $1.3 million in the California lottery 11 days before she filed for divorce.
She didn't tell anybody in the divorce proceedings about her winnings, according to a Los Angeles Times account. A judge found she'd violated asset disclosure laws, and her husband got every cent of the lottery winnings.
5) Try Using This App To Divide The Stuff You And Your Spouse Share
iSplit Divorce Pro lets you drag and drop assets and debts so you can see how different ways of dividing assets look on the screen. "As a way to get negotiations going, this kind of interaction, available at the click of a mouse, can be very useful indeed. I love this app!" Wasser writes.
6) Avoid Divorce Court Unless Somebody Holds A Gun To Your Head
Wasser doesn't make the prospect of going to divorce court look very pleasant.
Divorcing couples should make every effort to resolve their issues through divorce mediation, which requires them to hire a neutral mediator. If they go to court, they're much more likely to have a protracted split.
"In California, the backlogged dockets mean you'll wait an average of six months for a trial date," she writes, "but California is hardly unique, especially with the Great Recession budget cuts exacerbating already straitened state resources."
7) Borrow A Tactic From Construction Contracts And Make A Punch List
As you wrap up your divorce, meet with your spouse and draw up a "punch list" of the very last tasks that need to happen for the divorce to be final. Assign tasks for the spouses (like finalizing the division of your stock portfolio). Set deadlines for the last things your lawyers have to get done. Don't pay your lawyers their last fees until a final divorce judgment is filed.
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