Interesting Divorce Tips from Divorce Lawyer Alexandra R. Lavinsky

Divorce is such a difficult and painful experience for many people, and many people want to know what they can do to minimize the horror of the experience. I believe there are things that can be done and they may surprise you.

  1. Prenuptial Agreements: While many people perceive Prenuptial Agreements (PA) as "unromantic" or necessitated by a lack of trust, the reality is that few highly successful people enter into any relationship without the protection of an enforceable legal agreement. Marriage is one of the only lifetime commitments where you give up half of all of your assets without any Agreement in place that unwinds the relationship just as much as it winds it. Once the parties enter into such a Prenuptial Agreement, neither party has financial leverage to manipulate the other side to the extent a resolution or division of the estate is based upon the dictates of the established Agreement. This is actual financial control and can be truly empowering.
  2. Pre-Divorce Planning: Speaking to a divorce attorney when the idea of divorce first floats around in one's mind can be particularly helpful because there are certain things that can be done, changed, or saved, in order to avoid some of the financial detriment and fallout that regularly results from divorce.
  3. Real Property Down Payments: California protects separate property down payments for the purchase of real property and particular upgrades to real property. Specifically, if a down payment or contribution for upgrades to community real property can be traced to a separate property source, upon divorce this contribution will be reimbursed, without interest, and prior to the division of any remaining proceeds. If a third party gifts a down payment on behalf of one of the parties, the gift should denote that it is to that one party and not both parties. If such a gift is written or given to both parties, the separate property claim can be compromised. As well, when parties inherit real property, the title should denote how the transfer is effectuated, what if any money has been paid for the property, what the equity is if retained, and if the equity is a gift to the community.
  4. When a relationship is failing and particularly when children are involved, establishing peace in chaos is extremely important as is keeping chaos out of the home. Using a marriage counselor to resolve issues such as temporary custody, living arrangements and even how to communicate can be useful. Mental health professionals can help problem solve especially during the chaos of the early days of divorce and when the parties are in need.
  5. One of the most frequent questions I am asked is "if it matters who files for divorce first." There are legal consequences to who files first most often when there is a jurisdictional issue or fight over where the proper jurisdiction for a legal proceeding is. If there is not a dispute over jurisdiction/venue, then the difference is that the Petitioner first proceeds to present their case at trial. The Respondent's case follows the Petitioner's case. I have found it to be particularly helpful to be the Respondent to first see the case of Petitioner and their strengths and weaknesses.