Financial advice going into a divorce

I'm seeking help on how to get financial advice as I go into a divorce. My husband and I are separating, and will likely be getting divorced. (He's been having an affair for over a year.) We have two small kids, bought a home a year ago, and are paying a ton for childcare right now. We both work but he makes 3 times more than me. He says he wants me to stay in the house and he will support me and the kids so we can maintain our same life. He wants to try to do this amicably and wants to avoid the courts as much as possible. Of course, emotions aside, I want to protect myself and make sure I'm getting what I deserve. I know I should be getting my own lawyer, despite what he's saying, but I was also wondering if there's any way to get financial help from someone who's experienced with divorce without resorting to a lawyer (at this point). Any recommendations on what to do about the financial aspect of this? Thank you.

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I've used Camille King for just that sort of advice before. She specializes in collaborative divorce, and will meet with you for free initially to set if she's a good fit for you. She is a parent and gets what's coming up for you. She helped me figure out if I needed a prenup, and I learned so much in one hour!

Amicable is better for everyone; it's also a lot cheaper for him.  So take advantage of his desire to avoid courts.  Legally he's obligated to support the kids in accordance with his salary, so that's not him being generous, that's the law. 

You don't have to go to court to use a lawyer.  My advice:  Play nice, be agreeable.  He thinks you're a patsy, don't give him reason to think otherwise.  Work out as many points as you can between you, and write it up.  To the extent you're in agreement, you both win.

Meanwhile get input from a family law and divorce lawyer on any points you haven't considered or liabilities (on your own, quietly).  Look for a divorce support group and ask them for legal and financial references.  Get a book from Nolo Press on divorce, but keep it somewhere he can't find it.  Yes, it's true some lawyers only want to create problems and rack up legal bills, but screen carefully.  You can also work with a mediator, but please get some advice just for you first so you don't agree to something you later regret. 

Almost certainly he is getting legal and financial advice, no matter what he says, and he probably has a bank account you know nothing about.  Run a joint credit check, open your own separate account, keep a close watch on your joint statements, make copies of your joint tax filings, talk to his personnel department re benefits for you and the kids (like healthcare, life insurance, etc.).  If he wants to keep it amicable, he'll probably agree to the most obvious things, like health insurance for the kids. 

The trap for you is that if you become Ms. Childcare and he decides to withdraw support, you won't have the funds to take him to court to make him pay.  Plus, if you drop out of the job market it's that much harder to get back in, so any changes in your ability to support yourself should be HIGHLY compensated.  Don't leave yourself too dependent on him.

Whatever he offers you, GET IT IN A LEGAL AGREEMENT, IN WRITING, signed and dated.  Promises aren't worth the paper they're not written on.  Don't agree to anything where you are at the mercy of him changing his mind.  If he decides to renege, it'll be you and your kids dealing with the consequences.

My 2 cents.  Good luck!

You don't have to get a lawyer. Neither of you has to get a lawyer. Divorce lawyers make their money by winding you both up into a fury and billing you by the hour for ridiculous arguments. It sounds like you're both at peace with this choice and your husband wants to do right by you, so go to a mediator and continue to work things out amicably. There is not a ton of wiggle room in terms of what you can get out of him - and why would you want to bankrupt the father of your children? The divorce agreements are pretty much boilerplate -- again, divorce lawyers tell you different because they make lots and lots of money doing so, but the end result is much the same either way. Best of luck to you. 

Just go see a lawyer for a consultation. You don't have to retain anyone. I recommend Ariel Winger on College Ave. in Berkeley. She will sit down with you for an hour and tell you what you need to know. It will be well worth your time and money.

In my opinion, just based off of the limited information you have given, you are very vulnerable to manipulation by your husband and in fact are already being manipulated. You need to consult with an attorney or two. It shouldn't cost you anything for the consult and if he makes 3x as much as you the court will ultimately order him to pay for your attorney fees. Think about it, if he wants to avoid lawyers and the court, who do you think stands to lose the most in court? Contact the Levine Law Group in Emeryville. I am a lawyer, not family law, but based upon what I know about the local bar that is who I would suggest. Good luck.

Check out Lisa Schneider, a financial consultant who specializes in divorce. I found her very helpful. Good luck to you.

I was in a similar situation many years ago. My former husband is a very high earner and also a top notch litigator. He also made an informal suggestion that I simply trust him to support me and our two young

children in the existing family home - I return, he would assume full ownership of various financial accounts that are community property, as well as take full ownership of the house. A rather disingenuous offer. California is a community property state, so you and your husband should equally divide your interest in your home and other community property. It is sensible to avoid high conflict in divorce, both to save on legal fees and stress on you and your children. I suggest you have an initial consultation with a family law specialist who has integrity (unlike the one I suffered) to understand the basics of how you might divide the community assets, and also what the official “dissomaster”- a computer program that calculates what each spouse might be expected to contribute/receive in child and spousal  support- and have that to refer to going forward. You will need to provide the attorney with a summary of your assets, your respective annual earnings, and your best guess as to the share of time each of you would like to have custody of the children. This gets plugged into the program and out come the numbers. The attorney can typically do this quickly at a first consultation. If you and your husband can agree on a good attorney to work with you together on what’s called a collaborative divorce, you will do well for yourselves and your children. 

A last piece of advice- be cautious of getting too emotionally tied to staying in your current home. Often the wife will prioritize maintaining the family home and choose it as the bulk of her half of the community property division- and end up with little or no liquid assets for home maintenance, emergency funds, etc. and it’s an illiquid asset (well, maybe not in the current Bay Area housing market). If you and your husband really strongly want to keep the kids in the current home, there’s a method in which parents take turns being with the kids in the house and rotate out, keeping a more modest place, e.g. an apartment, for when you’re not on full parent duty.

First, I am sorry for the difficulties of everything you are going through. This is very tough. I know that you asked for specific advice about individuals who could help with financial questions outside the legal context, and unfortunately I do not have specific advice there. But as someone who wanted an amicable divorce but nevertheless experienced a lot of trouble around emotions and finances, I would just like to underscore that you are right in your sense that you should get a lawyer. Not in order to take your ex to court or threaten him, but to have someone knowledgeable to help you know your rights and limitations. What I would recommend is getting a mediator, that is, someone trained in family law who does not take sides, to work with both your and your ex-to-be, making sure that all the details are discussed and firmly written down. Your husband may object that you don't need to spend the money, that you can figure it out on your own, that you can trust him... but don't. There are many details that even a well-meaning person could overlook, and if I understand your situation correctly, there is a woman with whom your husband is involved who might want in the future to lay claim to some of his assets. He doesn't know himself how that might pan out, so you really need to have your agreement worked carefully through and guaranteed. Then you should engage a lawyer who would be your support person to go over the agreement crafted with your mediator. That person would also be the one you would turn to if your husband does not hold to his side of the bargain, or if either of you wants to make changes.  Good luck with this.

Try Gavin DiStasi in Berkeley. He’s a certified divorce financial analyst who helped me look at some settlement options when I was going through my divorce and he really helped me get a better idea of the possible outcomes. I think he also works in mediation and collaborative divorce, but I just went to him for consultation myself. His number is 510-898-1270.

Good luck!

xlYou need a lawyer regardless. Get one now. There are many different divorce lawyers out there. What you want is one who will help you negotiate your agreement and document it properly. You do not want a lawyer who wants to punish your husband for you or try to take him to the cleaners. Follow your gut on this. The only people who win with that type of lawyer are the lawyers. Explain to your husband that you want to do exactly what he's offering but that you need representation to ensure that it's properly documented. 

He feels guilty right now and just wants this over with. Find someone to back you up who can make this happen quickly. The longer it drags on the less guilty he'll feel (and the more his mistress and friends will tell him that he's getting a raw deal). Hire someone who returns calls quickly, doesn't base his ego/self-esteem out of getting every penny out of the other side, and who will make you feel like you're not alone and not being taken advantage of.

Always, always, always get a lawyer. It doesn't have to be someone who wants to be vicious and take the divorce to court. But it does need to be an actual attorney rather than a financial advisor. There are all kinds of legal details around child custody, taxes, property, etc. etc. that you need legal advice for. 

Also—I hate to have to say this but—if he has been having an affair for over a year that means he has been lying to you for over a year. There is absolutely no reason you should believe he is not also lying to you about where he has bank accounts and what his plans are to support you. I'm not an attorney but I am in a line of work that exposes me to lots and lots of divorces and I can't tell you how many times the "nice" guy who wants to be amicable goes on the attack when his new girlfriend starts complaining about how much money he's sending to his soon-to-be ex.

Even in an amicable divorce, where there is child support and spousal support involved, you absolutely need a lawyer to advise you .From personal experience I can say that even when the divorce is amicable, any agreement not in writing is worthless down the road. Feelings change, and people change over time. Moreover, you'll need to file papers with the courts to get a judge to sign off on it, even if you don't go to trial. As others have said, get the advice of a collaborative divorce attorney. Even in the interim, I would get everything crucial documented.