For those who are married to lawyers, the question of how to divorce their spouse is as serious as a heart attack. A person who faces a divorce with an attorney-spouse is understandably terrified because their significant other possesses “inside knowledge” of the legal process. A person might feel that he or she is at a distinct disadvantage — particularly if their attorney-spouse is manipulative or abusive. But don’t fear, there is reason for hope. Just because your spouse is a lawyer, doesn’t mean he or she is guaranteed success or favor with the court.
The law is designed to give rights to both parties involved in a divorce, which means you are automatically entitled to certain considerations when it comes to the division of property or the custody of your children. However, it’s absolutely critical that you hire an experienced family lawyer to help you plan your strategy and negotiate the best outcome possible.
Find Your Power, Know Your Value (And Your Spouse’s Value)
Often times, when a person has developed a good career as a lawyer, they attain wealth and status. And as the old saying goes: if you have something, you have something to lose. If your attorney-spouse values his or her law practice, he or she should be mindful of how he or she treats you during the divorce process.
An attorney who uses aggressive tactics to bully a spouse in a divorce case could suffer a hit to their reputation. This could translate to disciplinary action from the state bar, a loss in business or both. Remember, news travels fast in the legal community, and reputations precede professionals.
Aside from reputation, an attorney who’s accrued significant wealth, and supported a spouse throughout a marriage, could be on the hook to pay spousal support. Perhaps you are a stay at home mother. If this is the case, you’ll want to consider Family Code §4320, which states that the court must consider a number of factors about your ability to provide for yourself following a marriage.
If for instance, you haven’t worked in several years, the court will consider your ability to earn a living in the current job market. The court will also consider the needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage. This is the law, and no amount of bullying by an aggressive attorney-spouse can change the Family Code.
A Word About Community Property (the property you both own)
California is a community property state, which means that money and possessions accrued during the marriage are to be divided among the spouses equally. If your spouse has accrued a large amount of money and possessions, this could be a potential point of leverage during the divorce process.
The family code is also set up to encourage settlement between the divorcing spouses. Those who attempt to thwart reasonable efforts to settle a divorce case, could be ordered to pay the other spouse’s attorney’s fees.
Whatever strategy is called for when you divorce, a good lawyer will help you to remain steadfast in the face of attempts to intimidate you. It’s important that you know your own value and don’t fall victim to bullying and scare tactics. The law is clear that the needs of both spouses are to be weighed in regard to finances, property and child custody.
Hire a Good Attorney To Help You
If you’ve spent the last several years married to an abusive attorney, and now you’re seeking a divorce, there’s a good chance you’re eager to move on with your life. No doubt, your soon-to-be former spouse would prefer you throw up your hands and avoid a fight.
However, if there is even a small part of you that knows you’re entitled to more of the community property, or more time with the children, and you want to go after your rightful share, know that a good lawyer on your side can make all the difference.
One of the first steps in the divorce proceeding involves both spouses disclosing the assets, debts, income and expenses accrued during the marriage. This step, required by law, is basically an inventory of the community property that the parties will eventually negotiate over.
This step will be an opportunity for you to more clearly see what you could be entitled to in the divorce.
California Family Code § 760 states:
“all property, real or personal, wherever situated, acquired by a married person during the marriage while domiciled in this state is community property.”
That means if your attorney spouse purchased a Lamborghini during the marriage, that Lamborghini is partly yours.
California Family Code § 2550 also states that unless there is a prenuptial agreement, the court is required to divide the community estate between the divorcing spouses equally.
Issues can arise in this part of the divorce proceeding if the attorney-spouse uses his or her knowledge of the law to conceal assets or income in order to prevent you from collecting your rightful share of the community property.
This is one of the reasons why hiring a lawyer of your own should be a priority.
Will You Have To Go To Court?
While it’s difficult to say one way or the other if a divorce case will go trial, California law seeks to encourage divorcing parties to settle. Depending on your spouse’s attitude, hopefully the expensive option of going to court can be avoided.
Ideally, you will have a good lawyer with excellent negotiation skills who will move the process along. If your spouse is a good attorney, he or she should see the value in settling. If he or she doesn’t see the value in settling, he or she may not be as good a lawyer as you initially thought.
If you have decided to divorce your attorney-spouse, and you are afraid of what lies ahead, you have nothing to be ashamed of. The family court system is intimidating no matter what your situation. It makes sense that if you are about to divorce a spouse who’s intimately familiar with the system you might have some fears.
In addition, there are a couple of other factors you can consider that should be reassuring to you during this difficult time. The following is a brief list of reminders we like to tell clients who are dealing with this type of situation:
- Your spouse is not all powerful – No matter what your spouse may have led you to believe about his or her connections to the legal system, he or she does not control the family courts.
- Your spouse may be a good attorney, but so are we – And unless he or she is a family law attorney, he or she probably doesn’t know more about the family code than we do.
- A good attorney will help you immensely – Regardless of what type of attorney your spouse is, having a lawyer of your own will give you the piece of mind and confidence to better make informed decisions affecting your case. And when it comes to the tricks your attorney-spouse might pull during the proceedings, we know what to expect.
Steps You Can Take To Help Yourself
There’s no denying that divorces bring out the worst in people. The experience can have the effect of sending a person’s emotions racing. But there are steps you can take to minimize the impact the fear will have on you. It’s important to remember that you need to maintain your composure during the divorce proceeding and not lash out at your attorney-spouse in ways that might affect your standing with the court.
Allowing him or her to use intimidation or manipulation tactics to get under your skin will give him or her an advantage. Take care of yourself so this doesn’t happen.
- If necessary, seek counseling – This step could be beneficial in helping you to uncover the reasons you might have been attracted to your abusive attorney-spouse in the first place. This could have the effect of reducing his or her influence over you. Remember, change yourself, and change the world.
- Take time out when possible – Whether it’s the food you eat, the exercise you do, or the fun you engage in when you have a free moment, taking care of yourself will pay dividends when it comes to dealing with the stress of a divorce.
- Let Your Children Know Things Will Be Alright – It’s easy to forget, thanks to the stress of your own situation, that your kids are going through a difficult time too. Don’t forget, this is stressful for them too. The divorce experience can affect a child’s mental health well into adulthood.
- Don’t Engage With Your Ex Without Your Attorney Being Present – This could be necessary if you are dealing with an abusive, narcissistic or sociopathic spouse. It’s important for the attorney-spouse to know, that if he or she is going to be talking to you, that you will be represented by a legal professional.
Contacting a Lawyer
Hopefully this article has shown the some of the benefits of having a lawyer to represent you if you are divorcing a spouse who is also an attorney. California family law is complex, and divorces can be emotionally draining. It is recommended you don’t attempt to go through the process without proper legal help—this is especially true if your former spouse is an attorney with a history of abusive or manipulative behavior.
If you have questions about family law, or what advantages an attorney-spouse might have during a divorce, consider scheduling a consultation with our office. Give us a chance to show you how we can help.