Q&A Topic: Litigated Divorces
Evan D. Schein, Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd, LLP
Q: What’s the biggest misconception people have about litigating a divorce?
A: There are a few big misconceptions I think are worth noting. Most clients want to resolve their divorce amicably and without going to court, but the truth is it doesn’t always work out that way, especially when emotions are high, or the case involves a complex issue or even threats of violence. Many people think that going to court means it is going to end quickly or that the divorce will be finalized at the first court appearance. This is not the case. At the outset of any case and throughout the divorce process, I have to manage expectations. It’s hard to know how long your case will take. I’ve settled cases in weeks, and had others that went on for one or two years. Each case is different. Even though people say ‘I spoke with my partner and we’re on the same page. Divorce should only take one month’ - that’s not the norm, and it often does not work out that way.
Q: What are some issues clients need to consider regarding their children during a divorce?
A: Divorce is a time of transition – for parents and especially children. Understanding this and remaining focused on maintaining stability and consistency for your children is so important as you go through a separation or divorce. Try and shield your children from the conflict. It is also important to try and maintain a co-parenting relationship with your soon to be ex and to try and be on the same page and deliver one consistent message to your children.
Q: How can I best assist my attorney and reduce my fees?
A: Stay organized and stay focused on the big picture. Try not to send 100 emails a day. I’ve had clients come to my office with boxes and boxes of papers and endless sticky notes. It is so incredibly important to be organized. It helps not only with managing your stress levels, but also in keeping costs down and helping your attorney to organize your case. If your spouse wants to try mediation or collaborative law, which are often two approaches to divorce that may keep legal fees down, we can try that first. If it works, great. If not, it wasn’t for you.
Q: Does litigating a divorce come naturally to you?
A: I love practicing family law and litigating. If I was not a family law attorney, I don’t think I would be practicing. I love helping people and I love being in a courtroom—I joke that I feel more comfortable there than in my own living room—though I do settle a lot of cases at the negotiating table. I zealously advocate for my clients and when negotiating a divorce outside of court does not work, litigation is often the only way to move a case forward, resolve a situation and ultimately reach resolution.
Q: What advice do you give to all your clients?
A: When people come in for their initial consultation, one of the first things I ask is, ‘Are you sure you want to get divorced?’ I want to make sure you are ready to go through the divorce process. I prepare you and educate you every step of the way about what is going to happen next so you are able to make both short- and long-term plans and you know what to expect now and in the future. I am a big believer in putting a team in place—so, in addition to your attorney, I may recommend that you work with a mental health professional such as a therapist, a life coach, a financial advisor, a child psychologist or some other professional—to assist you as you go through the highs and lows of what can be an emotional roller coaster and a time of transition.
Q: Beyond your expertise in handing all three types of divorce—mediation, collaborative law and litigation—what else separates your firm from others that handle high net worth divorce cases?
A: The three C’s: Care, Communicate and Counsel. We truly care about you and your case and will help you to see The Big Picture. Divorce is not easy. You are in an emotional process and it is important to remember that you and your children will be OK when the process is complete. You will get through this. We will communicate with you daily, weekly, 24/7 when needed. We counsel you and prepare you so you are ready for life after divorce. You will likely need a CPA, a financial advisor, and other professionals to help after your divorce is over. This is a pivotal moment in your life and a period of transition. We are here to guide you through the process.
About Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd, LLP
Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd, LLP is a boutique New York divorce law firm located in midtown Manhattan. We concentrate our practice exclusively in the areas of family and divorce law, and serve clients in the greater New York City area, including Westchester, and other nearby counties such as Nassau, Suffolk and Rockland. Recognized among divorce law firms in New York, we are one of the only Manhattan divorce law firm offering all three options for divorce: litigation, collaborative law and mediation.
Our New York family law attorneys emphasize comprehensive, compassionate and cutting-edge service. We have significant experience handling high net worth cases, and are skilled at preparing effective prenuptial and postnuptial agreements as well as in protecting our clients’ property. We offer expertise in professional trial advocacy, negotiation, collaborative law, mediation, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, child custody and support, spousal maintenance, property division, and modifications and enforcement.
Evan D. Schein
Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd, LLP
New York City
521 Fifth Avenue, 31st Floor
New York, NY 10175
Two Overhill Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583
21 Main Street, Suite 250
Hackensack, NJ 07601