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FS-Is Divorce Alway Best Option & Various Other Questions
Jan L. Warner & Jan Collins

Question: My wife and I have been separated eight times during our ten-year marriage. We both saw lawyers and although I want to reconcile, my lawyer says that I should file a lawsuit to protect myself. How can I file for divorce and go to counseling and not look like a fool?

Answer: In many states, a spouse's property rights are "vested" with the filing of a suit for divorce or separation. With the stormy marital history you describe, if you don't file, your share of marital property could be either lost or diminished. While we agree there may be a fine line between economic self-preservation and attempting reconciliation, we do not believe that several past separations are signs for a bright marital future. But, in the final analysis, you must make the decision.

Question: My husband and I have not gotten along for years, but continued living together to avoid the expense of lawyers, and now also because of the fragile state of the economy. We openly discuss how we can extricate ourselves from our miserable existence without losing everything. Can my husband and I handle our divorce without lawyers and expect to be treated fairly by the court?

Answer: The doctrine of "informed consent" -- by which physicians are required to apprise the patient of all treatment options and then help the patient make the best decision -- has been transported to the practice of law, and rightly so.

While a number of states have created forms for people to use to get divorced and/or approve agreements if they have no minor children, etc., we believe people should hire lawyers for two main reasons: 1) expertise in legal options and procedures and 2) familiarity with local courts and personnel. Clients should want to be involved because it's their future everyone is talking about, and the client ultimately bears the risk of the attorney's actions when the case is over. At the same time, lawyers should want their clients to be informed and should, where possible, find cost-effective ways to provide information about the basics so clients can make appropriate decisions.

That said, you and your husband are certainly free to set yourselves adrift in the family court system without help, but we believe that this could be a mistake given potential unforeseen tax consequences and other legal intricacies that people not versed in the law will not understand. Your best bet, in our view, is to learn your options from separate lawyers who are in touch with your needs, and then make the decision.

Question: After 35 years of marriage, my wife and I have decided to call it quits. I am concerned about health care expenses if we get divorced because my employer has stopped providing coverage for employees and retirees. I planned to start drawing from my early retirement, but I don't know how much because a large part of my money was invested in stock that went south. Do you have any ideas?

Answer: With tough economic times ahead for most people over age 65 (and for everyone else), it could be a mistake to call it quits because 1) your wife will then receive a part of your disappearing retirement, 2) your home may be put on the market for sale at a difficult time, 3) the average monthly out-of-pocket health care expenses for people over 65 is rising, and 4) fewer health care expenses will be paid by Medicare and Medicaid. Unless you are a real glutton for punishment, consider staying married -- perhaps living in separate parts of the house -- and face the uncertain future together. We have heard from some readers who have gone so far as to purchase separate refrigerators while living in separate parts of the home.

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Suggested Reading:
Separation and Divorce Guidebook
Click for more ....

FS-Be Wary of Credit Issues with Ex
Click for more ....

FS-Becareful of Bargaining Away Alimony As Child Support
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FS-Lawyer Tells Me to Lie & Pension Double Dipped
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FS-On and Off Again Reconciles Can Create Agreement Disasters
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FS-The Dangers of Family Loans
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FS-Transference of Affection & 10 Tips of Divorce
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