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Divorce FAQS

Here are some frequently asked questions which you may find useful.

"My divorce has ruined me financially, and I'm thinking of filing for bankruptcy. Would there be any negative repercussions?"

The only good reason you should consider bankruptcy is if you're drowning in debt and have no other way out. Bankruptcy destroys your credit for ten years and remains in public records for 20 years. Besides the public embarrassment that bankruptcy causes, it can also cause you to lose assets and be turned down when you apply for credit, for a job, or to rent an apartment. Additionally, as of October 2005, changes in the law made it much more difficult to file for bankruptcy. Under the new law, chances are that you will be obligated to repay a portion of your debt. Why take the risk of suffering these consequences when there may be a less painful way to get out of debt?

Victor Chevalier works with the Texas and California debt-settlement organization Debt Free League.

Does Collaborative Divorce work the same way throughout the United States and Canada?"

Collaborative Divorce uses the same basic model throughout North America -- that of two collaborative lawyers who negotiate together with both clients with an agreement not to resort to litigation. However, specific rules and norms may vary depending on your area. Please contact your lawyer and/or your local collaborative-law group if you have questions about how the process usually works in your state or province.

"Do I really need a lawyer for my divorce?"

If you've been married a relatively short time and you don't have kids, if you don't have many assets or much debt, of if you and your spouse have worked everything out, you might be able to proceed without a lawyer. Court clerks are usually not allowed to give legal advice, but that doesn't mean they can't tell you where to file certain papers. And these days, with the new trend toward pro se divorce, legal forms are available for the taking on many state websites. If all else fails, legal-form publishers sell "divorce kits"; that you can use to do all the paperwork yourself.

On the other hand, if you have children, if you have acquired assets (even if it's just a house and a pension or retirement plan), or if you and your spouse cannot agree on anything, you would be well advised to seek legal counsel. Even if you agree on everything, getting a consultation is still money well spent. It's perfectly acceptable to present a lawyer with the agreement you and your spouse have drafted and ask for comments. These days, with the new trend in "unbundled" and la carte legal services, you may not need to break the bank to get all the protection you need.

One young father assumed that if his wife had custody of their young son, she would be free to move anywhere in the country. He was surprised, and relieved, to learn from his attorney that he could include a stipulation in his agreement that his wife not move more than 75 miles from her present location -- provided he had not already moved himself. That was a provision he wanted, and got, in the agreement. For him, the attorney's fees spent were well worth it.

Pamela Weintraub and Terry Hillman are co-founders of Divorce Central, an online service. This answer has been excerpted from their book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Surviving Divorce.

For more faqs on divorce, click here.

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