Divorce attorney Janet McCullar answers your questions
By Janet McCullar, Photo by Caitlin Candelari
During the 25 years I’ve been a divorce attorney, I’ve represented hundreds of women in divorce or custody cases. Below are some of the top concerns women have expressed to me through the years.
1. Will I lose custody of my kids? Almost every woman I work with has heard of some story in which a mom lost custody of her children in a divorce, and they are scared it could happen to them. In my experience, moms don’t lose custody unless they are a threat to their child’s safety, such as if they have been arrested for driving drunk with the child in the car. Even in that scenario, there are precautionary measures that can be put in place, such as using a Breathalyzer. Some fathers, in an attempt to gain advantage in a property division, will threaten to go for custody. Don’t believe it. Consulting with a custody lawyer, like myself, often alleviates this concern. And if there is some merit to the threat, I can help my client minimize the risk.
2. My husband is a really good liar. I tell my female clients if I put a black hash mark on the wall in my conference room each time I heard this statement, my walls would be solid black. Most often, the husband is a bully who is used to intimidating his wife. Bullying tactics don’t work. If I’m asking your husband a question in court, he may try to not answer it, but as a seasoned professional, I will ask until the question is answered.
3. I don’t know how much money we have. Some couples have assigned roles in their marriage, with one being the breadwinner and the other being the homemaker. Who wouldn’t trust her husband to take good care of the finances and invest their money properly? But I don’t need to know at the time of the initial consultation how much money you have. That is part of the divorce process. I help my clients identify what property they own, find out what it is worth and put it all in a spreadsheet for property-division purposes.
4. My husband has offered me a lump sum of money and says I’ll get less if I fight him. Should I accept? My answer: absolutely not. I want all my clients to make a well-informed decision, and that usually means talking with a lawyer about whether the offer is a good one. As lawyers, we often find what the spouse is really owed is more than what has been offered. Don’t take the chance. Seek professional advice before you make a deal.
5. My husband owns a business and says I won’t get any part of it. Is that true? Most likely, that is true. The business will be given to the business owner, but it will also be valued by an expert. Don’t be fooled by tax returns or other statements of value provided to you by your husband. Valuation is much more complex than that, and often, the value is much higher than what most people would believe.
I love nothing more than helping women free themselves of these sort of worries in my initial consultation. Remember, consulting with a divorce lawyer doesn’t necessarily mean you will get a divorce, and it could bring more peace of mind if you do need to divorce.