In an eerily calm voice, your husband explains he needs some space. Just a short separation to get his head on straight, he says, and to give you both time to think. You’re a little edgy but also feeling a little foolish for harboring that tiny seed of doubt. It’s just a harmless time-out, right?
“A hopeful spouse is a vulnerable spouse! One can be lulled into thinking that it's only a separation and if I do everything he/she wants the marriage will survive. This is usually delusion at worst and whistling in the graveyard at best,” says Joe DuCanto, an attorney widely considered one of the best in the nation in divorce law. DuCanto was selected by the Leading Lawyer Network as one of the Top 100 Leading Lawyers in Illinois, and then as an Illinois Super Lawyer.
Among many professional accomplishments, he pioneered the application of tax law to matrimonial law in the 1950s – and divorce attorneys to this day follow his now famous strategy to gain tax advantages for their clients.
“A request for ‘a separation’ is virtually always the camel's nose in the tent which ultimately leads to a later request, or demand, for divorce,” advises DuCanto. “The best thing to do is to quickly select the best lawyer you can afford and thereafter be guided by what he/she tells you.”
But what do you say to the lawyer; what help do you ask for? The short answer: tell the attorney what your gut is already screaming, a divorce is imminent. Go ahead and figure out what you need to do when the news is delivered, before it happens. Don’t waste time on the “what-if-I’m-wrong” game.
“No joke; you are on dangerous ground,” warns DuCanto. Let’s say the worse happens, and you do get word that it’s all over except for the slam of the judge’s gavel. What do you do first? “The answer to the question depends on how you learn your spouse is going to file for divorce,” says Mark S. Guralnick, a veteran divorce attorney licensed to practice in seven states and four countries. He is also author of six books on divorce.
“If a sheriff knocks on your door and serves you with a Summons and a Complaint for Divorce, you need to see a family lawyer immediately,” advises Guralnick. Time is more crucial than you may think. In fact, your spouse may be using time against you.
“Not only will there be a deadline to respond to the divorce papers -- usually 20 to 35 days -- but it may be necessary to freeze assets, restrain your spouse from moving the children out of state, or take other immediate action,” warns Guralnick. “In such a case, your lawyer will give you specific advice about how to proceed, and may require you to file papers in court on short notice.”