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Law Office of Elizabeth Pendzich, PC

Elizabeth Pendzich

17A Royal Street, SE, Leesburg, VA 20175

(703) 669-1900

Fax: (703) 669-2000

Do I need a lawyer to separate or divorce?

Almost every married couple has some legal issues that must be resolved as part of a separation or divorce.  The issues can be any or all of the following:  child custody, visitation, spousal support, division of marital debts and assets, division of retirement accounts, disposition of a marital home, etc. The issues vary in each case, but each couple should have a written agreement setting out how the issues will be resolved.  

There are various ways to arrive at a settlement agreement: 

•    The couple can sit down around a kitchen table and arrive at an agreement.
•    The couple can each hire an attorney to represent her/him and arrive at an agreement using the attorneys.
•    Mediation is an option.
•    Collaborative law is an option – This option begins with a discussion of the each spouse’s interests, needs and goals; all the negotiating work is done with total transparency  in  group meetings; the goal is to create a written settlement agreement that both spouses can live with going forward.
•    Litigation is an option of last resort for couples who cannot resolve their issues using any of the above methods.

What unique issues are there in late life (gray) divorces?

•    Late life divorces are becoming more common over the past 10 years, perhaps because of spiritual vacancy or lack of a shared passion among the marriage partners.   Longer life cycles are also contributing to more divorces late in life – as we live longer, 60 is no longer considered old.  According to a 2004 survey conducted by AARP the Magazine, two thirds of divorces are now initiated by the wife.  Surprisingly, an amicable gray divorce may make adult children more confident that they too can thrive after leaving an unsatisfactory marriage.

•    A late life divorce may involve all or some of the following very important issues:  spousal support,  division of marital property accumulated over a long time ( i.e., your home, your retirement accounts, a family business), resolution of debts accumulated during the marriage, consideration of tax consequences of new financial arrangements, provision for medical insurance for each spouse post-divorce, and  financial survival after the divorce, which involved some estate planning and preparation of documents such a Power of Attorney, a Medical Directive, and a Will.

Who should consider collaborative law as a way of resolving their issues?

•    Couples who are committed to an amicable dissolution of their marriage, who want to avoid unneeded stress for themselves and their children during the divorce and separation process, who want to keep their affairs private, who want to have a co-parenting relationship after the divorce, who want to resolve conflict with integrity.

Is collaborative law expensive?

•    Both spouses will have to hire an attorney; a financial professional may be needed, and a mental health professional may be needed.  For couples who view their separation/divorce as a problem to be solved, and not a struggle to be fought, collaborative law may well be less expensive than litigation because it avoids the costs of court hearings, depositions, and trial preparation time.  In the end, the costs of a collaborative case depend on how quickly the parties can reach a resolution and whether or not financial or mental health professionals need to be involved in the case.  Ideally, a collaborative agreement is one that the parties can each live with because they have worked together respectfully and with integrity. 


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