The Complete Legal Guide to Marriage, Divorce, Custody, and Living Together by Steven Mitchell Sack (McGraw-Hill: $18.95).
Steven Mitchell Sack, a family-law attorney in New York City, comes right to the point: “This book was written to save you money and aggravation.” And in the expanding universe of litigation, he’s seen and heard it all, from wives seeking their share of spousal property (a dental practice and military pension) to “palimony” claims--which are no longer staked out only by the rich and famous--to a jilted bridegroom’s attempt to recover his engagement ring.
The result is a fine “fight-back” guide that holds an implicit plea for decorum and a sense of fairness. Sack’s introductory chapters briskly detail typical legal fees, describe necessary documents and papers to bring to an initial interview and include sample letters between lawyer and client.
Beginning each section with a summary of the concepts and problems to be covered, he neatly charts legal matters only a lawyer can properly handle versus those one can do alone, delineating such issues as child custody and support, adoption, divorce and the new institution of cohabitation, which, Sack points out, has evolved from the state of “living in sin” just a few decades ago to an important social arrangement that requires special consideration.
For the estimated 4 million people who choose to live together without benefit of clergy, the author is very clear that marriage means far more than a “trivial piece of paper.” But if one chooses cohabitation, he urges great care, drawing up several model documents that describe each partner’s rights and intentions, including those of the same sex, to stave off future misunderstanding and litigation.
Finally, despite his terse just-the-facts style, Sack never appears hardhearted. His excellent book is dedicated to “Romantics and other lovers, who can fight back by knowing how.”