27 Mar 5 Questions You Should Ask Before Hiring a Divorce Lawyer
Separation and divorce are never planned and most often come as a surprise to one or both involved parties. As such, meeting with a family law attorney for the first time can be confusing, overwhelming and just downright scary. The first time you meet an attorney you may consider hiring, there are tons of questions floating through your mind. The following questions about divorce are some of the most common ones that a lot of clients want answered before hiring us.
Do I absolutely need an attorney?
If you’re present in our office (or giving us a call) and asking for legal advice, you probably already have a hunch about the answer to this question. Yes, you absolutely need an attorney in a divorce. The most amicable divorces still require the signing of a legal document. This document will need to be drafted by an attorney. Prior to your signing the document, your personal attorney should read the document. If your case ends up in court, you will need your own legal representation as one attorney can’t provide counsel to two individuals involved in the same case.
Having your own attorney in a divorce ensures that someone is on your side, looking out for your best interests and your long term needs. The stress of losing a marriage can have a huge effect on your ability to reason. In an effort to put the divorce behind them, many individuals just agree to whatever terms are set forth by the other party. Having your own attorney prevents you from making mistakes that will catch up to you later.
In addition to explaining the legal language involved with every court proceeding, having an attorney in your corner, especially a great one, can really give you a sense of peace about your divorce. You have legal aid fighting on your behalf to ensure that you get what you’re entitled to. Divorce is a rough situation, divorce without an attorney is a rough situation with no roadmap and no direction.
How long will this take?
Every client wants to know how quickly they can put their divorce behind them and move on with their future. Unfortunately, there isn’t a standard time for divorce. Each case is dependent upon its unique circumstances.
Divorces where both spouses are willing to compromise in an effort to move the process along as quickly as possible can take as little as sixty days, depending on the complexity of the assets involved. Mediated divorces, those settled outside of court with a marital settlement agreement, are much quicker than divorces settled in court. Divorce settlements that require extensive litigation in court can take up to a year.
The amount of assets between both spouses can lengthen the mediation or litigation process. A decision as to how each asset will be divided needs to be made. The more assets, the longer the process because there are more decisions to be made. Issues related to spousal support and child support will also lengthen the proceedings. If parents are unable to agree on child custody, this can result in lengthy mediation meetings. Child custody can be one of the most time-consuming elements of the divorce. The outcome, however, is typically worth the time spent because it results in a plan that is best for the kids.
Willingness to communicate and compromise plays a huge role in the length of a divorce. If both spouses refuse to negotiate, the likelihood that the case will end up in court is very high. Divorces settled by the court take far longer because they are completed on the court’s time.
Ultimately, the length of the divorce depends on the individuals involved as well as the complexity of assets and issues surrounding the divorce.
Will I have to go to court?
Whether or not your case ends up in court depends completely on the individuals involved. A divorce mediator can prevent a case from ending up in court. This individual helps both spouses communicate and negotiate in order to come to an agreement about the terms of the divorce outside of court.
If you and your spouse can compromise, you can likely settle the issues of your divorce with mediation, outside of court. In this case, a mediator helps both parties come to an agreement. The attorneys for both spouses review the agreement, and if all is ideal, both parties commit to a marital settlement agreement outside of court. This document is then reviewed for fairness by a judge before being entered as a final decree of the divorce.
If mediation is unsuccessful because of one or two unwilling spouses, the case can be taken to court. Either spouse can withdraw from the mediation at any time and take their chances in courst. This is not the ideal situation for a number of reasons. Firstly, it greatly lengthens the process of the divorce. Secondly, it places the outcome of the divorce in the hands of the court. The interested parties have significantly less input and the judge makes the final decision as to how assets and child custody will be split.
The job of a family law attorney is to ensure that your best interests are upheld throughout the process of the divorce. This can typically be done with a mediator outside of court. However, some spouses are simply unwilling to negotiate. In that instance, you will be forced to take your case to court to be decided upon by a judge.
What will happen with the kids?
When a married couple splits, the custody of the kids is one of the primary concerns and first questions of an attorney. This question is very situation specific and cannot be answered in just one way. There are a lot of custody options available to parents today.
Joint physical custody represents an arrangement where both parents spend a significant amount of time with the kids. The primary residence of the kids is considered at both parents’ homes. Research continues to support this arrangement as the most beneficial to the kids for a number of reasons including better behavioral and relational outcomes.
Sole physical custody represents an arrangement where one parent holds primary physical custody of the kids, and the other parent may/may not have visitation rights. If issues of domestic violence, sexual abuse or drug abuse are brought up within the divorce, sole physical custody may represent the only option for many parents.
Legal custody of the children is another decision that needs to be made. This defines who is responsible for making legal decisions for the kids. A joint legal custody agreement can be made, where both parents make legal decisions together. A sole legal custody agreement can be made, where one parent is responsible for making legal decisions. Another arrangement includes rotating legal custody, where one parent takes sole responsibility for half the year, and the other parent takes sole responsibility for the other half of the year.
Keep in mind that the ultimate goal of any custody arrangement is to determine what is in the best interests of the children. If both parents are interested in this type of resolution, the custody negotiations will be a smoother process and much easier to resolve.
What if we get back together?
Believe it or not, this is a common question asked by many divorcing spouses. It’s important to note that statistically, once the proceedings of a divorce have begun, the likelihood of the relationship being salvaged are very slim. This very rarely happens. If both parties decide to get back together and halt the divorce proceedings, there will be a chunk of legal fees lost. If you decide to get back together before the divorce is finalized you simply stop the process, and pay the legal fees you’ve racked up.
The ending of a marriage and beginning of divorce proceedings is a scary and confusing time. It’s important to have the opportunity to ask questions about how the divorce will impact your life and what to expect from the proceedings. Your family law attorney can help to clarify this process for you as well as serve as a source of support and legal guidance.
Having an attorney is a necessary part of ensuring that you make it through your divorce with your needs and best interests met. Your attorney can help you navigate the process of your divorce as well as fight for your rights on your behalf. The length of your divorce is dependent upon the willingness of the parties involved to compromise. Spouses who are unwilling to compromise or negotiate will likely end up in court. Cases of child custody are very situation specific and should be negotiated with the best interests of the child in mind.
The ideal family law attorney will spend time answering your initial questions. He or she will be committed to ensuring that your best interests are met and that you understand all of the legal proceedings. Hire an attorney who is experienced and passionate about family law.