As much as many of us would like to imagine divorce proceedings as cordial with no hard feelings, the truth is that divorce is often messy, especially when there are children or substantial assets involved. It’s usually in your best interest to hire a divorce lawyer — especially if your spouse has already started looking into lawyers or already has one. Your lawyer will protect your interests and try and get you the most favorable terms and protect you from making an unknowingly bad legal decision. If you’re one of the three in four Americans who don’t have enough money in their savings to cover six months of expenses in case of emergency, every penny might matter in a divorce, especially if you’re supporting children.
How Does a Divorce Work?
When people think of filing for divorce, most envision heading to court and hashing it out, though in reality, most cases are settled out of court, thanks to mediation services.
Each state has its own guidelines for what they consider legal grounds for divorce and residency requirements, which you’ll need to research on your own, depending on what state you live in.
You’ll need to file divorce papers in court and share all financial information. Your lawyer may be able to ask the court to issue temporary orders like child visitation, who pays bills, and even restraining orders, depending on the case.
If there are children, you’ll need to agree on a parenting plan before your divorce can be “approved.” Issues like custody, visitation, and child support need to all be addressed in this parenting plan.
And, of course, you’ll need to agree on the terms of your divorce and submit it to a judge for final approval. If you can’t come to an agreement, you’ll go to trial.
It’s also important to note the difference between a contested and uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce is the most amicable, where the spouses agree to all the terms and can come to an arrangement easily. The court does not need to intervene regarding assets or spousal/child support.
A contested divorce is the type that can easily get ugly. Both parties cannot agree — either to generally being divorced or the specifics of the divorce. This type of divorce is one where having a divorce lawyer on hand is strongly advised.
When Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer?
It’s advisable to have a third neutral party who is not privy to the emotion behind a divorce and who can navigate the complicated procedures and laws that go hand in hand with seeking a divorce.
If you have a contested divorce or there’s a significant amount of money and/or assets involved, or you know there will be issues with custody or child support, having an experienced divorce lawyer in your corner can make a huge difference. Furthermore, if you think your spouse will lie or be vindictive during the process,
it’s wise to seek legal aid to protect yourself and your assets.
Additionally, if you or your children were subject to abuse or you fear violence from your spouse, getting legal protection can help.
How Can I Find a Good Divorce Lawyer?
You want to find a lawyer who will work for you — that is, if you want a quick and relatively painless, inexpensive divorce, you may not want a bulldog of a lawyer. However, if you’re up against an aggressive lawyer on your spouse’s side, you may want to counter with a similarly minded lawyer of your own.
Make a list of a few different lawyers to research and interview before choosing one. You want your lawyer to be professional, ethical, and give you the necessary time and attention your case deserves.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and family who may have also gone through divorce to see if they have suggestions or referrals of their own for divorce lawyers as well.
It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry when going through a divorce. Having professional legal representation on your side can help make the entire process smoother.