Getting Help from a Divorce Lawyer & The Divorce Process

Getting a divorce is an involved and difficult process. The longer you were involved with your partner, the more there is to untangle. There are additional challenges if you and your partner had children. To make matters worse, emotions often run high during a divorce, making it easier for either side to come to an agreement. Because of all the complications, it is strongly advised to hire a divorce lawyer to help with the process.

There are two primary reasons to hire a divorce lawyer. The first is you have someone who is knowledgeable with the legal proceedings and can advise you and your former partner how to handle the process. The second is your attorney is not emotionally tangled in the divorce, making it easier for him or her to give you a clear answer and keep you from making poor decisions in the heat of the moment.

The Role of a Divorce Lawyer

Every state has different rules regarding divorce proceedings. One of the first things a divorce lawyer does is explain what you and your spouse must do to initiate the proceedings. Your lawyer will also file paperwork on your behalf and help you gather all the necessary information. Depending on the reason of separation, you may need to file for a special divorce status.

For example, you may be eligible to file for a fault divorce. In these cases, you are declaring the marriage failed through no fault of your own and was instead based on the wrongdoing of your partner. Some reasons for a fault divorce include your partner cheating on you, deserting you or getting arrested. This is relevant if you or your partner are trying to claim spousal support or custody. Depending on your situation and how long you were with your partner, your lawyer may also be able to guide you through a voiding or annulment process instead. The role of a divorce lawyer also covers:

  • Child custody agreements
  • Alimony
  • Child Support
  • Asset and debt agreements

Beginning the Divorce Process

Once you have a lawyer and have filed the paperwork, you are ready to start the divorce proceedings. When you start the proceeding, your lawyer files an official petition with the court. The petition includes financial information about any shared assets between you and your spouse, as well as information about your family, if relevant.

After the petition is filed, the next step is discovery. During the discovery phase, both you and your partner have the opportunity to ask questions and refute any information presented in the petition. If your spouse is claiming sole ownerships over assets that belong to you, your lawyer will dispute the claim. If neither side can come to an agreement, you are both given the chance to present an argument before the court. In most cases, these disputes are handled without a judge, but if neither side can come to an agreement, you can petition a judge.

Completing the Divorce Process

How long it takes to complete the divorce process depends on several factors, primarily how many assets you shared with your spouse and whether the process is contested. In an uncontested divorce, both you and your spouse agree to divide your assets without any arguments. While this is the ideal situation, it is not always possible. It is not uncommon for couples to make one or two appearances before the court to settle issues. If your divorce is particularly messy, the process may take months. Depending on where you live, the process may also be dragged out depending on state laws. In certain states, you must wait a set amount of time between court appearances, or your judge may require a professional appraisal before making a decision.

Divorces also take longer if children are involved. Even if it is an amicable divorce, finalizing custody often adds a few extra days to the process. If you and your partner are fighting over custody, the legal battle may last for several months.

Finding a Divorce Lawyer

You do not want to rush and hire the first divorce lawyer you find. When you are preparing for divorce, take the time to research multiple lawyers. If you are having trouble finding a divorce lawyer, try asking friends or family members for recommendations. If this does not help narrow down your choices, consider looking online for divorce lawyers. If you are unsure where to begin you can start with the state bar association to find accredited attorneys in your area. If you find a lawyer but he or she is unable to take your case, consider asking him or her for a recommendation.

Once you have a list of potential lawyers, meet with each one for a consultation. A legitimate divorce attorney will provide a free consultation, either over the phone or in person. The consultation is a good opportunity to provide details of the case, and also ask questions of the lawyer.

Find out how much the lawyer charges, and who is responsible for what fees. For example, some attorneys cover the cost of appraisals and filing fees as part of their general budget, while others add those charges to your total at the end of the divorce proceeding.

You can also ask questions regarding your attorney’s experience. Ask him or her how often he or she hears divorce cases. Once he or she knows the information about your case, ask what difficulties he or she foresees in the case and how he or she intends to handle it. You should also ask if the attorney works alone, or if an assistant or paralegal will also assist with the case. If so, find out how much is handled by your attorney personally. This is also a good opportunity to find out how much time your attorney has to dedicate to your case.

If you need legal assistance you can also find additional legal aid here and you can search for a lawyer here.