As a marriage starts out in euphoria, sometimes it doesn’t last and soon enters into a divorce. Around half of all marriages will fall apart and eventually file for divorce. The next step that should be considered is either obtaining a divorce attorney or attempting to file all the legal documents by yourself. There should be some careful consideration before a decision is made.
No one goes into a marriage thinking they will eventually file for a divorce. Dismally in our society, divorces have become more common and accepting than generations before. Either way, the whole family is hurt by a divorce. Emotions and strengths of character are tested during the roller coaster ride of a divorce. By having emotions and feelings being hit so hard, a person going through a divorce should not have to deal with the legal issues pertaining to their case. This era in one’s life should not be thought lightly and a divorce attorney should be hired to ease the burden. Even if you are contemplating hiring a divorce attorney, it should be considered that even lawyers will hire and delegate their own divorces to other attorneys.
How to Select a Divorce Lawyer
I recently overheard someone in a bookstore telling a group of people why they should not have their own attorneys, how they could not trust lawyers, how lawyers would cheat them and how they should rely upon the company the speaker belonged to instead. That conversation got me thinking about why people facing separation and divorce need not just any lawyer, but a good divorce lawyer.
Reason #1-What You need to know
You need to know your rights, duties and responsibilities under the law. Only a lawyer who has been retained to represent your interests can advise you. How can you realistically discuss financial arrangements in separating and divorcing, if you don't know what your rights, duties and responsibilities are? Not knowing what your rights are can result in not getting your fair share of assets, your fair share of support or your fair share of time with your children. Not knowing what your duties and responsibilities are can result in your paying more than your fair share of assets or your fair share of support. Most attorneys offer a special reduced rate for consulting services to encourage people to get advice early and often. There is no reason to rely on backyard fence advice, when you can get real advice from a qualified experienced divorce lawyer for a reasonable fee. Furthermore, in my experience, the backyard fence advice is usually wrong. Remember that if what you hear is half true, it is still wrong.
Reason #2-Backyard Advice
My friend is divorced. Why can't I rely on my friend's experience and knowledge. Well, you could do that but what you need to realize is that unless your friend is a licensed attorney, he/she is not authorized to practice law. Your friend's knowledge will be limited to his/her particular experience. His/her experience with the law is limited to the facts of his/her case and the law as it was at the time. Things change. The law changes. Any change in the facts will change the outcome or advice. Furthermore, changes in the law will change the advice. Your friend simply lacks the knowledge and experience to give sound practical legal advice.
Reason #3-Identifying Issues
The sooner you get a lawyer, the sooner you will learn what you need to know to protect yourself (and your children and property interests). Sometimes people have no idea how to go about identifying the issues they need to discuss, even if the separation is an amicable one and the parties anticipate a "friendly divorce." A good, experienced divorce lawyer can assist you in identifying the issues you need to discuss with your spouse to achieve a comprehensive agreement and global settlement. Over the years there have been numerous times when we were able to point out to clients areas they had initially overlooked and issues which should be included in their settlement discussions, such as life insurance, health insurance, and children's educational needs.
Reason #4-To Share or Not to Share?
My spouse already has an attorney. Do I really need to get one too? Can't the same lawyer represent us both? The answer is no, not really. 30 years ago when I first began practicing law, it was strictly forbidden for a lawyer to represent both sides to a divorce, no matter how "friendly" it was. There are some limited circumstances in which dual representation might be allowed, provided there is full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and a waiver of conflicts with informed consent by both parties. These situations are limited and in the event that unhappy differences or disputes should arise, the attorney must end the representation and both parties must seek new counsel. Frankly, we rarely if ever agree to dual representation. We represent our clients zealously within the bounds of the law and the conflicts in representing opposing sides are too apparent for us to agree to do so. Not only that, but if your spouse has a lawyer, that means that he/she has already sought legal advice and has some rudimentary knowledge of his/her rights, duties and responsibilities under the law.
Someone once said knowledge is power. Would you rather be the one with the knowledge (and the power) or the one without knowledge? How trusting can you be of your spouse or his/her attorney in the circumstances? Remember that your spouse's attorney already represents your spouse. In our experience, spouses, especially those who tend to be controlling will think nothing of misrepresenting the law to gain advantage in the negotiation. Recently a client told me that her husband who remains in the marital home told her that she was now his "landlord" and therefore she could not re-enter the home without his consent and presence and that his lawyer said so. Needless to say, everything he told her was wrong. Her husband also told our client that they did not need to use lawyers and could reach an agreement on their own without lawyers. He also said that if she insisted on having her attorney review paperwork before she signed it that he would find something to disagree with on each draft to drive up her costs. Clearly he was trying to manipulate, intimidate and control his wife, who was wise to seek her own independent counsel from a knowledgeable, experienced divorce attorney.
Reason #5-Do You Feel Lucky?
Going to a court hearing in a pending divorce without a lawyer is like playing Russian Roulette. How lucky do you think you are? Would you perform surgery on yourself or would you seek out a qualified surgeon? Why do you think that you know enough to represent yourself in court? Do you know what your rights, duties and responsibilities are? The judge won't help you out if you don't know what you are doing. There are rules of evidence and rules of procedure that govern hearings. You need someone on your team that knows the rules of the game. You will need someone to prepare you for your testimony in court so that you don't put your feet in your mouth up to your hip bone. You will be bound by the things that come out of your mouth in court. Recently we spoke to a man who incurred spousal and child support obligations of $4000 per month. The court issued an order based on erroneous exhibits filed by his wife's attorney and based upon things he said in open court as to his income which were not accurate. A skilled trial attorney can get you to say things that you don't mean to say, especially if you have not been prepared for your testimony.
Reason #6-Too Little, Too Late
Going to see a lawyer after you have already signed papers or participated in depositions or hearings pro se (representing yourself) is like closing the barn door, after the cow got out. Just because you were not represented does not mean that you can get out of a bad decision or bad deal you may have made or get out of rulings the court made when you were unrepresented. The time to get advice is before you sign. The time to get advice is before you go to court. In fact, you should get advice as soon as you receive legal notice of a pending lawsuit against you.
If you are reading this and you have already signed papers, you should still consult with a good experienced divorce attorney to have the papers explained to you and to review t he papers to see if there are any loopholes that may be used to renegotiate terms move favorably to you or to insist upon "clarification" of the agreement. The attorney can also explain the consequences of having signed the paperwork.
If you are reading this and you are in the midst of a divorce action and have been to depositions on your own, you should seek an immediate consultation with a good experienced divorce attorney to see if there is any legal basis to suppress the depositions. Be sure to take all of your documents with you to the consultation. We have seen situations where it was possible to reopen a case for a client because the depositions were taken too early. In such situations, the depositions were quashed by filing the appropriate papers under the rules of court. In your case it may be too late to do anything, but you should at least talk to a divorce attorney right away to be sure.
Reason #7-Isn't a Lawyer a Lawyer? (A Rose by Any Other Name...)
I know a lawyer who did the closing on our house. Can't I go to him/her for advice about separation and divorce? Yes, you could but there is a saying that if the blind lead the blind, they both fall in a ditch. Would you go to a podiatrist (foot doctor) if you had an eye infection? You could; after all, the podiatrist went to medical school and learned about the body, including the eyes. The questions are how much, if anything does he/she remember, is he/she current on the medical literature pertaining to the eye and infection, including the diagnosis and treatment of the eye? I have seen horrendous separation agreements prepared by lawyers who do not devote at least a significant portion of their practice to family law but were trying to accommodate a friend or relation in their time of need. Actually a lawyer should decline a case, if he/she does not believe that he/she has the knowledge and experience to handle it or that he/she is not willing to acquire the knowledge necessary to handle it.
It takes a significant amount of time to keep up with all of the changes in the law that affect separation and divorce. Think about it. Every week somewhere there is a court, either federal or state making a decision that could affect your situation. Every week that the legislature is in session, whether Congress or the General Assembly, they make decisions that could affect your situation. An experienced divorce attorney should make it a point to review new cases and statutes looking for those that affect family law practice; all of the best family lawyers do.
Reason #8-Prepaid Legal?
If you have paid for this service, then certainly you can talk to one of the participating attorneys. But unless the attorney is an experienced divorce lawyer with a significant portion of his/her practice devoted to separation and divorce and related issues, you should give serious consideration to looking outside of your prepaid plan. Has the lawyer written any books or articles on separation, divorce or related issues that are published? I am not a participating attorney in a pre paid legal plan. The best divorce lawyers are not participants in "prepaid" legal. To my knowledge there are no fellows (members) of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers who participate in pre paid legal services plans. If you are reading this report and have personal knowledge of an attorney who belongs to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and also belongs to a pre paid legal plan, please email us at email@example.com to report the name of the attorney so that we can verify the information and update this report.
Think about what is at stake; the custody and support of your children, and the division of assets you may have worked your entire married life to accumulate, including your home, pension, savings, military retirement and/or 401K. Do you really want to cut corners when it comes to your kids? Your home? Your pension? Your retirement?
Reason #9-A Ship Needs a Navigator
If you think of your legal case as a ship, the client is the captain of the ship and the client's attorney is the navigator. The navigator doesn't decide where to go, but he/she does map out the best course to arrive at the destination. Divorce is difficult, even "friendly" divorce is not easy. It can be an emotional rollercoaster. You need emotional, psychological and legal support. In choosing to separate and divorce, you will be faced with important decisions that will affect you, your spouse and your children not only now but in the foreseeable future. Passions can run hot during this difficult time and you need a clear head. You need a team of individuals including someone knowledgeable in separation and divorce law to help you see clearly and navigate the difficult and sometimes angry waters of separation and divorce.
Not having a good divorce lawyer at the planning and separation stage leaves you without the sound advice and rational third party perspective you need to make decisions which can bind you for life. Not having a good divorce lawyer at the divorce stage leaves you without the knowledge, experience and advocacy of a good experienced divorce attorney. It leaves you at the mercy of your spouse and your spouse's attorney. Neither your spouse nor his/her attorney is there to show you mercy. You need someone to fight for you when you cannot fight for yourself. You need someone to help you understand what is gong on and how to act in the storm.
You need someone who can help you to be pro-active and not simply re-active to steps that your spouse takes. You want a team to support you, a team which can and should include your pastor, rabbi or spiritual advisor, your CPA or tax advisor, extended family, friends and a good experienced divorce attorney.
Reason #10-You Need an Advocate
You are going through a traumatic experience. Divorce is one of the most difficult experiences in life, second only to the death of a spouse. You need someone who understands what is at stake and will advocate for your interests with not only knowledge and experience but passion and feeling. When you interview attorneys, find out why they practice family law and what motivates them in advocating for clients. What is it that makes them passionate advocates? I recently spoke with another trial attorney who does not generally handle divorce work. He usually handles criminal and traffic defense and civil suits for money damages; he told me that he was forced by the poor economy to take a contested divorce case. Divorce and family law are not his first choice of trial work. He is doing it now solely for the money. Is that the motivation you would want in your attorney? Or would you rather have a lawyer who has made a conscious decsion to focus on family law and uses his/her life experience such as knowing what it is like to be a child of divorce to relate to the circumstances of your case and to advocate for you with passion and conviction?
Advantages When Hiring a Divorce Attorney
1. Experience- Many people going through a divorce, do not have the slightest clue of the legal proceedings. A divorce attorney on the other hand will know exactly what and when to proceed with filings. Having a legal professional that has expertise in family law will be an advantage to your side. They will be able to educate and inform their clients on the particulars of divorce laws that are unique to your locality. Family law specialists will be able to offer their insight on what the outcome of the divorce will yield. There is no perfect divorce equation, but having the experience, a divorce lawyer can have a good guess on what is going to happen.
2. Local Experience- Hiring a local attorney is much better than hiring a high profile attorney that is not located in your jurisdiction. Not only will they will understand the local laws, but they will have a good impression on other lawyers, court clerks and judges who will be running your case. This is an advantage as the lawyer can predict actions of judges and anticipate other divorce attorneys moves.
3. No Emotional Bond- From the emotional toll before and during your divorce proceedings, you will become attached to certain items and intangible aspects through the divorce. A divorce attorney will not have the emotional bond to a court case that a person going through the divorce will have. There is no doubt that the legal representative will have your best interest, but he or she will not make irrational decisions based on emotions. They will rather base decisions upon fair compensation and legal practices. If a person is going through a divorce with children, these emotions are even higher, having another reason to hire a family law specialist.
4. Efficient- If a person is trying to complete their own divorce, it will take a lot of research, time and effort to understand the legal filing process, terms and procedures. If that same person is working and taking care of kids, it’s nearly impossible to complete efficiently. When hiring a divorce attorney, these tasks will be handled swiftly and professionally by your divorce lawyer.
5. Expertise- By working with the same type of clients and dealing with the legal system, a divorce lawyer has built an expertise in the family law field. Other attorneys may practice different entities of the legal system, but an attorney who deals strictly with family law and divorce, will have built their reputation and expertise in that field. Whenever hiring an attorney, always make sure they have expertise or credentials showing their skills in their field of practice.
If you are deciding whether or not to hire a divorce attorney, it will be much easier on you and your family if you do. By hiring a divorce lawyer, he/she will be giving the professionalism and experience that is needed when dwelling into the legal system. The divorce attorney be as efficient as possible with filing papers with the courts and not having the emotional bond that their clients hold onto during a divorce. Hiring an expert in the field of family law will give you an advantage and save much time and effort during a high turmoil time in your life
Why You Need a Divorce Lawyer
Divorce is a big issue that is not an easy or impulsive decision. It involves emotional and financial draining and in some cases, becomes inevitable. It is the means of ending a relationship and leads to a series of stressful things. This difficult issue causes a lot of pain as people when opting for marriage; do not imagine this kind of situation.
The need for a lawyer
A good lawyer is essential in divorce cases so that the procedure runs smoothly and fast. The divorce lawyer provides information that is needed by the couples during the procedure and you must opt for a good one to prevent the case from becoming more complicated.
The responsibility of a good lawyer is to fight for and legally claim those things that are lawfully yours. A divorce lawyer will advise and perhaps make you aware of the rights that you did not know existed. A lawyer is an important aspect because in most of the cases, out-of-settlement does not work for the couple and the court has to intervene to look into both sides of the matter.
A good divorce lawyer is able to take the client out of the complicated decisions involved in a divorce. The lawyer should also be able to win your case without you having to compromise anything. An efficient lawyer would be able to achieve the right thing for you. Family or friends, especially those who have gone through the ordeal of divorce are able to suggest the name of a reputed lawyer.
A capable divorce lawyer would be aware of your wants and needs from the end of the relationship or partnership. Couples should also be aware of what kind of divorce lawyer they want to seek, one who will ensure that the material possessions are retained or who would want to fairly divide the property so that couples can part ways.
How to find good lawyers
The best way to find a good lawyer is to look for the records of the attorney, that is, his victories in the courtroom and out-of-court settlements. Another way to find a reputable lawyer is to seek the advice of the local Bar Association. The lawyer specializing in divorce cases should be able to represent your wishes properly and ensure that their client receives the fairest settlement. The most complicated of all is the issue of child custody. A good lawyer is responsible enough to decide child custody issues in an unbiased and fair way. He also tries to help the child deal with the divorce issue of the parents.
It is true that good lawyers are expensive but it does not mean that all expensive lawyers need to be good for your case. As most of the lawyers belong to the category of savvy talkers, you should not make an impulsive decision. It is very important for the lawyer to feel how his client is feeling about the divorce so that he understands his or her perspective completely.
Individuals should make a written agreement with the lawyers in case of Circumvention. The lawyer must be well-qualified, certified and experienced in divorce law. He also must be considerate, understanding and patient by nature. Another feature that must be taken into consideration is compatibility of the individual with the lawyer.