Divorce Lawyer Basics
1 – Selecting A Divorce Attorney
If you have decided that you would like the assistance of an attorney in filing the divorce papers and completing your divorce, the first step you will need to take is to select an attorney who is a good fit for you. There are several things to consider when selecting a divorce lawyer:
- Experience – The attorney’s level of experience in family law and divorce cases since you will want someone with a good amount of experience to be able to help guide you through the process.
- Style – If you want someone who is going to be more cutthroat and a more difficult negotiator with your spouse, you would want an attorney with a stronger personality style. On the other hand, if you would like to keep things more peaceful and civil, you may want an attorney who has a calmer style and is also pro-mediation in situations where couples cannot agree on the issues.
- Cost – Attorney’s fees will vary, and they will also vary in terms of how much of a retainer they require in order to take on your case. Since the expenses of an attorney represented divorce can add up quickly, this is an important consideration.
- Free Consultation – Most attorneys will offer a free consultation for you to come in, talk to them about your case, and get an idea of their style, their experience, and what their fees are. If you are going to be paying someone thousands of dollars to help you get divorced, you would want a chance to make sure that they are a good fit for you, and this is what the free consultation can provide.
2 – Information for Your Divorce Attorney
Once you have selected a divorce lawyer, he or she will need several pieces of information from you, including:
- Information on your income and your spouse’s income
- A list of all of your assets, including real estate, vehicles, savings accounts, any whole life insurance policies, and retirement accounts
- A list of all of your personal property (furniture, jewelry, etc)
- A list of all of the debt that each of you have, both in your own names and joint debt.
In addition to the list of real estate, vehicles, and personal property, you will need to be able to tell the attorney approximately what each item is worth, along with what amount of money is still owed on each of them.
3 – Dealing With Your Spouse’s Attorney
Typically, if you have decided to hire an attorney for the divorce, your spouse will have hired one as well. Their attorney will need the same types of information listed above. Once both attorneys have all of this information, the process of negotiation can begin. This can happen in a variety of ways, including you and your spouse working together on the issues including child support, alimony, equitable division of property, and a parenting plan. If you and your spouse are not able to work together, your attorneys can do the negotiating for you.
Mediate! If you are finding that you and your spouse are not agreeing on the issues that need to be decided, your attorney may recommend mediation. This is typically a much more cost effective way of getting the issues resolved as opposed to having your attorneys going back and forth negotiating with each other. Your attorney is able to accompany you to mediation if you would like her or his assistance in the negotiation process.
4 – Completing the Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan
Once you and your spouse have agreed on issues related to child custody, child support, alimony, and an equitable division of property, your attorney will write up a settlement agreement and parenting plan for you. You will review the document, and then you and your spouse will both sign off on it. Your attorney will also assist in completing all of the other paperwork required to file for divorce in your county. Once all of these documents are complete, your attorney will file the paperwork for the divorce.
5 – Waiting Period
If you have a signed settlement agreement when you file for divorce, there will be a 31 day waiting period between the date that your spouse was served with divorce papers and when the divorce can be granted.
6 – Final Hearing
Your divorce will be granted in one of two ways:
- You can file a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings which requests that the judgment on your case be granted without a hearing, and without you having to go to court. However, this option will not be granted if a) the divorce is contested, b) any of the documents have not been filled out correctly, or c) the judge has decided that more information is needed to decide the case.
- You also can request a final hearing where both parties will go to court and appear before the judge.
Either way, after the final hearing, the divorce should be granted and you will officially be divorced.