What is a Divorce Lawyer?
Divorce is a legal process of dissolving the legal contract of marriage. How a divorce must proceed and how decisions are made depend on state laws. The entire process can be lengthy and complicated. Emotions often run high, making it difficult for individuals to make logical decisions.
A divorce lawyer is a legal representative for one spouse in a divorce. They assist that individual with filing a complaint, responding to the summons, negotiating the terms for alimony and child custody, and representing them in court and before a judge.
Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer?
A lawyer is not required to divorce. It is possible to make it through the process without legal representation, but this is rare. Only with amicable partners, limited assets, and no children is it reasonable to attempt divorce without a lawyer.
You should hire a lawyer as soon as you decide to initiate a divorce, or your spouse serves you with a summons. In certain situations, it is absolutely essential to work with a lawyer:
- Your spouse has hired a lawyer.
- You have children.
- You and your spouse have a lot of assets, property, or debts in common.
- You tried to settle the terms of the divorce amicably and without representation but cannot agree.
- You have depended on your spouse for financial support.
- You stayed at home to take care of children or to support your spouse and have not worked or earned an income in some time.
- Your spouse engaged in misconduct in your marriage. This could include abuse or adultery.
What Will a Divorce Lawyer Do for Me?
You should always hire a divorce lawyer, even if you think you and your spouse can agree and be amicable. Even the friendliest divorces can take a turn for the worse, and you need someone advocating for your best interests.
A divorce lawyer is your advocate, guide, and advisor. They will do several things to ensure your divorce is as smooth as possible and results in the best outcome:
- File the paperwork
When coping with the end of a marriage, you need to focus on the big picture. A lawyer can take all the details out of your hands, ensuring all the right paperwork is completed and on time.
- Provide objectivity
Divorce is necessarily emotional. Whether you initiated it or not, dissolving a marriage is difficult. It is nearly impossible to make objective, smart decisions when emotions are so involved. A lawyer will be your objective voice of reason.
- Provide advice
A good divorce lawyer will not simply do whatever you ask. They will explain your options and advise you on the best choices. With that information, it is up to you to decide how to proceed.
- Advocate for your interests
You may end up in negotiations, mediation, or even a trial to settle things like property, debt, and alimony. Your lawyer advocates for you alone and will ensure your agreement is fair and in your interests.
- Advocate for your children
Both parents want the best for their children in a divorce, but once again, emotions tend to outweigh smart choices. Your lawyer can advocate for you and the best interests of your children in custody decisions.
- Represent you in court
If you have to go to trial because negotiations fail, your lawyer will represent you there. The judge decides on unresolved issues in a divorce trial, but your lawyer can still push for the best outcome for you.
Where Can I Find a Good Divorce Lawyer?
Divorce has lasting, serious consequences, so you must find a divorce lawyer you trust and that has the right experience. Never settle for a lawyer with another area of specialty. Divorce is complicated, and you need an expert.
If you know and trust a lawyer who practices in another area of the law, ask them for a referral. They likely know a good divorce lawyer or firm. Talk to friends or family who has been through a divorce. If they liked their lawyer, you might consider hiring them.
What Should I Look for in a Divorce Lawyer?
Use the above sources to compile a list of at least three lawyers. Interview each before making a final decision. In addition to the relevant experience and area of practice, look for other important qualities in the divorce lawyer you hire:
- Experience with clients similar to you or with similar challenges
- Good references from past clients
- Enough time and resources to fully take on your case
- A firm that will not simply hand you off to a junior associate
- Someone communicative and easy to reach
- Someone who makes you feel comfortable and confident in their abilities to represent your wishes and meet your goals
Look out for red flags as well. For instance, a lawyer who is distracted during your interview and has a cluttered office may not really have the time for you. Also, avoid anyone promising a specific outcome. A good lawyer should be willing to discuss and be clear about fees before you hire them.
How to Work with Your Divorce Lawyer
The stakes are high in a divorce, so work with your lawyer as a professional partner to get the best outcome. One of the most important things you can do is provide your lawyer with all the necessary information. Even if some things feel embarrassing to talk about, they need to be informed.
Answer all your lawyer’s questions honestly and completely. They need to know about issues in your marriage, finances, assets, debts, property, and children. Provide any legal documents relevant to the divorce. Finally, share your goals with your lawyer. They can only help you if they know what you want to get out of the divorce.
Keep your lawyer informed and insist on the same. Ask questions and request regular updates on the procedures. Be on time for meetings, mediations, negotiations, and hearings. Talk to your lawyer about any new issues as soon as they arise.
Divorce is never easy, but with the right lawyer advocating for you, it can be a little easier. Choose your divorce lawyer carefully and be prepared to work with them to get a good outcome.