What does a Divorce Attorney do?
A divorce can be a very difficult situation to endure. The end of a committed relationship is bound to cause some form of pain to the parties. Unfortunately, a painful event such as splitting up from a spouse can be made even more difficult in the actual divorce process. There can be many reasons why a divorce gets messy. It can be an issue with how to split up assets such as real estate and personal property, the splitting of money and debts, or the process can be made even more acrimonious simply based on the anger each spouse has with the other over the split.
The splitting of assets is a very common issue that comes up in many divorces. The laws in the US tend to end at nearly the same place that grants each spouse a share of marital assets. The two systems in the US are Equitable Distribution and Community Property. Equitable Distribution sounds as if it would mean an equal 50/50 split; however, in this case, equitable means a split amongst former spouses that would be fair in the eyes of the court. Some western states, like California for example, utilize a community property system that entitles each spouse to a (somewhat) strict 50/50 split of marital assets. Marital assets in both systems are usually property obtained during marriage (provided it wasn’t acquired via a gift or inheritance.
In addition to splitting assets, a divorce usually entails other matters that deal with the couple’s relationship ranging anywhere from debts (credit cards, loans, and medical bills) to who gets to keep the family pets. The other large issue that would also be dealt with is the issue of custody and child support of any marital children. The issue of custody and support can be very simple if both parents agree, or it can be extremely difficult if the parents do not agree. The most basic arrangement being that parents share legal and physical custody of their children. Legal custody is the right to make child-rearing decisions. It usually includes input over a child’s medical treatment, schooling, and religion. Physical custody is whether the child actually resides. Where the child resides usually plays into the child support issue as it is usually the custodial parent who receives child support from the non-custodial parent.
A divorce attorney will be well versed in all the aspects of the issues mentioned above. A divorce attorney will understand what the law requires of each spouse. The divorce attorney is usually a vital negotiator in this process. The attorney can make sure that the process is fair and help determine these issues as efficiently as possible.
When would l need a Divorce Attorney?
If you cannot amicable come up with a divorce settlement with your former spouse, you are going to need to retain the services of an attorney to help you file the necessary paperwork. Most divorce courts allow for a period of mediation before the case comes to a hearing. During that mediation, you will have multiple opportunities to try to negotiate a divorce settlement. An attorney can be vital at this stage of the process. At the point where you have retained attorneys, it may be easier to have another person speak on your behalf. Even if the split is not acrimonious, you still may need the attorney to help discover the full extent of your spouse finances and assets and determine your legal share of both.
The case may be that assets and debts are distributed in a simple and easy way, but there is tension over custody of children. The first thing that you should note in a custody case is that a court will do what they believe is in the best interest of the child. The court will take many things into account, such as where the child currently resides and the situation they are accustomed to. This is usually a situation that is fraught with anxiety as people worry about not being able to see their children. A couple of things need to be remembered. Biological parents have significant well-established rights to parent their children. It is very difficult for a person’s parental rights to be extinguished barring severe abuse and abandonment. A spouse should rest a little bit more ease at the prospects of not being able to see their children.
Where there is a child custody issue, there may also be a child support issue. Sometimes it can be difficult for a parent to ensure that the non-custodial parent pays their fair share of child support on time and in the right amount. There are enforcement procedures that can be handled by an attorney on the custodial parent’s behalf, or by the local state’s attorney office. Failure to pay child support can turn into a criminal matter and should be handled seriously. An attorney can see that a child support obligation is followed through with.
Divorce attorneys that handle child support and child custody issues also usually can handle most family law issues such as adoption, domestic violence issues, name changes and paternity cases. Family law issues are usually serious events that require a certain amount of care and understanding. If you are dealing with such an issue, you will want to make sure you consult with an attorney that can help you rectify the situation as efficient and painless as possible.
Signs you need to speak to a Divorce Attorney
- Are you planning a divorce with significant assets?
- Do you need help obtaining custody of your children?
- Do you need to enforce a child support order?
- Do you think your soon to be ex-spouse is hiding money from you?
How do you choose a Qualified Divorce Attorney?
You will not want to take the search for an appropriate attorney lightly. If you are at the stage of thinking about hiring one for a family law issue, you should realize that the stakes are high and that you will need to find a qualified and experienced attorney you can trust to handle your issue the right way.
Follow these steps to help you find and vet the right attorney for your divorce:
- Determine Your Needs
This is the most important step of the process. You have to understand your situation and what kind of attention it needs. As mentioned above, divorce attorneys are most prominently used when a mutually amicable solution is unlikely. So you need, to be honest with yourself and assess the relationship you have with a spouse. You need to think of all what’s at stake, do you own a lot of assets that were acquired during the marriage? Do you feel your spouse was keeping finances a secret from you? Are there going to be substantial issues with child custody or child support? Is there a chance that you will reconcile with your spouse?
If you are not in the position of needing a divorce or child custody or support, how serious is your issue and does it rise to the need of speaking with an attorney? If it is something like a restraining order, drafting a prenuptial agreement or enforcing a parenting time agreement, then you most assuredly need to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
- Research Online
Next, you will want to start by conducting a simple search of local family law attorneys. Get the names of a few that you think will be able to help. Take a look at the profiles on their websites. Read the articles or summaries they have there. Often attorney websites will include articles on specific areas that they cover. That is a good place to check if the attorney handles similar issues to yours.
Whiles conducting your search, you may want to check out some legal organizations that deal with family law. There are many legal organizations that are designed to help people who really need advice. There are organizations whose sole mission is to help fathers in their custody battles. The need for such an organization stems from the assumption that mothers generally have the advantage in custody disputes. Help is also provided by legal organizations designed to help women. For instance, some of these organizations help women file for child support or give assistance to women who have been subject to domestic violence situations and are need of specialized legal advice on their options and additional counseling support.
Additionally, many lawyers are members of family law organizations within their legal communities. These organizations are made of like-minded attorneys who delve deeper into the subject area, not only because of its part of their job but usually because they have a strong interest in the subject. These organizations can be a great starting point, as they may be able to refer you to an attorney right for you or can give you some great information on your issue that is usually free of charge.
- Check the State Bar Association’s Website for any Disciplinary History
After you get a couple of names you are interested in, you will want to check their disciplinary history. It’s a good idea to see if an attorney has had any ethical violations in the past. Not only will it give you an idea of what pitfalls you may run into when hiring an attorney, but it can also serve as a peace of mind to find an attorney who has no disciplinary history. You may be surprised to find that there are a lot of attorneys who have no disciplinary history. You will find this information at the state bar association website. You will be able to search for the attorney by name, if there is any disciplinary history present, the bar association will have a record of it.
- Schedule an Appointment with a Divorce Attorney
The only thing left to do is set up a consolation with an attorney that you have thoroughly researched. When you speak with an attorney, be sure not to hold anything back as they need to know all the facts involved with your case to give you the best advice possible.