Filing for Divorce:
The decision to file for divorce is rarely an easy one to make. Often it is something that has been considered for years. Some even start the process and then stop, thinking things will get better or deciding to wait until the kids get older. For many, the prospect of getting divorced is scary. There seem to be a million questions with no answers:
- “How will I support myself?”
- “What will happen with the kids?”
- “Where will we live?”
- “How can we afford two households?”
- “What will holidays look like?”
- “Will bad things be said about me?”
- “How long does the divorce process take?”
- “Where will my kids go to school?”
- “Do I need to move out of the house right away?”
- “How will the mortgage get paid?”
- “How much does a lawyer cost?”
- “How much does a divorce cost?”
- “Will I have to get a job right away?”
- “How will retirement savings be split?”
- “How much alimony will I have to pay?”
- “How much child support am I entitled to?”
The list goes on and on. Then there is the emotional toll. Few people are truly happy to end a marriage even if they think it’s the best for all involved. Some carry guilt, whether deserved or not. Some carry resentment, whether warranted or not. Most worry about the effects on their children. Overall it’s an overwhelming prospect. Yet, hundreds if not thousands of people file for divorce each day. Where do they start? By looking for information. Getting information about the process of filing for divorce is helpful and usually reduces anxiety in the long run. The unknown is always the most
scary. Time to face the monster under the bed….
Evaluation and Hiring Attorney:
Then comes the decision to hire an attorney to help you through the process. Once an attorney is representing you your stress level should come down. Not that you won’t still be worried or have periods of high anxiety, but knowing you have a knowledgeable advocate should be re-assuring.
But again, where do you start? If you are comfortable talking about your situation with a family member or friend, you could ask them for recommendations. A personal referral from someone who knows or has used the attorney is usually best. If you’ve used an attorney for another legal matter or know an attorney through work, that person may also be a good referral source. You can also conduct your own search through the internet – either before or after getting some referrals. Look at the content on their website and see if it appeals to you. Read about the attorneys. Read the testimonials. Make a short list based on the above and call the offices to speak with the attorneys. Did the attorney listen to you? Did the attorney answer your questions? Did the attorney offer you helpful information? Was the attorney accessible? Was the office staff helpful? Does the attorney have enough experience in family law? Is family law a primary area of the attorney’s practice? Was the attorney upfront with fees and costs? Only after speaking with an attorney can you know if you will be comfortable with them. You will be spending quite a bit of time with your divorce attorney and you will be trusting him or her with many important decisions. It is imperative that you feel as if your voice is being heard, that the attorney will take the time to explain your options, and that the attorney will be a strong advocate for you. If the qualities of empathy and zealousness are not evident in your first meeting, I strongly suggest you look further.
Next Steps In Getting Divorced
- Paperwork, paperwork…. Forms and other paperwork need to be completed and served on the spouse. It is important that this paperwork is completed correctly and that the correct process is followed. Failure to do so can force you to start over or worse, prevent you from getting your requested relief.
- Exchange of information…. At minimum, financial affidavits need to be completed, signed, acknowledged and exchanged by the parties. These forms provide a snapshot of your income, expenses, debt and assets. It is often a good idea to require the exchange additional information to cross-reference against the financial affidavit.
- Parenting Program…. If you share children, you will need to take a parenting class. This class is not intended to teach you how to care for and raise children. It is designed to inform you of how the divorce or custody matter you are going through affects your children, how to handle common situations with the children’s best interests in mind, co-parenting strategies and coping strategies for difficult or sensitive
matters. Failure to attend may delay your legal matter and could affect your custody or visitation orders.
- Temporary Orders…. Temporary custody and/or financial orders are sometimes needed. It’s entirely possible that you can go through your whole divorce and not require any temporary orders other than the automatic orders that go into effect when you file your case. Sometimes they are necessary such as when one party moves out of marital home and the parties want certainty with regard to parenting plan. Or perhaps one party stopped contributing to the household bills or joint account that funded those bills. Maybe the situation warrants that only one party be permitted to stay in the house while the divorce is pending. For these and other reasons, a motion for temporary orders will need to be filed with the court. A hearing will be scheduled and the parties will appear and either reach an agreement which will be made an order of the court or the parties will litigate the matter and the court will make its own orders.
- Settlement proposal and negotiations…. After all information is exchanged and the parties have analyzed their situation with their attorneys one or the other outlines terms as a settlement proposal. The parties negotiate the terms and hopefully reach an agreement on their own. If they cannot, they must go through some pre-trial procedures where the court or court personnel try to help settle the case. They do this by informally hearing the contested issues and offering an informal opinion as to what might happen at trial. Often, this feedback bridges the gap between the parties and settlement is ultimately reached.
- Court/Trial…. If a settlement is reached, parties will have the court review and hopefully accept the terms agreed to and divorce the parties. If no settlement is reached, then the parties appear for trial. At trial testimony and additional evidence is offered to support each parties position and the court renders a decision.