Divorce is an emotional, confusing, and messy process. Not knowing what to expect can be one of the most terrifying aspects for many people. Here are some answers to important, but common, questions: Do you need to have an attorney? If so, what kind of attorney do you want? What’s a collaborative divorce?
First things first...
The first decision someone getting divorced will need to make is whether to hire an attorney or not. The pros of hiring an attorney are pretty obvious – having someone who will handle all the paperwork for you, someone to guide you through the process, someone who knows the law and can explain it to you, etc. The drawbacks to hiring an attorney are also fairly obvious – we’re not cheap! Furthermore, hiring the wrong attorney can make things more awkward and actually further complicate things, while still costing a lot of money.
Do I need an attorney?
So how do you know if you need an attorney? No one is required to have an attorney, but the more complicated a case is, the more helpful it is to have an attorney. A couple that was married for two years, has no children, has no debt and has few assets probably doesn’t need an attorney. A couple that was married for fifteen years, has minor children, has retirement assets, has a house, has debt and has had domestic violence, could probably use an attorney. The more complicating issues there are, the more helpful (and possibly necessary) an attorney is.
We all like to save money, but many things in a divorce are irreversible once a judge signs and doing it incorrectly can cause more problems and cost more money than hiring an attorney in the first place. If you’re not sure if you need an attorney, talk to one. Ask questions about how complicated your case is. You also may be able to hire an attorney to just review your paperwork and make sure there are no major red flags or to help you draft your paperwork.
What kind of attorney is right for me?
If you’ve decided you need or want an attorney, the next step is finding the right attorney. Price is an important part of the decision, but should not be the only factor. I encourage everyone to meet with multiple attorneys to find the right fit. Keep in mind that you’ll need to share some fairly intimate information (money, kids, possibly sex/drugs/violence depending on the circumstances) with your attorney – if you’re not comfortable doing that, that person is not the right attorney for you. Some attorneys are more blunt, some do more hand-holding. What would you prefer?
Should I look into a "collaborative" divorce?
Also complicating the issue is deciding what kind of attorney you need. Attorneys that handle divorce are generally called “family law attorneys” but there are some specializations within family law. A popular and often effective subset is “collaborative divorce.” The goal of collaborative divorce is for the parties to work collaboratively and reach agreements on all the issues in their dissolution, without having a judge. (This should almost always be the initial goal of any family law attorney absent extenuating circumstances). Collaborative family law attorneys work with the parties to attempt to resolve all the issues.
The main difference between collaborative law and non-collaborative is that in collaborative law if the parties fail to reach an agreement, the parties have to start over with new (non-collaborative) attorneys. This is done to incentivize parties to reach an agreement (it does often work) but if parties are not able to reach an agreement it can be much more expensive. The collaborative process is a great tool, but may not be appropriate in cases where there has been domestic violence. If you have experienced domestic violence in your relationship but are still interested in the collaborative process, speak to professionals in the process to determine if it’s appropriate.
If you have other questions for Amanda, you can reach her through her website, email, or phone:
Porter Law Office offers a free one-hour consultation either in-person or by phone, whichever is more convenient for you. Hiring an attorney is a big investment and a free consultation permits you to ask questions about your case, the experience level of the attorney and to make sure it is a good fit for you. Call 651-797-0990 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org today to set up your free one-hour consultation.