19 Pieces of Advice from A Divorce Lawyer
The emotional and psychological effects surrounding divorce can be stressful. Yet many do not understand the many pitfalls, underlying fees, and legalities lawyers are aware of. By taking proactive action, these potential issues can be avoided. Here are 19 pieces of advice from a divorce lawyer.
1. Will my divorce case go to court?
This may come as a surprise to most, but individuals rarely ever see their ex-spouse in the courtroom. Most legal decisions are not made in the courtroom; rather they are made between the attorneys and their clients. If a mediator is involved, the mediator would deliver each of the spouse’s responses to each other.
2. Should I hire a mediator?
Mediation is often the most peaceful, cheap, and simple divorce process. Instead of battling your spouse in court, mediation allows for two parties to sit down with a neutral third party to come to an agreement. Using this method, it’s possible your divorce could be done at a fraction of the cost and less of a headache. Mediators are consulted to arrange civil agreements, without the use of costly lawyers.
3. Is divorce expensive?
Many are unaware that divorce does not necessarily need to be expensive. For example, filing and completing a divorce in Florida would amount to about $900. In California, it is $435. These are costs to file the divorce with the court. States like California allow for non-residents to apply for divorces as well, helping out-of-state spouses looking for a divorce.
4. Be Realistic
Divorce is often messy, with both sides fighting mercilessly over every last penny. This is not beneficial to either spouse and only benefits one party: the lawyers. The messier the divorce, the more lawyers get paid from your pocket. You and your spouse must be ready and willing to compromise, especially regarding assets, alimony, and child custody.
Also, people who abuse their spouses or children, or commit adultery rarely ever win the right for child custody, and typically are the ones losing the most out of the divorce. In California, however, these acts are not taken into account when filing for a divorce. The judge will not recognize and base the ruling out on what either spouse had done.
5. Consult As Many Lawyers As You Can
Consulting many lawyers allows you to pick and choose which lawyer will fit your needs and for the right price. Not only does consulting many lawyers help your case by searching for the best legal advice, but it also creates a conflict of interest for the attorneys – barring them from picking up your spouse’s case. If you contact an esteemed divorce attorney before your spouse does, you will gain leverage over your spouse. Under California law, the lawyer will not be able to advise or represent your spouse due to conflicts of interest.
6. Thinking About Making A Big Purchase?
Don’t. If you make a large purchase before filing for divorce, your spouse may be entitled to the purchase after divorce. Furthermore, courts do not allow for big purchases to be made once the divorce papers are first filed. This law also applies if you seek to liquidate assets after filing for divorce. Do not attempt to hide your assets before or after filing for divorce, as that may potentially backfire in court.
7. Co-Parenting Is Difficult
Switching from full-time parenting to co-parenting is difficult. Switching from weekly, or even weekend visitations are not easy. Having to change your schedule weekly around joint-custody is time-consuming, and is extremely stressful and difficult for your children. Try to maintain a peaceful relationship with your spouse for the sake of your children.
8. Sometimes It Is Easier To Settle
In some divorce cases, you cannot win what you had fought for. Remember, you are not the only one fighting in the case. Your spouse could pursue the lawsuit until bankruptcy. Spouses are often bitter and will stop at nothing to see their significant other penniless. For this reason, sometimes it’s better to settle.
9. Can I negotiate my divorce’s legal fees?
Not all fees are negotiable, but some are. Court fees are all non-negotiable, but services such as the attorney’s hourly rate are negotiable. Things such as short phone calls, copies, faxes, etc. are all negotiable. These are fees that the attorney or the firm has implemented, and all can be negotiated.
10. Check The Invoices You Receive
Going over the invoice your lawyer had sent you is a very important step many overlook. In most instances, lawyers will estimate how long they have been working on a project, or how long the project will take them to do. Fees for such items such as their cost of mileage, cost per page printed, and their hourly rates for simple phone calls can all be negotiated. Fighting these small, impractical fees will be beneficial in the long run, saving you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
11. Avoid Lawsuits
Not all divorces have to end on a bad note. If at all possible, speak to your spouse. Understand the terms of separation. You could have a lawyer draw up the terms of the contract, and both spouses can sign and be done. Emotional distress and monetary costs are often avoidable.
12. Everything Is On The Table
Everything you and your spouse had purchased or shared, is now known by the court and will be divided accordingly. Your spouse could have the chance to seize all your assets if you do not take the correct steps to secure them properly. This again does not mean you should hide any assets, but to ensure that for example, the car you had purchased with the money you earned is not under your spouse’s name.
13. You May Have To Take Full Responsibility
In some states, committing acts like adultery or desertion will require you to take full legal responsibility for the divorce, and could bar you from the custody of your children. This could also affect your legal right to your home and property, allowing your spouse to gain more. It is imperative to prepare for this type of scenario and to take the proper steps to defend yourself legally. California’s no-fault laws prevent such acts from playing a part in the court’s ruling. California judges look for the amount of income a spouse makes, the professional skills of each spouse, and if any domestic violence has occurred.
14. Have All Files Organized And Prepared
This step might seem redundant, but most lawyers charge hourly. Lawyers will be happy to sit and wait for you while you look for papers in their office because they are getting paid to do so. Having all your files organized and ready will save you countless hours and thousands of dollars on lawyer fees. Gather all papers your lawyer asks you for beforehand, and allow your lawyer to have direct access to them.
15. Flat Rate Attorneys Could Result In You Losing
Flat rate attorneys intrigue people into giving them their case, but fail to inform you that if your case is going to be more difficult than what the attorney had thought, they might not work as hard for you. Typically, the more you pay to an attorney, the more ‘shark-like’ they will become for you.
16. Do Not Expect Full Child Support
As sad as it is, only about 43.5% of Americans receive the full amount of child support they are owed, an increase over 2017. This means that despite the many legal ramifications for not paying child support, the majority of Americans fail to do so.
17. Remain Single Until Your Case Is Done
Some states do not recognize a separation until it is legally enforced- meaning that if you choose to get into another relationship while your case is still ongoing, you may be at fault for adultery. In states like this, any phone calls, communication, text messages, etc. will all be gathered for the court to see. In California, however, this does not apply.
18. You May Need To Change Your Appearance
In the event where you have to be in court with your attorney, you must be presentable in front of the judge. Although judges are meant to not be biased, they are human and often hold unconscious biases. In or out of the courtroom, dress professionally.
19. You May Stop The Legal Proceedings At Any Time
You and your spouse maintain the legal right to end the petition for divorce at any time during the process. If you and your spouse are able to solve your differences, ending legal proceedings may be your best option.