Are you are considering a divorce or has your spouse asked for one? Your very next step should be to hire an attorney! Before hiring one, do some shopping! Make sure they are board certified in divorce and family law, if not don’t even consider them regardless of how flashy their ad may be. You can contact the Bar Association in your state for a list of board certified divorce/family law attorneys. Next, I’m sure you must know someone who has been recently divorced, check with them. If they got taken to the cleaners, mark that attorney off your list as well. Most attorneys will offer a free consultation, take advantage of this!
The decision about an attorney can effect the rest of your life! You need to be comfortable with your attorney; if talking to him or her makes you feel uneasy or you feel they are being judgmental about your case, move on to another attorney. Do not pay a retainer until you find the attorney you feel at ease with and who has a good track record. Ask questions, obviously for confidentiality reasons, they can not give you clients’ names to check with, but they should be able to tell you in generic terms the outcome of previous divorce cases they have handled. Divorce laws vary from state to state, and I am not an attorney, so I am not offering specific advice but make sure your attorney is up to date on any current changes to alimony laws in your state. The thing that makes me a credible source for this is that I have been there and have regrets about not only the attorney I chose, but with trying to be the nice guy.
It doesn’t matter how long you have been married, or if you are the one instituting the divorce, from this day forward, it is war! I don’t care how badly you want out, but forget about being fair and trying to do the “right thing” by your soon to be ex-spouse. No matter how fair you try to be, if you are the one who wants “out”, you will always be the bad guy/girl. In many cases the party desiring the divorce will be required to pay some type of spousal support. Spousal support or alimony laws vary from state to state, and many states have recently updated them. That is one more reason to be sure the attorney you chose to represent you is current on the divorce/family laws in your state.
If there are minor children involved, there is also the issue of child support, custody and visitation. Guys, a word to the wise, before agreeing to any kind of child support, be 100% sure the child(ren) are really yours. It might be wise to require a DNA test to be certain you are the biological father. There have been cases recently where the “father” found out he was really the father after agreeing to child support. In the cases I have read about, the judges basically said “too bad, you should have checked before agreeing to pay support”.
If you are retired from the U.S. Military, make sure your attorney is well versed in the requirements for former spouse payments from your pension. Your soon to be ex-spouse may claim it is an entitlement, but you may be able to include it in the amount of spousal support you will be required to pay.
As always, make sure you understand completely what any documents mean before signing them. Don’t assume that since your attorney handed them to you that it is safe to sign. If you have any questions at all about anything, ask your attorney. I would suggest that you take any proposed settlement home with you before signing it. Read it over carefully then sleep on it. Read it again the next day. If possible, have someone you trust read over it as well. Don’t be afraid of upsetting your attorney with questions, after all you are the boss; you are paying for their expertise. Anything you might not understand could come back to “bite” you, and will affect you for the rest of your life.
Do you need an attorney for divorce? The answer is a resounding yes!