Are You Considering Getting a Divorce?
If you are considering ending a marriage or registered domestic partnership, arming yourself with information is your best first step. A skilled Geneva divorce lawyer can show you what will occur during a divorce proceeding and legally who is entitled to what.
The Divorce Process
Filing for divorce is the first step, but there are other options throughout the process. Most divorces have many questions as to the division of property and, if you have children, child custody and child support.
Some couples are able to reach an agreement through mediation, others may have to depend on the judge to make the final decision. While the divorce process will vary by state, you will have to file with a family court in your jurisdiction to obtain a final decree of divorce as well as to request child custody and child support payments. Divorce can be messy, so make sure to arm yourself with a divorce attorney.
How do you file for divorce?Your state likely has requirements for filing for divorce. For example, some states require you and your spouse to live apart for a certain amount of time before filing. In general, you or another party will serve your spouse with divorce papers, and you will need to file a copy of your paperwork at your local court that handles these matters. Your divorce attorney will be able to walk you through the entire process and address all the details.
How much does a divorce cost?The final cost of your divorce ultimately depends a great deal on both you and your spouse’s approach to the proceedings. If you can negotiate all of the terms of your divorce without any extended courtroom batters, you will spend much less money than if either of you insists on taking the divorce to trial. The use of outside experts, such as child psychologists and financial experts, will also affect the final cost.
How long does a divorce take?Again, this depends on how you and your spouse approach the divorce proceedings. If you can easily work out everything, due to no-fault divorce laws, you may be able to complete the process in a few months. Every dispute that needs a judge’s or mediator’s supervision, however, will take time. Court appointments are typically not available on short notice.
Why would you get a legal separation instead of a divorce?Some couples choose to get a legal separation instead of divorce because of religious beliefs. Others do it for financial reasons, even though they do not intend to get back together. You should be aware that in some states, a legal separation could mean having to deal with property division, child support, and alimony payments. A family law attorney can help you understand your options.
What can you not do in a divorce?During divorce proceedings, a family court judge may instruct you to refrain from certain actions, such as posting on social media about your spouse. If there are children involved, it’s also a good idea to not use your children as pawns or try to pit them against your spouse. You also may not hide any assets to keep them secret during the property division or alimony determination process.
Top Questions to Ask When Hiring an Attorney
- How many years have you been practicing law? How long have you practiced law in the local area?
- How many cases similar to mine have you handled in the past?
- What is the likely outcome for my case?
In legal practice, experience matters. An experienced attorney will likely have handled issues similar to yours many, many times. Therefore, after listening to your situation, the attorney should have a reasonable idea of the time line for a case like yours and the likely resolution.
Tips on Approaching an Initial Attorney Consultation
- Use the consultation as a means of gaining a better understanding of your legal situation.
- Ask the attorney how many cases similar to yours he/she has handled. An attorney’s experience and knowledge can speak to their expertise (or lack of) in addressing your situation.
- Your attorney should be able to articulate roughly how long a case like yours will take to resolve and what sort of procedures to expect.
- Determine how comfortable you are working with the lawyer and/or law firm.
How will an attorney charge me?
A reputable attorney will be very upfront about how he/she will charge you. The three most common fee structures that attorneys use to charge for their services are:
- Bill by the hour
- Contingent fee agreement
- Flat fee agreement
Depending on your specific legal situation, it’s possible that only one type of fee structure is available. For instance, criminal defense attorneys almost always bill by the hour. In a flat fee arrangement, an attorney accepts a one-time payment to help you resolve your issue. With a contingent fee agreement, the client pays little to nothing upfront and the attorney receives a percentage of the money recovered if you win your case.
Common legal terms explained
Pro se – This Latin term refers to representing yourself in court instead of hiring professional legal counsel. Pro se representation can occur in either criminal or civil cases.
Statute – Refers to a law created by a legislative body. For example, the laws enacted by Congress are statutes.
Subject matter jurisdiction – Requirement that a particular court have authority to hear the claim based on the specific type of issue brought to the court. For example, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court only has subject matter jurisdiction over bankruptcy filings, therefore it does not have the authority to render binding judgment over other types of cases, such as divorce.