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Education Negates Fear: Divorce Process 101

Education Negates Fear: Divorce Process 101

Separation and divorce is an emotional process that involves feelings of guilt, rejection, embarrassment, and anger.  Many people fear the legal process of divorce due to the fear and uncertainty of the outcome.  The best way to overcome that fear is to educate yourself about the process.  Hiring the right lawyer is the first step to become aware of your options so you can see what is in the road that lies ahead. 

Dissolution generally involves these five main issues: property division, spousal support, child support, custody/visitation, and divorce.  Each of these issues can be resolved through mediation or settlement or can ultimately be contested in court.  The most important thing about finding the right attorney is that you communicate well with each other and that you have confidence in the lawyer’s ability to handle your case.  It is also important to hire a lawyer who practices in the particular field of law.  Your attorney has the duty to: (1) allow you to make major decisions in your case, such as pleading guilty in a criminal case or accepting a compromise or settlement in a civil case; and (2) remain open and honest with you in all aspects of your case, including your chances of success, the positives and negatives of your position, and the time and fee required.

The cost of divorce is dependent on which route is taken to complete the process.  Generally, costs can be reduced through mediation or collaborative divorce.  Fees can be set in a number of ways, most commonly domestic cases are through flat-rate or hourly billing.  A flat fee is generally paid in advance and does not vary depending on the time or work involved.  An hourly rate is most common when the client’s work will be substantial, but difficult to estimate.  Lawyers generally charge an hourly rate in a contested custody or alimony case.  It is common for lawyers to have a partial payment made “up front.”  This up-front cost is called a retainer; and is essentially a deposit or down payment to make sure that the client is serious about seeking legal counsel and is financially prepared to take on the case. 

When you first meet with your attorney, be sure to share the important facts of your case and outline your goals.  It is extremely important to keep the goals of your case reasonable and achievable; don’t expect your case to resolve quickly if your goals are to embarrass or financially break the opposing party.  Your lawyer will be able to assess the pros and cons of each decision as well as the strengths and weaknesses of your case.  With the facts of your case, you will be able to consider your finances and ultimately decide “how much case you can afford.”  If you are unsure or unclear about the information that your spouse is providing, your attorney can request certain papers, receipts, titles or deeds from the opposing party. 

Going to trial only happens if the alternatives are unable to provide a favorable settlement to both parties.  Other options such as: mediation, collaborative law, arbitration, coaching, and negotiation are sometimes less expensive as well as less time-consuming as opposed to going to trial.  These options do require both parties to be willing to negotiate in an amicable manner, while keeping the best interest of both parties in mind.  Often these options will not be available for cases involving domestic violence.

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