Hiring an experienced divorce attorney is the best way you get peace of mind when dealing with child custody, alimony, and asset division. Having a divorce lawyer advise you helps ensure that nothing is left out of your divorce agreement, which means that costly mistakes won't come back to bite you later. Choose your state or city to narrow your search, and then use the Avvo Rating to help find the right divorce lawyer for you.
Some divorces go smoothly and end in a mutual agreement outside of court. But in cases where you and your spouse disagree, a divorce attorney can advocate and negotiate on your behalf.
Of course, you may be able to work out those issues without an attorney. Mediation is a common alternative to hiring a lawyer. In fact, some states require couples seeking a divorce to complete mediation before courts will get involved. If mediation fails or isn't a good option, there are several things a divorce attorney can do for you.
An experienced divorce attorney will be able to tell you how likely it is you'll get what you're seeking in the divorce. An attorney can also help you devise a strategy for your case and give a rough timeline of how long it will take.
Trying to negotiate on your own when you're so invested can extremely hard. An attorney can make the process easier by handling communication and negotiation for you.
While you can complete divorce paperwork on your own, it's easy to make mistakes when you're not familiar with the legal system. An attorney works with court forms on a regular basis and will already know what to expect. They can make sure your divorce isn't delayed or complicated by problems with the paperwork.
Divorce paperwork is also extremely time-consuming. In addition to spending late nights completing forms correctly, people often have to take time off work to travel to the courthouse--to collect the proper paperwork and later to file it. This is especially frustrating for those who are paid hourly. People who DIY their divorces often say that they wish they would've known how much time the paperwork was going to take so they could've hired a lawyer to same them time.
The divorce process can bring up a lot of questions, like "who lives in the marital home during the divorce?" or "how will custody of children work?" Your attorney can file motions to establish resolutions answering these questions.
Sometimes it can be difficult to get your spouse to turn over financial information. An attorney can compel your spouse to provide information on their investments, retirement accounts, and pensions.
If your spouse has a business that needs to be valued for the division of assets, your lawyer can find a trustworthy business appraiser. Likewise, if your case goes to trial, your lawyer can bring in experts like psychologists or social workers to help make your case for custody.
Some divorce cases are more complicated than others. In some cases, not retaining a lawyer puts your financial future or your parental rights at risk. Below are some situations when hiring a divorce attorney is usually the best plan.
You have a contested divorce: All divorce agreements address division of property, division of debt, child custody, and spousal and child support. A contested divorce occurs when couples can't agree out of court on one or more of these issues. That means you'll have to go to court to resolve them. And a court battle is a high-stakes process that can be difficult to take on without a lawyer's help.
Your spouse can prove wrongdoing: If your spouse is able to prove some kind of wrongdoing, such as infidelity, you may want to hire a lawyer. This kind of evidence can hurt your chances of obtaining support, custody, or both.
Your spouse hired their own lawyer: If your spouse has a lawyer, you should think about hiring an attorney yourself. Remember that most divorce attorneys have handled hundreds of similar cases. Negotiating with an attorney without having similar experience puts you at a great disadvantage.
Once you get an attorney, your spouse's attorney is ethically forbidden from communicating with you without your own attorney's consent.
You're dealing with custody disputes: If you and your spouse can't agree on a custody arrangement, you'll need to prove that your proposal is in the best interest of your children at the end of your marriage. An attorney can help you hire experts, defend against any allegations of unfit parenting, and research any relevant information about your spouse.
You have significant assets or debt: The more extensive your assets and debt, the more you can benefit from an attorney's advice. Divorce settlements can have serious tax consequences that an attorney can help you prepare for, or even avoid.
Cost is an important factor to consider when you're deciding how to hire a divorce lawyer. What you pay a divorce attorney will depend on who you choose, where you live, and whether your divorce is uncontested.
Hiring a divorce attorney can cost anywhere from $250 to $350 per hour which may add up to a lot of money. However, attorneys may also handle divorces for a flat fee. The fee for an uncontested divorce might range from a $600 flat fee to a $5,000 retainer, depending on circumstances. Contested divorces are a different story—these cost about $15,000 on average.
Don't just hire the first attorney you meet as they will be the one to represent you in the eyes of the law. Schedule a consultation with at least 3 lawyers (many offer free consultations) to learn more. Look for the following when you talk to them:
To make the most of your first consultation, prepare questions for the lawyer. Make sure your list includes the following:
Avvo gives you all the information you need to find the right lawyer.