Divorce proceedings, on average, are completed in just under one year. However, the steps taken in that relatively short period of time can have life-long implications, especially if there are minor children involved. Selecting the right divorce lawyer will help you protect your rights and your future. The Legal Helpers can connect you to an experienced divorce attorney that you can trust to represent your interests every step of the way. Finding a lawyer can be an overwhelming task, but we make it easy to get matched up with top divorce lawyers near you!
Divorce law, also sometimes referred to as matrimonial law, family law, or domestic relations, is a specialized field of practice; retaining an attorney who does not specialize or spend a significant portion of his or her practice in the field of divorce can be costly down the line.
A seasoned divorce attorney should have the skill and experience to:
Is a divorce lawyer necessary? In the simplest cases - no children, no assets, and a short marriage - there may not be much disagreement between you and your spouse. However, it is more common that there are one or more circumstances that call for the seasoned knowledge of an experienced divorce attorney to make sure your interests are fully represented. Examples include:
You may even want to find a lawyer with more specific experience - for example, if you or your spouse are a nurse or a police officer, you may be best served to hire a divorce lawyer who has had other clients with the same background because individuals in these types of employment can have special situations when it comes to retirement funds.
Though each divorce is unique and each jurisdiction has its own laws and court rules, the general process follows roughly the same pattern. Divorce lawyers can explain the details that apply in a given situation in your jurisdiction.
Petitioner must meet initial requirements - Each state has adopted laws stating who may file for divorce in its courts, and when that person is eligible to file. Requirements include:
Petitioner files a complaint for divorce - The petitioner needs to file the paperwork required by the state laws and the local court’s procedural rules, as well as pay a filing fee. No U.S. state or the District of Columbia still requires a petitioner to list fault as a basis for divorce, but complaints for divorce still need to state legal grounds for filing.
Parties engage in pleadings, motions, and discovery - After the respondent (the non-filing party) is served with the complaint, he or she must file an answer and may serve a counterclaim. If there is a counterclaim, the petitioner will need to respond. Each party can request that the other provide requested information through a process called discovery. The parties may file motions requesting the court to rule on issues that come up through the process.
Settlement negotiations - Ideally, the parties will reach an agreement on settlement terms. This can include division of property, amount and duration of spousal support, splitting of retirement funds, and child visitation issues. If the spouses reached an agreement before the divorce was filed, the proceeding will usually be very quick, only needing court approval on certain items. If the parties cannot agree, they may be sent to mediation.
If no settlement is reached, the parties go to trial - A judge may need to hear arguments and review evidence from each side and then decide on the areas of settlement where the parties could not agree.
Modification or enforcement - After a settlement or a trial, the judge will enter a final order. If circumstances change and the parties find the order is not working for them, they may request a modification. If one party is not following the order, the other may file a motion asking the court to enforce it.
Divorce leads to a major change in family structure, legal rights, financial responsibilities, and more. If you are contemplating a divorce, it is never too soon to consult with an attorney to understand your rights and responsibilities going forward and to work out a strategy for the future. Find a lawyer as quickly and painlessly as possible by filling out a free claim review with the Legal Helpers today. We will help you find top-ranked divorce attorneys in your area who are ready and willing to discuss your case.