Before hiring an attorney for the purpose of ending your marriage, do some research on the divorce process in your state. The process is often complicated and it's best to know early on that the journey will make things initially more difficult before better. Where do you start?

We put together some major considerations before hiring an attorney to deter avoidable mistakes after. Let's get started!

Consult an attorney to know your options

Consulting an attorney to understand your options and state laws may be helpful in making a decision to divorce or reconcile. It is important to understand the aspects associated with the divorce, settlement potential and problems that could follow.

Don't hire when your emotions are in control

Unless legal reasons warrant the immediate hiring of an attorney, consider a cooling off period following an argument, spouse's recent confession and/or unexpected change in your marriage. This is especially true if the cause is uncharacteristic of you, your spouse or your marriage.

While the reaction may seem appropriate to initially consult with an attorney, don't necessarily retain him/her only as a reaction to the pain you are experiencing. You will be emotional during the process of meeting and retaining an attorney, but your emotions should not be in control of the interview or hiring process. Use the consultation to get informed and for the purpose of obtaining preliminary legal advise based on your individual circumstances. This information can help solidify your intentions or change course.

Unless advised otherwise or have an advantage or need, immediately initiate the legal process when you have employed sound reasoning and already exhausted all you're willing to do in order to save the marriage. There are many legal reasons to immediately hire an attorney, but most of the emotional ones aren't helpful.

Divorce may be a far reach from what you really want or are financially or emotionally ready to pursue. Any of these occurrences could present on-going, painful obstacles to your happiness. Problems, pain and setbacks as a result of your marital strife and divorce will last until the divorce and marriage are behind you. This does not magically happen when your divorce is final. It can take months or likely years to recover.

If you rush into retaining an attorney and decide to later reconcile, it could be costly mistake that could have been avoided.

Hire a legal professional when legal separation or divorce is eminent

After considering the marriage, problems and situation, you may determine a divorce is the only solution for you and your family's long-term happiness. This may provide a happiness that can't be realized with your marriage intact.

We have prepared a list of considerations weighted heavily on the practical needs to support oneself, children, former spouse, household while maintaining resources necessary to cover legal expenses until a settlement is reached.

Consider the following to determine if you are ready to proceed with legal representation:

Living situation (You can't do much without housing)

You'll want to make sure you have a sustainable living situation and are prepared for changes that may affect your housing and/or means to support it.

Finances (You won't get far without money)

You should have the ability to support yourself while maintaining your debts and household expenses with or without your spouse's income. 

You should have the means to support your spouse, along with a separate household, if anticipated in the separation and/or divorce settlement. Support to a spouse may include alimony, maintenance, child support and/or one-time settlement at the commencement of the divorce process.

Tax Liability (Uncle Sam still wants what's owed)

Certain aspects of tax liability may have a significant impact on your household once divorced.  Make sure you understand your liability or advantage before negotiating the terms of your settlement.

You should understand how your divorce impacts previous, current and subsequent years' tax liability and your filing status. You should know who pays taxes on support, advantage or disadvantage when attaining specific assets, capital gain's liability for home or other investments, etc. A tax professional should be consulted for advice and for more information.

You should have the means to support your spouse, along with a separate household, if anticipated in the separation and/or divorce settlement. Support to a spouse may include alimony, maintenance, child support and/or one-time settlement at the commencement of the divorce process.

Children (Your family's happiness, support and housing must be considered)

You'll want to insure your children will have a better and more stable environment with both parents living in separate households or parts of the home. You'll also want to understand the laws of your state and the basics of child support, custody and visitation to be financially and emotionally prepared for the best and worst case scenarios.

Legal Expenses (What can you afford and does it match your circumstances?)

Attorney fees begin at the time of hiring. You'll begin with a retainer and continue to pay your attorney according to his/her schedule of fees.

While some attorneys may simply prepare your paperwork for an uncontested, no-fault divorce (often $1500 or less), others may have rates exceeding $250/hour with total divorce expense escalating with every legal motion or response. Often this comes about when one or both spouse's are in significant disagreement over one thing or another.

If your spouse is extremely unlikely to cooperate or either one of you could be considered "the punisher", someone who expects compensation for all things wrong in his/her world, you'll want to consider the worst case scenario of legal expenses.

Interviewing a potential attorney

It's time to consult an attorney to get a broader legal view of your pending divorce. Your goal is to dissolve your marriage with the least amount of time, problems and money. There is no way to sugar coat a legal dissolution of a failed marriage intertwined with emotional drama and pain. So, from this point on, know that your attorney is your attorney and not your therapist. It's time to toughen up and speak law, or at least understand it so that you can get the best settlement possible. For a starter list of questions to cover in your initial interview, refer to our article, What to ask during your first consultation.

Topics to consider when shopping for an attorney

Choosing an attorney to represent you in a divorce is a very important decision. It helps to know what the majority of people consider when choosing an attorney to represent them in legal matters. Some of the most important things they consider are: years of experience, rates, case history, client testimonials, reviews on sites like Google®, Facebook® & Yelp® & location. Check out our article: What do people consider when hiring an attorney?

Legal Options (You should understand the laws of your state)

You should have researched on your own, referred to our Legal Guide and consulted with an attorney who can explain how state laws may affect your case based on your current circumstances and expectations. This can include property laws as they affect division of assets, child custody and support, alimony, maintenance, "waiting periods", legal separtion and any requirements thereof, annulments, etc.

Finally, it's smart to interview several attorneys before you hire the best attorney who has the background and personality that will be best suited based on your circumstances. Having a plan to get through the various stages of planning for your divorce is helpful in knowing what questions to ask a potential attorney and what information to compile upon hiring him/her. Most people find their attorneys online or by word-of-mouth.  They are usually divorce, family law or general practice attorneys.

For assistance finding an attorney near you, utilize our Legal Directory.


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