A lot of newlyweds find the legal side of getting married surprisingly simple. They marvel that Texas lets you change your life so profoundly with little more than filling out a form.
But many people are blindsided by how long, complex and contentious divorce can get, and how suddenly. By the time you understand, it can be too late. Divorce attorneys are often hired to undo the damage left after someone attempts divorce alone, without an attorney.
Expect unpleasant surprises
Actors and musicians rehearse, and carpenters learn on the job, but you’ll get just one chance at your divorce. It’s no time to learn by mistakes.
If, at any point, your spouse hires an attorney, you know they’re going to defend every right the law permits. Somebody who’s seen all the questions and surprises before is usually indispensable.
Ready or not, financial issues will be decided
You will be faced with some or all of the following issues that divorce attorneys deal with every day. Do you know what’s at stake in each?
- How much the marriage’s combined assets are really worth.
- Whether or not you’ve forgotten any assets, or had them hidden from you.
- How your pensions and other retirement accounts will be divided.
- What realtor will sell the house, the asking price, an acceptable selling price and how to split the proceeds fairly.
- How the assets of any business will be divided, and how it matters if one or both spouses are owners.
Negotiating children’s futures takes a steady hand
When the conditions of your children’s lives and your relationship with them are at stake, facts can get cloudy and it’s easy to make mistakes about what to ask, and ask about. Consider these examples.
- Child support amounts and schedules that make sense.
- How spousal support and child support affect each other.
- The schedule and procedure for visitation and custody sharing.
- How changes and exceptions will be negotiated, and if they’ll affect a parent’s “total.”
- About the children’s schooling, medical care, savings accounts, etc., who has the final say?
Showing up with representation
There’s an old saying that a person acting as their own lawyer has a fool for client. That’s certainly too harsh. But there are definite advantages to being represented, beyond the critically important skills and experience it can bring.
Most judges are deeply reluctant to give anything that sounds like legal advice, but dealing with people who aren’t prepared can fray their nerves. That’s not what you want.
It’s true that an experienced attorney is vastly less likely to forget deadlines, lose track of the next steps or fail to follow up. But they’re also bound by oath and law to exercise due diligence for their clients. As your own attorney, you aren’t similarly bound.