6 Things Divorce Lawyers Will Never Tell You (Part 1)
You can control the process of your divorce case
Most people enter the divorce process thinking their case has to be handled a certain way and that the lawyer will dictate the process. Lawyers will tell you the way they want to proceed or how it normally goes, but the truth is that your case does not have to be handled in one particular way. You actually have quite a bit of control over how the process should work.
The more you understand your options, the more control you have. There are several different types of divorces. It is in your best interest to hire an attorney who is experienced in all of them:
- Uncontested divorce—If you and your spouse agree about ending the marriage and agree on how to settle issues such as division of property, custody and child support, you can file for an uncontested divorce. If you do not agree on key issues, your divorce will be “contested.” An uncontested divorce will save you time, money and emotional stress because there are no disputes for a judge to decide, so you will not have to go to court.
- Mediated divorce—With this option, you and your spouse hire the same lawyer, who represents neither of you but rather guides you through the resolution of all issues in your divorce. You will not have to go to court or be involved in litigation. This is your best option, but few attorneys are trained in mediation. Read why in tip number 5, “Mediation is your best divorce option.”
- Collaborative divorce—In this type of divorce, your attorney will address your and your spouse’s financial and emotional needs and goals. This process focuses on helping family members heal from the devastating emotional toll caused by divorce. The goal is to address all issues—not just those related to the division of property and child custody—and to settle the divorce out of court. Sometimes other professionals are brought into the process, such as a financial specialist, a child specialist or a divorce coach.
- Litigated divorce—This is the most expensive, time-consuming and emotionally difficult divorce option. The process involves “discovery” (exchanging financial records), property evaluation, psychological evaluation and motions made to a judge to decide on matters you and your spouse cannot agree on. Litigated divorces often end up going to trial, which requires that you hire an attorney who is experienced in courtroom litigation. After the trial, the process can also include post-trial briefs before the final decree is handed down. If you can avoid a litigated divorce, it will save you a lot of time, money and emotional turmoil.
- Sub-mediation—In many divorce cases, spouses have big disagreements about custody arrangements for their children. When that happens, one lawyer might file a motion to determine custody. Another lawyer might tell the couple they need to hire a custody evaluator to make recommendations to the court. But there is a third option that is much more effective and cheaper. Lawyers usually don’t suggest it because it doesn’t make any money for them. In this process, sometimes called “sub-mediation,” you and/or your spouse would hire a child psychologist on your own. That specialist will meet with you and your spouse, without lawyers, then evaluate your child. The psychologist will mediate a potential custody agreement that is most likely to meet your child’s specific emotional and developmental needs.
This is a good idea for several reasons. First, instead of guessing what your child needs, or asking lawyers for their opinions, you are getting input from a professional who specializes in evaluating children’s well-being. Second, it’s far less expensive than having two lawyers argue over your case.
This option is not for everybody, but it can be extremely effective. Start by creating a clear picture of what you want, based on what is important to you and your children. If your attorney doesn’t offer to have this kind of discussion at the beginning of your case, suggest it.
Your case should begin with you and your spouse deciding what type of divorce you want. You can control the process however you decide, limited only by your creativity.
You can also control your case by making sure your attorney is not requesting more information than is necessary. Some attorneys ask for all kinds of information that isn’t relevant or important to your case, which runs up the legal fees for you and your spouse. When your attorney requests something, ask what its purpose is and how it will help your case move forward.
Knowing that you are in control of many details of your divorce case can make it less overwhelming.