Ending a marriage is typically an emotionally painful process that also involves complex legal procedures. At your first consultation, a knowledgeable divorce lawyer can summarize the important aspects of family law, the process, and your initial options. During this meeting, you should also have the opportunity to discuss the specifics of your situation, describe what you’re hoping to achieve, and ask questions that are at the forefront of your mind. Most questions that come up at this stage revolve around child custody and financial issues. Here are the top five questions to ask your attorney that should help you obtain the most relevant information to make the legal aspects of your marriage dissolution more manageable.
1. What Is Your Fee Structure?
This should be the first question you ask your divorce lawyer. You will need to know whether a fixed fee will be charged or whether you will be charged an hourly rate for all the work performed on your case. Try and get a specific cost range if your case ends up going all the way to trial. Considering that some divorce cases can take years to resolve, it’s imperative to understand the long-term financial implications.
2. What Are The Legal Procedures In My State?
Every state has its own unique requirements for how divorces must be filed. The amount of time that it will take from start to finish varies greatly depending on the circumstances of your situation, but your attorney should be able to give you an approximate timeline and an overview of the exact steps that will be taken throughout the filing process.
3. Can I Ask For Alimony?
Whether you are hoping to seek alimony for yourself or you think your spouse may seek it from you, you’ll want to know what the laws around alimony are in your state. Some states make eligibility dependent on how long you were married, whether one spouse stays home to raise the kids, or whether one spouse makes substantially more money than the other. In any case, an experienced divorce lawyer can guide you through the specific rules in your state.
4. How Will Child Custody Be Determined?
If you have minor children, one of the most difficult issues when a marriage ends is deciding who will have custody. If the parties cannot agree on their own, a judge will step in and make the decision based on available evidence. It’s important to understand what factors the judge will consider when making this critical decision, and an attorney can counsel you on exactly what to expect.
5. How Will Marital Assets Be Split?
Another significant and often time-consuming issue relates to finances and how marital assets will be split. Most states have a formula that will govern the split for jointly held assets. A divorce lawyer will have the expertise to explain the legal framework for how assets are divided in your state and will explain how state property laws ultimately dictate each spouse’s ownership rights.
Once you’ve been through the initial consultation and had the opportunity to ask these important questions, you will be in a much-improved position to make informed choices throughout the remainder of the process.