Everything You Need to Know Before Filing for Divorce

One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make as an adult is whether or not to get divorced. Whether it’s because your spouse cheated on you, you can’t stand their personality anymore, or they just don’t want to work at being a good partner, sometimes divorce is the only option.

But there are still many things that need to be done before and after divorce, and these things could potentially end up costing you thousands of dollars in court fees and lawyer fees, which makes this decision even harder to make financially.

Do you really need a lawyer?

Not necessarily. It’s up to you and your spouse whether or not you want a lawyer present. If both parties agree on how to share assets, then a lawyer may not be necessary at all; in fact, some couples opt for mediation instead of divorce. However, if there are any children involved or if one party wants sole custody, then a divorce lawyer is almost certainly required.

What should you look for in a divorce lawyer?

Though many divorces can be amicably settled without going to court, your interests will always be better served by a lawyer who is willing and able to represent you in an adversarial proceeding. And, if there are children involved, you’ll want an attorney who specializes in family law.

Your lawyer should have a record of success when it comes to custody and property settlement issues, as well as specific expertise in domestic relations—that is, family law. Talk with several attorneys before making your final decision.

What are your costs likely to be?

The expense of a divorce can vary widely depending on your particular situation. If you have children, work with an attorney who’s familiar with your state’s family law system and understands its financial impact. Be sure to ask how much it will cost in total, not just how much an initial consultation costs.

How long will it take?

Divorce usually takes six months to a year to process. However, it can take even longer if you and your spouse have children and need court approval for custody arrangements or are having issues reaching an agreement on finances.

A legal professional can help expedite the process, ensure it’s fair, and make sure you understand each step along the way. The biggest mistake that soon-to-be-former spouses make is waiting too long before hiring an attorney.

How much can I expect my spouse to pay me?

Many people believe that once they file for divorce, their spouse will be forced to pay them a certain amount of money. This is incorrect.

Filing for divorce in itself will not result in any kind of monetary award. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a settlement, you’ll have to go through a trial and have a judge decide what compensation, if any, you should receive.

Why choose an experienced attorney over a paralegal or law student?

Attorneys have a wealth of knowledge and experience in various legal matters. You don’t want to take a chance on something as important as your family. A strong attorney can also help you make well-informed decisions about your case, as well as offer guidance when things seem overwhelming. An experienced attorney will also save you time and money by helping you avoid mistakes that can cost you down the road.

What if my spouse refuses to sign the papers?

No matter how angry or upset your spouse is, it’s important that you speak with an attorney before filing for divorce.

While you can sometimes get a judge to grant a divorce without your spouse’s signature, it isn’t easy. More importantly, if your spouse refuses to sign, you’ll be left in limbo and won’t know whether or not your marriage is actually over until they sign.

Is there anything I can do to improve my chances of getting more out of the divorce settlement?

Make sure that you and your spouse have signed a Marital Settlement Agreement. Without a Marital Settlement Agreement, your divorce is an uncontested divorce; without a valid agreement, it’s easy for one of you to say something in court that can derail your entire case.

The Marital Settlement Agreement (which should be executed before you begin filing papers) details what both of you agree on regarding property division, child custody, spousal support, and other key terms of your divorce.

Can I settle outside court instead of going through with a contested divorce?

When deciding whether or not to file for divorce, it is important to remember that you can choose how you would like your divorce handled. If filing for divorce is something you are considering, contact a lawyer right away so they can answer any questions and prepare your case in advance.

A contested divorce typically involves more litigation and therefore more money spent on legal fees than if you were able to settle outside of court. This is something to consider when weighing your options.