The divorce rate in America is not 50 percent. That’s a common myth that doesn’t hold up to basic scrutiny. As of 2018, the divorce rate was a bit under 40 percent.
If you’re thinking of getting a divorce, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed.
We’re long past the days where unhappy spouses fled to Nevada for an easy divorce. You can get no-fault divorces in all 50 states now.
Should you get a divorce attorney? For most people, the answer is yes. Very few marriages are simple enough to dissolve themselves without lawyers getting involved.
Read on for our top tips on how to find a good divorce lawyer.
Consider Your Goals
Most people do not respond well to the idea of their marriage ending. A few people feel a sense of relief, but many others feel hurt and betrayed. That hurt and betrayal may tempt them to lash out through their divorce papers.
A family and divorce lawyer can tell you why that’s not a good idea. Judges want to see reasonable, mature people in divorce court. Unfortunately, they often run into spouses who will stop at nothing to destroy each other.
Most divorces don’t spring up overnight. The problems have been simmering for a long time. Your lawyer should tell you what issues are relevant to court, and what issues are relevant to a therapist.
For instance, take cheating. It’s common, but that doesn’t mean the divorce court will care. Some states have laws that punish spouses who cheat, but they’re a lot less common than they used to be.
Infidelity may be relevant if it affects the children. Let’s say your spouse didn’t pick up your son from school because they were meeting up with their affair partner. That could be relevant to resolving child custody issues.
But what if your spouse is a bad partner but a decent parent? In that case, your divorce attorney may suggest it’s not worth airing that dirty laundry up in court.
Ask Your Friends
It’s unlikely that you exist in a social circle where no one has gotten divorced in the last few years. This isn’t the 50s, after all. If you have a divorced friend, ask them if they liked their divorce lawyer.
Your divorce lawyer is not going to be your best friend. But they should still be an ally in court. You should still be able to trust them to represent your interests.
Family law is one of the most common practice areas for attorneys. You’ll see no shortage of ads for such services in your city. Your goal should be to find someone who has substance rather than sizzle.
Divorce has a well-earned reputation for being emotionally tough. But your friends can tell you if their lawyers made the divorce easier or harder. Steer clear of attorneys who do the latter.
It’s also a good idea to talk to a few lawyers about how divorce looks in your state. Different states have different ways of dividing up the property.
Let’s use Texas as an example. Per the team at Underwood Law Offices, Texas is a community property state. This is good news for stay-at-home parents who believe they’ll get left with no assets or property after their high-earning spouse leaves them.
Talking to a few lawyers may help you realize that divorce doesn’t have to be the end of the world. In all likelihood, your spouse will not be able to leave you homeless and without child support.
Worried that talking to multiple lawyers might get expensive? Don’t be. The majority of divorce lawyers offer free initial consultations.
But be wary of talking with too many lawyers. If you talk to every lawyer in town, then it’s going to look like you’re trying to block your spouse from finding good divorce attorneys. That’s because a lawyer who has talked to you about your case would be unable to represent your spouse.
If you have children, you need a divorce attorney. This is doubly true if your estranged spouse has hired someone. You cannot afford to walk into a custody hearing without someone to fight for you.
But if you’re walking in with a certain budget, don’t get shy about saying so. You should feel comfortable saying, “I can afford X amount. Is that reasonable for a divorce like this?”
Good divorce attorneys don’t want to waste your time. If your number is unrealistic for the area, they’ll tell you.
Divorce is more expensive in some parts of the country than others. But don’t despair if you feel like you can’t afford an attorney.
Let’s go back to the stay-at-home parent example mentioned above. If your marriage had an extreme financial imbalance, the court may order your spouse to pay for your divorce attorney. Good judges want the proceedings to be as fair to both sides as possible.
If you made a lot less than your spouse, talk to lawyers about this possibility. You may very well have more divorce attorney funding options than you realize.
Stay-at-home parents generally don’t sit around the house eating cake and watching Netflix. Instead, they’ve sacrificed their potential earnings to be the primary caregiver for the children. That’s not insignificant.
Ask About a Timeline
It’s easy to forget to ask, “How long will this take?” But you need to do that for a few reasons.
States have mandatory waiting periods before the divorce can get completed. Other states may require you and your spouse to be legally separated for a set amount of time first.
Some states require a waiting period of three months. Other states will make you wait a year or two unless both sides agree to waive that right.
You may dream of changing your name back by Christmas. But where you live will determine whether that’s a realistic option.
Beyond Getting a Divorce Attorney
A reliable divorce attorney is crucial to most divorces. But it’s not the only key ingredient.
Your divorce attorney can take care of depositions and court filings. But it’s up to you take care of other things. That includes your health and well-being.
For more, check out our post on taking charge of your health during the divorce process.