Divorce Lawyer FAQs

  • What are the basic steps to filing for divorce?

    The steps required to file for divorce depend heavily on whether the divorce is contested, if there are minor children or property issues at stake, and if there are disagreements over child support or alimony. The process may also differ from state to state, but generally parties must:

    • File the divorce petition
    • Hire a process server to give the other party divorce papers/respond to the original petitioner's filing
    • Request temporary orders covering issues such as custody/visitation, support, and exclusive property use
    • Make financial disclosures
    • Request discovery from your spouse
    • Propose and/or consider a possible settlement
    • Go to trial if necessary
    • Receive a signed judgment from the court indicating the divorce is final
    • Address post-divorce tasks such as transferring property titles and closing joint bank accounts
  • How much does it cost to get a divorce?

    The cost of a divorce differs dramatically based on a litany of criteria, such as whether the divorce is contested, where the divorce petition is filed, and whether the divorce requires a professional intermediary or other legal expert. A simple, low-frills DIY divorce can be as little as a few hundred dollars. Add in mediation and the cost may jump to the mid-four figures and can easily reach $7,000 or more. Hire a lawyer and you may pay anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000+ if there are major custodial issue or complex financial concerns.

  • How much does a divorce lawyer cost?

    Most divorce lawyers charge by the hour and billing can vary dramatically. Some attorneys in more affordable markets and/or with less experience may charge as little as $75/hour. More experienced attorney or those who have large staffs, specialize in complex cases, or hold relevant certifications may charge premium rates in excess of $400/hour. Then there are the amount of hours invested; simple cases may be over in a matter of weeks while hotly contested divorces can drag on for years leading to lawyer's fees in the tens of thousands.

  • How to choose a divorce lawyer/what to look for?

    Divorce lawyers are not one-size-fits-all. It's important to find a lawyer whose skill set, experience, and resources align with the demands of each specific situation. For instance, some attorneys will push mediation while others are naturals in the courtroom.

    • Know your budget
    • Limit your search to lawyers experienced in family law
    • Zero in on lawyers or firms that can handle the complexities of divorce, especially any issues that may be specific to the current case
    • Read reviews and ask friends for recommendations, but remember that their situations and needs may not be the same
    • Conduct interviews to see who feels trustworthy and can spell out an approach that feels appropriate
    • Try to ignore ad campaigns and office décor and instead consider track record and skills
  • What is an uncontested divorce?

    An uncontested divorce is one in which both parties agree on the major issues, such as custody of any minor children, child support, alimony, and how to divide any assets and/or debt. While uncontested divorces still require a judge to approve the terms of the divorcing couple's signed agreement, these relatively simple splits tend to move faster, cost less money, and are easier to execute without the help of a divorce lawyer. A divorce filing that goes unanswered by the non-petitioning party may also be considered uncontested.

  • Can you file for divorce without a lawyer?

    It's possible to file for divorce without a lawyer, especially if the divorce is uncontested. Many states offer free divorce forms either online or at legal self-help centers located in or near family court. There are often dispute resolution resources available as well; mediation services can help iron out disputes over custody or financial support without involving lawyers. Still, a free consultation with a divorce lawyer can offer valuable insight, and contentious divorces, whether they go to trial or not, all but require legal representation.

  • How long does it take to get a divorce?

    The length of a divorce is contingent on four things: each state's mandatory waiting period, whether the divorce is uncontested or contested, how quickly both sides can come to an agreement, and how quickly a judge is able to hear or review the case and sign off. The best-case scenario is an uncontested divorce in a state with a short waiting period which could see a divorce finalized in a matter of weeks. For divorces with highly combative parties, long discovery periods, and other complications, a decision could take months or even years.

  • How to prepare for divorce?

    It's difficult to ever feel truly prepared for the rigors of divorce, but there are several steps that can make the process more bearable and allow for a more positive outcome:

    • Interview attorneys
    • Locate and make copies of important documents like mortgage and car titles, insurance policies, business licenses, financial records, bank statements, and income tax returns
    • Take inventory of valuable household items that should be considered later while splitting assets
    • Make a detailed list of monthly expenses, including utilities, rent or mortgage, childcare, kids' activities like sports or dance classes, school tuition, and insurance
    • Know what the respondent's income is, including any income from self-employment, stock dividends, and interest
    • Double-check credit history and evaluate both short- and long-term earning potential
    • Set goals for ideal custody arrangement, support amounts, and living arrangements
    • Get support from friends and family
  • What to do with an engagement ring after divorce?

    Most courts follow state laws that consider an engagement ring to be the recipient's property once a wedding takes place, which means it remains that recipient's individual property even after a divorce. Other states categorize engagement rings as marital property and as such the ring is subject to the same division of assets as a house or art collection might be. For spouses who get to keep their jewelry, engagement rings can be sold, dismantled and repurposed, returned to the original buyer, or kept and handed down to any children the marriage may have produced.

  • What is divorce mediation?

    When divorces get heated or even just have the potential to become messy, a neutral third party can help calm both parties and resolve issues without the need for a trial. This is called mediation. A great mediator is unbiased and invested in a balanced, fair outcome; they will ideally listen to both parties, encourage respectful discussions, and raise questions or concerns when appropriate. Once an agreement is reached, the mediator will prepare documents detailing the agreed-upon terms. Using a mediator only works if both sides are willing to meet and discuss a compromise, but doing so can save a considerable amount of time, money, emotional strain, and overall stress.

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