If you are facing a divorce, you are naturally facing a challenging emotional journey but are also dealing with some serious and exacting legal matters that will directly affect your financial and parental rights. To protect these rights to the best of your ability, you need professional legal counsel on your side, and there are certain steps that you can take to help your experienced Killeen divorce attorney help you.
Make Sure that Divorce Is the Right Answer for You
The most important step you can take before making such an important decision is ensuring that it is really what you want – or that it is your best option at this juncture. Some couples who come up against difficult times are not sure how to restore harmony in their relationship and give up before they have exhausted all their options. It is important to remember that you do have options in the matter, including:
Attending couples counseling
Seeking counseling on your own
Sharing your concerns with a trusted friend, clergy person, or family member
Discussing the matter with a knowledgeable divorce attorney
While reaching out to a divorce attorney for help saving your marriage may strike you as counterintuitive, it can serve as just the counterbalance you are looking for. Nobody has quite as clear a view about exactly what divorce is likely to mean for you as your divorce attorney, and this kind of insight may help you gain perspective (especially if you are on the fence).
Every marriage goes through ups and downs, and if your marriage can be saved, it is a worthy endeavor. Divorce attorneys recognize the challenges that lie ahead for you if you do proceed with a divorce, and when they can play a role in keeping couples together, they are pleased to do so. Of course, some marriages cannot – and should not – be saved, and if this is the situation you find yourself in, that is the end of that.
Find the Right Divorce Attorney for You
Finding the right divorce attorney for you can take a bit of elbow grease, but it is worth the effort. There are few matters as personal as a divorce, and you will need to share a considerable amount of information (that you may otherwise keep entirely private) with your attorney. This means that you will need to be comfortable opening up – and you will need to get there pretty quickly. The importance of being able to connect on a real level with your divorce attorney cannot be overstated, and the surest way to make this determination is by meeting in person for a one-on-one consultation.
There are also certain factors that tend to make divorce that much more complicated, and if any of these apply to your situation, you should choose an attorney with considerable experience successfully guiding divorce cases like yours toward favorable outcomes.
Complicating factors tend to include:
Divorces involving high assets
Divorces involving business ownership
Divorces involving complicated financials overall
Divorces involving lopsided financial assets (unevenly divided between the spouses)
Highly contentious divorces
Divorces involving hotly contested child custody concerns
Your divorce is unique to your family and the situation at hand, and you need a divorce attorney whom you trust to faithfully guide you throughout the complicated legal process.
Once you have met your legal match (in terms of a divorce attorney), you will know. If you are feeling hesitant, however, you should take a bit more time to ensure the match is a good one. And if you sense a disconnect, it is time to keep looking. Divorce attorneys are not interchangeable, and it is important to spend the time it takes to find the right one for you and for your unique divorce case.
Hiring a dedicated divorce attorney is not inexpensive, but it can save you a considerable amount of money in the long run. In fact, your financial rights are a critical element of your divorce. Reputable divorce attorneys will discuss their billing systems with you from the outset to help you better understand how you will be charged for specific elements of the legal work that is performed for you, how you will be billed, and your payment schedule.
There is no way to determine what your total divorce costs will be from the outset – some divorces begin with a bang, but the couples ultimately reach a rapprochement, while others begin civilly enough but unexpectedly evolve into highly contentious affairs. Nevertheless, understanding your attorney’s billing process is an important component of keeping you in the driver’s seat as your divorce moves forward.
Understanding how your attorney will be billing you may also help you save on your legal expenses. For example, the following can all help you stretch your legal budget:
Compiling your questions and sending them in an email that can be addressed in a single conversation
Working with a paralegal who is up to speed with your case (as appropriate)
Doing as much of the legwork as you can, including gathering all the relevant financial documents and household bills
Being well prepared for your meetings with your attorney
Every law firm has its own approach to billing, and a better understanding of the process can free you up to concentrate on the important business at hand – strategizing your best path forward with your practiced divorce attorney.
Open the Lines of Communication
Divorce is often a lengthy process that can feel like it is dragging on endlessly – until things suddenly speed up and there are serious deadlines flying your way. Divorce encompasses both of these extremes and more. There are mandatory filing deadlines that will take considerable focus, and there are long, drawn-out time periods when nothing seems to be happening. As a divorce client, you need to know that your case is receiving the legal attention it requires and exactly how matters are advancing. Further, you need to know both what is being done and what needs to be done legally. In other words, you and your divorce attorney are going to need to keep the lines of communication open. This involves setting up a plan from the outset.
For example, all the following can be viable options (depending upon your unique situation):
Setting up a regularly scheduled phone conversation in which you can address pending legal matters, questions, and concerns
Addressing your questions and legal concerns via email and scheduling phone conversations and/or face-to-face meetings as needed
Setting up regularly scheduled face-to-face meetings to address all pending legal matters, questions, and concerns and, at which, you schedule other forms of communication, such as phone calls, conferences with third parties, and more
Proceeding with an as-needed approach in which you and your attorney reach out to one another as the need arises (scheduling phone calls and face-to-face meetings as required)
Your divorce represents a significant transition in your life, and you need to feel heard (and be heard) throughout the process, which means the lines of communication between you and your divorce attorney need to be well and truly open. If you sense that a prospective divorce attorney is not as forthcoming, as open, as available, or as invested in open communication as your case requires, he or she is unlikely the right attorney for you. While your attorney will naturally have other clients, the bottom line is that you need to know that, when you really need him or her, your divorce attorney will be available to you (and that he or she will keep you consistently updated regarding how your case is proceeding).
Know the Trajectory of Your Case, Including the Deadlines
Yes, you rely upon your divorce attorney to direct the legal aspects of your divorce, but you do yourself a disservice when you take a hands-off approach. The better you understand your case, the better prepared you will be to take on what is to come. Further, you and your divorce attorney are a team, and if you take a passive role, it dilutes the teamwork. As your divorce proceeds, knowing the filing deadlines and other related happenings allows you to remain in the driver’s seat. This is your divorce, and the important decisions are yours to make. While your attorney is there to guide you and offer his or her best professional guidance, you have the final say on what you are prepared to sign off on regarding your divorce terms. Working closely with your dedicated divorce attorney is the best path forward, and part of this is taking ownership in your case.
Understand the Divorce Terms that Apply to Your Divorce
While no two divorces ever follow exactly the same path, the same basic divorce terms apply across the board (depending upon the circumstances involved).
The Division of Marital Property
Those assets that you and your spouse acquire and accumulate while you are married are viewed by the law as marital property, and as such, they must be divided between you equitably in the event of a divorce. In this context, equitably means fairly when factors like the following are considered:
You and your divorcing spouse’s age and relative health
You and your divorcing spouse’s employability and earning potential
The length of the marriage
You and your divorcing spouse’s separate property (those assets you brought into the marriage with you and kept separate throughout)
Whether either of you is at fault for the dissolution of your marriage
Whether either of you spent down, gave away, or otherwise wasted marital assets
The division of marital assets is often one of the most contentious elements of a divorce.
Child Custody Arrangements
Your child custody arrangements are another primary concern of your divorce. In Texas, child custody refers to both legal and physical custody. Legal custody determines who will be making important decisions regarding your children’s upbringing, including decisions about the following:
Where your children will attend school
The kind of religious education your children will receive
The medical care your children will receive
The extracurricular activities your children will participate in
This parental responsibility can be taken on by one of you alone or by both of you together. Alternatively, you can divide the responsibility between you according to the kind of decisions that are being made. Further, even if you do make these primary parenting decisions together, one of you may take on tie-breaking authority for those instances when you cannot find a middle ground.
Physical custody determines when your children will be with you and when they will be with their other parent. While you can implement nearly any scheduling preferences you would like, the two basic parenting schedules include either you and your divorcing spouse dividing your parenting time equally (or nearly equally) or one of you becoming the primary custodial parent and the other having a visitation schedule.
A wide variety of factors can go into the determination of child support, but the bottom line is that the state considers both parents responsible for supporting their children financially. While a wide range of considerations guides the state’s calculation process, the primary factors include the number of overnights each parent has with the kids and each parent’s income. Even when parents split their parenting time evenly, the parent who earns more is likely to take on the child support obligation.
Alimony (or spousal maintenance) is designed to help offset any post-divorce financial imbalances between exes. If one of you has a financial need and the other has the financial means to help, alimony may be ordered. Alimony is typically set for the amount of time the recipient likely needs to become more financially independent.