If you are considering a divorce or are already involved in the divorce process, you have likely done some research and been left scratching your head in bewilderment. Divorce is so common these days that you may assume it’s easy to do. Unfortunately, however, it’s not the most “user friendly” process. This is especially so in California, where the judicial forms, statutes, cases, and court rules that together form our laws are wrought with nuances and deadlines that even the most intelligent person in the world is apt to miss without the proper legal training.
The idea that an attorney is only necessary in a hostile divorce is also a typical misconception. You may think that you have no need to hire an attorney if you and your spouse are engaging in an amicable divorce. However, it is always wise to at least confer with an attorney to discuss your needs and the process before embarking on any divorce. If any of the following circumstances are present in your case, it may be best for you to consult with an attorney sooner rather than later.
1. If your spouse has already retained an attorney, it is extremely important that you consult with your own counsel. Your spouse may tell you that because they have an attorney, there is no need for you to get your own. However, you must remember that if there is only one attorney, that attorney owes a duty ONLY to your spouse. It would be wrong for you to assume that any advice given by that attorney is going to be fair to you, because their job is to protect their client’s interests only. Even if it may sound fair now, you may not be able to fully understand the implications of their advice until something happens down the road and it is too late to do anything about it.
2. If there has been abuse in the relationship, it is also probably best to have an attorney representing you. In such cases, it is highly risky for a spouse to continue without representation. Divorce is a stressful time in anyone’s life, and there is always the potential that stress increases the chance of further abuse. It is also a concern that the abused spouse will get bullied into doing something that they don’t actually agree with or fully understand.
3. If there are complicated property or financial issues in your case, an attorney will definitely be an invaluable resource. Division of property and valuation of assets are often not simple issues, they require knowledge of the various statutes and case laws governing property division and valuation.
4. Where children are involved and there are any disagreements over custody, you should also consider hiring an attorney. Custody and visitation issues can quickly become the most messy and divisive topics in any divorce. An attorney can help to lower tension between the parties, and ensure that your parental rights are being properly considered and protected. It is important that your interests are represented by a knowledgeable and experienced attorney.
5. If you are experiencing high levels of stress from your divorce, an attorney will most definitely be an asset. Divorce is likely one of the most stressful life events that you will ever experience. To take the stress of going through a divorce and add on the stresses of maintaining a career and/or raising children and running a household, things can quickly become too overwhelming. Once you retain an attorney, it is the attorney who now has to worry about meeting deadlines and make sure all your paperwork is filed properly, etc. During such a difficult time in your life, having this burden lifted off of your shoulders should be a huge stress reducer and will most likely be worth the expense.
This list is by no means exclusive, but it should give you something to consider when embarking on the divorce process. Each divorce case is unique, and it is best to at least consult with an attorney to determine what considerations need be addressed in your particular case. It is also important to find an attorney that you like and is best equipped to serve your needs.
Our attorneys practice exclusively in the area of family law and have extensive experience with the broad range of issues that may arise in a divorce case. Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.