The best way an experienced attorney can help you in the early stages of the divorce process is to assess the advantages and disadvantages of your case. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your case will enable you to know what you should expect out of your divorce. Having a broad perspective of your case will help you also to know which battles are worth fighting and which ones are not. In the early stages of your divorce, if your divorce is not a contentious one, your attorney may be able to help you to settle your case quickly. Obtaining a favorable settlement early in the case is often the best outcome because it will cost you less in time, money, and emotions.
But quite often a case cannot be settled early on. If so, the attorney will give you a checklist of documents to begin assembling for later use in the case. Things such as pay stubs, tax returns, W-2s, 1099s, lease agreements, employment contracts, titles, deeds, insurance policies, bank statements, etc. As the case progresses, the attorney will be able to help you obtain records that the other side does not voluntarily provide. For example, subpoenas may be needed to access employment, medical, or criminal records. Your attorney can also take your spouse’s deposition. A deposition is a process whereby your attorney will force your spouse to appear at his law office and answer numerous questions (during a four hour period) about all sorts of relevant topics and issues.
A court reporter will be present to transcribe the entire process. Invaluable information can be learned during a deposition. Indeed, people have damaged themselves greatly during deposition testimony. That testimony can later be used against the spouse in a divorce trial or other evidentiary hearing. Your attorney also will help you throughout the divorce process by being available for questions as they arise. You will no doubt have numerous questions spread out over the life of your divorce case. Having a good attorney on your side can put you at ease for many reasons, such as having this ability to pick up the phone and quickly find out the answer to a question that is bugging you and that would otherwise cause you to go down a rabbit hole of questionable web searches or a night of no sleep while you worry about something that may not be bad at all.
The divorce attorney also acts as a buffer between you and your spouse, to the extent you want your attorney to perform that function. Instead of getting into arguments with your spouse, you simply tell the spouse to “have your attorney call my attorney to discuss it.” This can prevent lots of emotional distress. Some attorneys will also try to act as a place for you to vent about your spouse. This, if done very infrequently, is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can permit you to let off some steam safely. However, a good divorce attorney will know when what you really need is a good psychologist or counselor, and that attorney should be able to refer you to someone suitable.
An attorney is not trained in matters of mental health, so you should avoid using your attorney as a means of general counseling. Some attorneys will not discourage this, because they get paid for every phone call you make to them. But good divorce attorneys will be candid with you and tell you that you should seek out an appropriate counselor, which is both cheaper and more effective than trying to use your attorney for something that he is not trained to do. The biggest way your attorney can help you is by representing you in court hearings, evidentiary hearings, settlement conferences, and the divorce trial itself.
Your attorney, unless you are a skilled communicator, is going to be better than you at presenting a strong case that makes the judge want to rule in your favor. Talented attorneys, although they can be costly, can save you money in the long run. You should not be penny wise but dollar foolish. Get good representation and you will probably never regret it. But go with the cheap guy and there is a good chance that you will kick yourself later for being overly obsessed with the short-term cost of the divorce rather than the long-term cost of the divorce.
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