Are you planning to get divorced? The first step is finding an experienced attorney who can give you an overview of the divorce process, the law, and the basic options that you have. During your initial consultation, you will need to explain your situation and ask questions to help you decide whether you want to retain the attorney. If you aren’t sure what to say, check out our list of questions to ask a divorce lawyer below.
Questions to Ask a Divorce Lawyer During Your Consultation
Why should you ask your potential lawyer questions when you first meet? Asking the right questions can give you a better feel for the attorney, their experience, the process involved with your divorce, and what you might expect to pay. During your first appointment, consider putting forward the following questions to ask a divorce lawyer:
- How many years have you practiced family law? The assistance of an experienced lawyer can make a significant difference in your case. An attorney who is experienced in handling divorce cases in your area will know the judges, the opposing attorneys, and the rules of the local court. It is important for you to find an attorney who has experience with trials, negotiations, and drafting agreements and other important documents.
- Have you taken any divorce cases to trial? If so, how many? Most divorce cases are settled out of court. But even if you believe that you will be able to settle your case, it is a good idea to choose a lawyer who has trial experience in case a settlement can’t be reached.
- How can I reach my goals in my divorce case? Your attorney should be able to articulate the process that they might use to help you achieve the goals you have set with your divorce. Some divorces will only require simple separation and property settlement agreements, but others may be more complex.
- What is your fee structure? Your attorney should be able to explain their firm’s fee structure and give you a general estimate of what you might expect to pay. However, it is unlikely that your lawyer will be able to give you an exact quote.
- Is there anything that I should do now? Ask the lawyer what you should be doing now before you move forward. They might give you some steps to take that could save you time, trouble, and money. For example, your attorney might advise you to open your own bank and credit accounts and to collect important financial documents before you file for divorce.
The Divorce Process
Let’s say that the consultation goes swimmingly and you decide to move forward with the divorce process. The first step is the writing and filing of a petition (in Oklahoma) or complaint (in Arkansas) for dissolution with your state court. The petition/complaint will list the grounds for the divorce and may also include a space for you to briefly ask for the relief that you are seeking in the case. Already feeling a bit overwhelmed? Don’t worry. Your new attorney will help you with this and every other step of the process.
Next, to move your case forward, you will need to serve the divorce papers to your spouse. This stage of the procedure is called service of process, and you have two options to complete it. First, if you and your spouse both agree to the divorce, your spouse should acknowledge receipt of the service by signing a waiver of service. However, if your spouse refuses to sign the waiver or is difficult to locate, you will need to use a professional process server to personally deliver the divorce papers.
After the divorce papers have been served, the mandatory waiting period begins (the waiting period lasts 30 days in most states). Though not required, your spouse may file a response to the petition/complaint expressing his or her agreement to the divorce. He or she may also respond expressing disagreement with details of the petition/complaint. If your spouse does not respond within the waiting period, you can request that the court enter a default judgment.
After your divorce case has been filed, your attorney will work with your spouse’s attorney to negotiate a settlement agreement addressing all outstanding issues. If a negotiation cannot be reached, your case may be litigated through trial.
Your lawyer will play a crucial role in your divorce, simplifying the process and helping you achieve your goals. So when you schedule your first consultation with a contender, be sure to have a list of questions to ask a divorce lawyer prepared. Their answers will help you make a wise decision so that you can move forward with your divorce with confidence.