Once you have found an experienced attorney that will work hard on your case, you can start thinking about the best way to get through the process.
Before you even walk into the law office for your initial consultation, you should have a list of questions you plan to ask so that you always feel comfortable throughout the history of the case, and you don’t get worried because you don’t understand what’s going on.
One of the biggest complaints lawyers get is that their clients feel that they often don’t know what is happening with their case. That is why it is important that you find an attorney you will feel comfortable communicating with.
Here are some of the most important questions to ask your attorney when you meet for the first time:
1. How Does Billing Work?
Nobody wants to talk about money, so you might want to bring it up first and get it out of the way. Lawyers are ethically required to be transparent about how much their hourly rate is and their fee structure.
Your fee agreement should explain everything you need to know about billing but most importantly you should discuss ways you can save on fees. For example, it may be more cost efficient to save up all of your questions that arise throughout the day or the week then email them over and schedule a phone call to answer the questions. A quick phone call may be cheaper than the attorney answering multiple questions everyday for a week.
2. What Are The Rules Of Communication?
You should have some idea of how often your lawyer will need to contact you and the best way to communicate.
Set the expectations early, so you are both comfortable and know what to expect. Make sure that if your contact information changes, you let your attorney know right away, instead of wondering why you aren’t getting any phone calls.
3. How Will The Attorney Handle The Workload Of Your Case?
In some firms, only one attorney works on the client’s case whereas other offices take a more collaborative approach.
For example, in our office, one attorney is assigned as the lead attorney and responsible for managing the case but tasks are given to other attorneys or legal assistants in the office throughout the case depending on what would best benefit the client.
Maybe another attorney has more experience with a particular legal issue and will draft the motion or response? Or maybe, the paralegal/legal assistant can draft the document at a lower hourly rate, saving the client money.
Regardless, in our firm, the lead attorney does a final review of everything before it leaves the office. This ensures that the lead attorney knows what is going on in your case at all times.
4. Can My Attorney Help Me Find A Way To Make My Divorce Amicable?
If you are really focusing on what is best for your family, you know that you want to start a divorce, not a war.
Even if you have negative feelings about your spouse, it is better to try to deal with those issues on your own instead of fighting them out. Your attorney will work to help you get a fair settlement and protect your interests while you work on moving forward with your life after your divorce.
While the attorney should be working to resolve the issues as amicably as possible, sometimes court intervention is needed. Both you and the attorney should always keep in mind that the case could end up in trial.
While attempting to reach a resolution, work towards being able to protect your interests in court.
5. How Much Will My Divorce Cost?
That may be impossible to answer for sure. Costs vary based on the actions of the parties and the evidence that may be needed to present the case.
The biggest differences will be found between contested and uncontested matters. But, your attorney should be able to have a discussion with you about what the attorney can foresee at that time such as costs of mediation and potential experts that may be helpful.
You can save money on your divorce, and your attorney should be able to point out areas where you can save on fees and where the costs of litigating an issue might outweigh the potential benefits.
Settlement is typically better than taking things to trial, unless one spouse is being unreasonable. If you are divorcing a narcissist, there may not be anything you can do to make your former partner see reason, but there are persuasive reasons to work together during a divorce.
6. We Are Thinking About Having a Trial Separation, and Maybe Even Remaining In the House Together. What Are the Consequences?
Sometimes, people consider a “trial separation,” or even obtaining a legal separation instead of divorce.
If this is something you are considering, it is important that you speak with an experienced family law attorney to discuss the potential risks or benefits of the options.
7. How Is Property Split Up After Marriage in Arizona?
Arizona is a community property state, and the separating spouses will split the marital pot equitably.
When parties are ethical and open about their financial worth during an amicable divorce, each party will know what debts and assets that the other party has. During a contested divorce, some parties may try to hide their assets. Financial professionals may be needed to track down hidden assets.
But are you allowed to shield your inheritance from your divorce? There are ways to keep an inheritance that was meant only for you. If you receive an inheritance, it is best to seek legal advice immediately.
It is fairly simple to keep an inheritance sole and separate property but it is also fairly simple for an inheritance to become community property.
8. How Do We Work Out Child Support and Child Custody Issues?
Arizona has changed its focus and now refers to parenting time and legal decision-making instead of child custody.
This is to emphasize that Arizona family courts believe that a good relationship with both parents is essential to the health and wellbeing of children.
If you are able to work out your own agreement in a child custody case, you are also setting the groundwork for greater cooperation in the future as you raise your children with your former spouse.
Child Support is based on the Arizona Child Support Guidelines and the attorney can walk you through how those guidelines will apply to your case.
Things like the income of the parents, the parenting time exercised, and the costs of medical insurance are all parts of the ultimate calculation and should be discussed with your attorney.
Payment of child support is also an important topic to discuss so that each payment is properly tracked and you receive credit for the payment.
9. Will I Be Able to Get/Have to Pay Alimony?
Arizona is one of the states that provides for spousal maintenance under certain circumstances after a divorce. If both parties worked during the marriage and are ending the marriage more or less equally situated, alimony is probably not appropriate but the topic should still be addressed with your attorney.
During many marriages, one party will stop working to raise children and/or maintain the household, leaving that person in a bad place after a divorce.
Years out of the workforce and with no recent training, that individual may need some help while starting life again as a single person.
There are other situations that may give rise to the need for an award of spousal maintenance so it is important to discuss the topic with your attorney.
10. So What is the Divorce Process Actually Like?
You should have a discussion with your attorney about what the divorce process is like so that you know what to expect. Ask about the general process and steps, the documentation needed, temporary orders/agreements that may be needed, and an approximate timeline.
The first thing you should do once you have made the decision to end your marriage is to get legal advice. You don’t want to do anything that will jeopardize your own rights or potentially cause emotional harm to your children.
You need to find the right attorney because getting divorced is a complicated, emotional process. Your attorney may end up seeing you when you’re not at your best, which is alright if you have a good attorney-client relationship.
Experienced family law attorneys understand how difficult divorce is and will help you see past your immediate problems so you can envision yourself moving on and starting over again.
Your attorney will file for divorce and may also file for temporary orders while you are working out your agreement in the hope of a settlement.
You will have to go through a discovery and disclosure phase, where you have to find and turn in all your personal financial documents, such as tax returns and bank statements.
You may also have to answer questions related to your personal life. Hopefully, you can work out an agreement and avoid court intervention.
If not, you may have to have a trial to protect your interests. After the judge enters their final orders, it may be appropriate to file some motions to reconsider or an appeal in your case but that will be discussed with your attorney at that time.
The legal team at Burggraff Tash Levy PLC understands how difficult it is when couples are working out the issues at the end of their marriage.
We strive to help our clients resolve their issues as effectively and efficiently as possible, allowing them to move forward from what is usually one of the most emotionally draining periods of their lives.
If you have any questions or would like to come in and discuss your case, please feel free to call or reach out on our website today.