When considering a divorce, there is a lot of information to digest and a lot of preparation that needs to be done beforehand, in order to help a potential case.
Since many guys out there visiting Men’s Divorce are likely considering divorce, the importance of research and preparation cannot be overlooked.
From understanding the complex laws that regulate divorce in your state to realizing the importance of legal guidance, there is a lot that must be done before you even begin the process.
Researching What To Expect
While most people understand the basics of what a divorce entails — a married couple goes to court, divides their stuff, figures out a parenting arrangement, has a judge sign the agreement and then goes on their own separate ways — the truth of the matter is much deeper and more complicated than many expect.
First of all, it is important to understand that laws regarding divorce vary drastically depending on state and even local jurisdiction. Everything from filing procedure to how child custody is determined largely will depend on where you live.
For example, the majority of states use an equitable distribution standard for dividing property, which means the courts will divide property “in a fair and equitable manner.” This does not necessarily mean everything is split 50/50, but that the courts will decide what a reasonable distribution of assets will be.
There are several states, however, that use a completely different practice known as community property, which starts with the assumption that all marital assets will be divided down the middle.
The difference between these two methods for dividing property obviously creates entirely different outcomes, so it is crucial to understand how the laws generally work where you live to have any sort of idea how separating assets will play out.
Additionally, the major issues that arise during divorce will depend on each individual couple, so it is important that you determine what you think will arise during your case and research accordingly.
Do you have kids? Custody and child support practices for your state will likely be an issue that you want to thoroughly understand.
Have you been married for a long time and is there a large disparity in income between you and your wife? You will probably need to look into how alimony works.
Do you expect a fairly amicable split? You may want to look into alternative dispute resolution methods, such as collaborative divorce to resolve the case.
Mediation can also be useful to help avoid expensive litigation and might even be required by the courts depending on where you live, so it may be a good idea to look into what that entails.
You are bound to have many questions and find few true answers as you begin looking into what the divorce process requires, and it is understandable if you feel overwhelmed as you start your research.
However, the more specific you can get with your questions, the better off you will be when speaking with an attorney.
The Importance Of Legal Guidance
Since most of the information you find while researching divorce online is going to be general due to each case being unique, it is often very difficult to determine exactly how the legal statutes apply to your particular situation.
Because of the wide range of discretion divorce court judges have when applying the law (not to mention how the cards in family courts are frequently stacked against men, particularly when it comes to custody) and the enormous impact divorce will have on your future, it is almost foolish to try to resolve your case without the guidance of someone knowledgeable on the topic.
Some may have an aversion to getting a lawyer involved and feel they can handle this sort of thing on their own; however, it is highly recommended that you speak with a family law attorney to obtain specific advice for what to expect with your divorce and what course of action to take.
Even a simple initial consultation, which does not require retaining an attorney and typically comes at a nominal fee (and sometimes does not cost anything at all), can be a valuable tool when it comes to working out some of the more complicated aspects of divorce.
While many worry about the cost of a lawyer, it is important to realize that it’s often far less expensive — and easier — to try for a more favorable outcome the first time than trying to modify the divorce decree after the fact.
Since whatever is determined by the judge is binding until you are able to convince the courts it should be changed and that your situation meets your state’s standards for modification, you are essentially stuck with whatever decision the judge signs off on.
Unfortunately, you cannot simply go into court and say 50/50 custody will work best and expect get that as a result. States have their own standards for all aspects of the divorce, and you will need to show why that is the best arrangement in accordance with state laws and procedures.
A family law attorney can help build your case in a manner that will be convincing to the court and gives you a much better shot at reaching the goals and outcome you are trying to achieve.
The investment may seem like a lot up front, but it is well worth it if you can avoid having to come back to court in the future.
For this reason, it is crucial that you also research divorce attorneys to help you through this difficult process and to answer more case-specific questions.
As you begin your research into the tangled and convoluted web that is family law, you will likely end up with more questions than when you began your initial research in the first place — which is totally normal.
However, the more preparation you do before meeting with an attorney, the more you will get out of that meeting and the better off you’ll be as you begin this long and daunting process.
Mat Camp is a former Lexicon Services Online Editor, who focused on providing a comprehensive look into all aspects of the divorce experience. On MensDivorce.com, he concentrated on issues, such as parenting time, custodial rights, mediation, the division of assets, and so much more.
Mr. Camp used the wealth of experience of Cordell & Cordell attorneys to bring tangible answers to reader questions in Ask a Lawyer articles, as well as offer a step by step process through the divorce experience with Cordell & Cordell Co-Founder and Principal Partner Joseph E. Cordell in Divorce 101: A Guide for Men.
Mr. Camp used thorough research to highlight the challenging reality that those who go through divorce or child custody issues face. He helped foster the continued success of the Men’s Divorce Survival Guide, the Men’s Divorce Podcast, and the Men’s Divorce YouTube series “Attorney Bites.”