Most people getting divorced quickly discover it's an emotional roller coaster that often leaves them exhausted and overwhelmed, especially when their kids are caught in the middle. Also, it frequently becomes a financial challenge once you work out the crucial details of a marital settlement agreement.
If you retain an experienced California family law lawyer, however, they can make the divorce process more manageable because they play several essential roles you will need.
So, what is the attorney's role in divorce? First, you need to understand that there are things we can and cannot do. Some of the essential things we can do include:
- advise and get court orders for support, custody, or property,
- help collect records and locate assets and liabilities,
- drafting paperwork,
- prepare for court or settlement,
- create legal arguments,
- keeping track of deadlines,
- correspond with a spouse's attorney,
- work towards an amicable settlement.
On the flip side, we can't control the behavior of your spouse (name-calling, etc.) If it rises to domestic violence levels, we can help you file a restraining order, but lesser actions will continue to happen. It's why we are here, but we are not therapists for your emotions.
We also can't guarantee any specific outcome. Not only is that illegal, but it's impossible. The only guarantee comes from a marital settlement agreement. Generally, the client decides whether to accept an offer or how to settle the case, but the attorney can determine the procedures for meeting the client's goals.
You are not expected to know all the California family laws. A seasoned attorney will take charge of your divorce in your best interest, but you will be expected to help them with certain things. Our California family law and divorce attorneys will examine this topic in greater detail below.
What About Your Initial Consultation with the Divorce Attorney?
At your initial meeting with your divorce lawyer, you should expect a lot of questions. They will listen closely to the specific details and then explain the divorce process, and you will probably be asked to start gathering certain documents.
Most divorce lawyers will discuss an initial strategy for your case, but this will often change based on the circumstances moving forward. Many clients want their attorney to take an aggressive approach against their spouse out of anger or resentment, but a seasoned lawyer will always advise against this as it's not in your legal best interest.
Some divorcing spouses want to play a significant role and work closely with their lawyers, while others want to get it over with as quickly as possible and move on with their life. This is why communication is so essential. Your divorce attorney should attempt to resolve the case on your terms as long as it's legal and ethical.
Suppose you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse can remain civil and friendly to reach a mutual agreement on the terms of the divorce? In that case, you can explain all the terms you seek to be drafted into the agreement.
On the flip side, perhaps you already know a significant battle is brewing with your spouse over the terms of the divorce? Maybe a history of domestic violence in the marriage and restraining orders might be necessary?
This is all crucial information you need to discuss with your lawyer at the initial meeting, so they will know what strategy will be needed for the best possible outcome.
What Are the Specific Duties of a Divorce Lawyer?
Divorce attorneys play numerous roles in California family civil law, but it does not mean you don't also have a part. For example, you will be responsible for providing them with accurate, honest information about your divorce and gathering crucial documents related to your finances. It's essentially a partnership.
California divorce and family laws are closely related. Some of the most crucial specific duties of a divorce lawyer include:
- child custody,
- child support,
- child visitation,
- spousal support (alimony),
- property division,
- prenuptial agreements,
- postnuptial agreements,
- conduct research,
- file legal documents and motions,
- communicate with you regularly,
- provide quality work.
There is also a great deal of documentation a divorce lawyer might need to gather, such as the following:
- pay stubs, W-2s,
- prior tax returns,
- net worth statements,
- retirement summaries,
- investment accounts,
- stocks and bonds,
- real estate accounts,
- medical and life insurance information,
Another primary duty of your divorce lawyer is to remain calm and reasonable in hotly debated divorces, which are far too familiar in a high-net-worth divorce.
Often, tempers get out of control, and emotions take over during divorce proceedings. Despite the aggressive language and yelling between the spouses, your attorney is responsible for being objective and thinking clearly.
Your divorce lawyer should possess crucial skills, such as negotiating with opposing counsel and efficient time management.
You need to understand that divorce is often a slow process filled with moments of frustration.
That is not your lawyer's fault, as they are at the mercy of the court's calendar. There are also delays when your spouse refuses to cooperate.
If you have valid concerns about your divorce attorney's work, ask for a meeting to adjust the game plan. Sometimes, you might even seek a second opinion from another attorney.
What Are Your Duties in a Divorce?
Your lawyer can't effectively work through the legal process of the divorce without your help. You will need to provide them with all the documents they might request.
It would help if you made yourself available for regular contact, as the circumstances will likely change. Remember that you are the source of crucial information they need and must file the necessary paperwork and pleadings, so you must be available.
Yes, this is often inconvenient, but it's an essential part of the divorce process and necessary for the best possible outcome. You will need to sign documents and provide them with information about your case.
It's in your best interest to remain involved with the divorce process. Reaching a mutual agreement with your spouse is always better than forcing the family court judge to make decisions for you.
Furman & Zavatsky are California Certified Family Law Specialists in Los Angeles County. We provide a free case consultation by calling (818) 528-3471 or using the contact form.