While the decision to divorce is one of the hardest most people will face in their lives, the unfortunate reality is that it isn't over until it's over — when a final judgment is entered by the Court. We talk a lot about the various legal nuances related to divorce. The truth is that your best strategy is to be fully prepared — not just emotionally, if possible, but also legally and financially. This includes making your children your top consideration because the Court certainly will.
If you've recently decided to get a divorce, take a deep breath and take reasonable steps before proceeding, keeping these points in mind:
Most parents want to spend as much time as possible with their kids, including after a divorce; however, you must keep the best interests of your children in mind. Be ready to agree to a time sharing plan which includes a little less time with you, if that is what will best serve your children’s interests. For example, if you live in a remote location and your spouse lives close to the children’s school, it probably makes sense that the children live with your spouse for most of the days they are attending school.
Remember, the children love both of you. This is not a contest between you and your spouse. If the children do not live with you as much as you prefer, try not to talk yourself into believing it will harm your ability to parent your children. Focus on making sure the divorce transition is as smooth as possible for your kids and never ever talk to them about any negative feelings you have regarding the divorce or your spouse, who is their parent. When taken to the extreme, the Court may find you have engaged in “parental alienation,” which is a deliberate effort to cause the children to dislike the other parent and to want to stay away from him or her. The Court will make sure there are serious consequences if it finds that parental alienation has taken place. The harm to a child’s self esteem under those conditions is very damaging. Try your best to keep a good attitude, especially around your children. Despite your divorce, if the child sees that Mom and Dad are still united as a team regarding issues concerning the child, it promotes security and well being, which are extremely important when the family unit is breaking up.
Plan for running your household in the future based only upon your income. Don't forget to take into account child support, alimony and equitable distribution of marital assets and debts. While the Court is required to fairly divide the parties’ assets and debts, your particular circumstances can change that division. Do not assume you will get one-half or more of any particular asset and plan your budget as conservatively as possible, trying to see how little you can live on each month.
Your Legal Representation
You should plan to meet with a Kissimmee divorce attorney, even if you're not yet sure it's necessary.
If you do need an attorney, be mindful of the fees and costs required. Some prices are fixed, while most others are variable, based upon estimated hours to be worked and hours actually worked. Be very honest and up front with your attorney about everything, including your financial situation (they'll find out anyway) and make sure you fully understand what the potential costs and fees may be.
It's legal to represent yourself in a divorce proceeding (what's known as appearing pro se), but it's not always a good idea. The best way to know if a divorce attorney is right for you is to interview attorneys to see if they explain things clearly to you, answer your questions and clearly describe how they can best help you with your divorce. Many attorneys offer free consultations, so it may cost you nothing to gather this information.
When interviewing a potential attorney, keep the following in mind:
Comfort level — You will have to discuss fully with your attorney many deeply personal details about your marriage, so you should feel comfortable with the attorney. Make sure the attorney is not checking email or text messages while meeting with you. That type of behavior sends a message that your case is not important and the attorney is not fully paying attention to detail or has other things he or she needs rather be doing. Another thing to consider, should your divorce become extremely hostile or contested, is whether your attorney is able to behave in an assertive and appropriately aggressive manner to fight legal battles as necessary, on your behalf. If you do not get the answers or information you need, keep interviewing attorneys.
Experience — You want a lawyer who has plenty of experience and focuses his or her practice on family law matters. While no two cases are alike, your attorney should be able to give you a good idea as to how he or she would pursue your case and protect your legal interests.
Costs and Fees — Do not be shy about getting all the information you need regarding the initial fees which must be paid up front, the fees which may be required to pursue your case if it does not settle and continues to trial, as well as the costs which may be incurred (expenses for things such as court reporters, court fees, subpoenas, etc.). It is important that you ensure you are able to pay for legal representation all the way through the process. And while every single case has different facts, ask your attorney how long your case may take to conclude and what things could cause it to conclude earlier or, perhaps, take longer than expected.
Rate of success — Note that price per hour does not tell you how good any attorney is or how much your case will cost to pursue. For multiple reasons, there are less experienced attorneys who may have a highly hourly rate and attorneys who have a good deal of experience and charge the same, or a lower, hourly rate. No attorney can guarantee you the results you want and if you hear such a guarantee from an attorney, you should quickly run in the other direction. At the same time, based upon the general facts discussed in your first meeting or consultation, your attorney should be able to explain how he or she would recommend that you pursue your case, give an impression as to what information may be missing in order to move the case forward, outline the strong points in your case as well as the things which may be a challenge to overcome, and estimate the potential attorney’s fees and costs required.
If you need an experienced divorce attorney in Kissimmee, Florida, call Draper Law Offices at 866.767.4711 for a free, no-obligation consultation.
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