How Do I Ready Myself For Divorce and Meeting My Lawyer? (Part II)

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Divorce on Friday, January 24, 2014

In our previous post, we began outlining the “homework” you should do before you meet with an attorney to discuss a divorce.  In this post, we continue that discussion.

Fourth, how will you handle the custody of the children?

For those spouses with children, deciding the desired arrangement for legal and physical custody is one of the first issues your lawyer will discuss with you.  Legal custody involves the ability to make the decisions regarding the health, education and general welfare of the children.  Parents can share this responsibility jointly or one parent can have the sole ability to make these decisions after input from the other parent.  Do you feel that you and your spouse have the ability to co-parent effectively and make decisions together?  If so, joint custody would be the option to pursue.  If not, what factors and evidence to support them would lead you to believe sole legal custody would be required?  You need to be prepared to answer these questions with your lawyer.  As for physical custody, will the children spend equal time with each parent, or principally reside with only one parent?  What type of schedule of custody do you envision?  Again, these plans will guide the litigation and determine how contentious your divorce could be; for your lawyer to give you proper advice, you should have some idea of what custodial arrangements you prefer.

Fifth, how will we support the children?

For those with children, each parent has a legal duty to contribute financially to the care and upbringing of the children.  Our state has decided to parcel that responsibility based on the percentage of total household income each spouse earns, in tandem with considerations for payment for health insurance, childcare and percentage of time in each parent’s physical custody.  You also want to consider extraordinary expenses for medical care, private school tuition and college tuition.  Having a good idea of the type of physical custody plan you envision and the incomes of each spouse will allow your lawyer to give you an accurate estimate of any support obligations.

Sixth, who will pay for the attorneys?

Generally, the law starts with the presumption that each party should pay for his or her own attorney fees.  However, if one spouse has no job and therefore no income, the court would entertain having the other spouse pay some of that spouse’s attorney fees.  Also, payment of attorney fees could be part of the final judgment.  Before meeting with your attorney you should decide how you feel you can finance your representation during the divorce.

Seventh, what is your tolerance for cooperation with your spouse in securing a divorce?

After you have your list of expectations for property, custody and support, you need to decide how comfortable you are in working collaboratively with your spouse to reach agreement on the key issues.  For those who believe they can generally work cooperatively with their spouse, pursuing some form of mediation might simplify the process and save both time and fees.  For those who believe they cannot work with their spouse or feel that you are simply too far apart on the key issues, you must decide how comfortable you are pursuing different approaches to reach your desired outcome – approaches your attorney will discuss at your first meeting.  For example, do want to delve into various allegations of marital misconduct?  Do you want to question the fitness of your spouse as a parent?  Obviously, answers to these questions will determine how contentious your divorce may be and how long it may proceed.

Overall, your attorney wants to begin the process on the same page as you with regard to expectations and goals and strategies.  To best achieve this meeting of the minds, we recommend you have written out answers to the questions presented in these posts prior to your first attorney meeting.  It will definitely bring you a much more informed meeting that will likely leave you and your attorney focused in the same direction toward achieving your goals.  It will save time, frustration and money.

If you have questions about starting the process for a divorce, contact our St. Louis divorce attorneys – we can help.

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