The most essential question that you need to ask yourself in connection with a family law case is whether you need to hire an attorney. How you answer this question will determine the path and direction that your case goes in. Fortunately, with proper planning, you can answer this question and determine whether to forego hiring a lawyer or proceed into the interview process with some family attorneys that look promising.
Or course, if you are encountering this decision and are at a fork in the road then you probably are looking for some perspective about which direction to go in. Certainly, every divorce situation is unique, and nobody can tell you for certain which direction is best for you and your family. However, what you can work on is deciding whether to move towards an interview with an attorney or to forego representation and advocate for yourself in the divorce. This is not a simple decision. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to help you with information that can be used to assist you as you make this choice.
Hiring an attorney- an important decision that should not be rushed into
Sometimes we are put in a position where we are forced to decide quickly. I don’t know about you, but when I am in that spot, I never feel like I have made the wisest choice. Rather, I feel like I am being rushed and then ultimately forced into a decision that I may not be entirely prepared for. It would be much better to have some options to choose from and then to have enough time to survey the options and make a choice that is in my best interests. Unfortunately, we are not always given enough time to make the decisions that are the most important to us. Sometimes we are forced with a choice that must be made quickly.
So, if you have not yet filed for divorce or if your spouse has not yet filed for divorce you should have some time to go through your options and decide about hiring a lawyer. Ideally, the decision should not be based upon your feelings about your spouse, or any regret that you may have in connection with filing the divorce or those types of issues. Rather, you should assess several other factors when determining if it is right for you to hire an attorney for your divorce. Let's walk through some of those factors right now.
First, you need to look at the facts that are going to encompass your case. Do you have children? This is the first, broad question that you need to ask yourself. If you do have children under the age of 18 then you need to hire an attorney. Although it is not required for you to have an attorney for your divorce case, it is a good idea when you have children involved. Your relationship with them is too important for you to leave to chance. Having an experienced family law attorney by your side can make a major difference when it comes to negotiating for possession and visitation time with the kids. If you are not extremely familiar with different possession schedules, then you would be at a major disadvantage in this area.
Next up, when it comes to children's issues, you should think about the subject of child support. In most family law cases with children, there is some child support that is paid by one parent to the other. The payments are made by the parent who has visitation rights to the kids and with whom the children do not reside primarily. No matter if you expect to be the parent who is the custodial or noncustodial parent you need to be prepared for the child support question. If you are the parent who pays child support, you want to make sure that the child support you pay is fair and based on your net monthly income. On the other hand, if you are the parent who will be receiving child support then you need to make sure that the amount that you are being paid reflects a fair amount based on the needs of your child. If your co-parent works nontraditional jobs or has hidden income, then a lawyer can help you dig up those hard-to-find resources so you receive the correct amount of child support.
Another issue that is related to child support which you may need help from a lawyer with relates to when child support should come to an end. For most families, child support payments end when the child turns eighteen years old or graduates from high school- whichever occurs later. However, if your child has a special need or is disabled in some way it is reasonable to expect that he or she may not be able to immediately move out of the house after high school graduation. To that end, an attorney can help your present evidence to a court as to why you may need to be paid child support beyond your child’s eighteenth birthday or date of graduation.
The next area of your case that you should look at when it comes to deciding on an attorney is your property. Do you own a significant amount of property? Do you work a high-paying job? Do you have a complex community estate? Do you know what a community estate is? These are financial questions that, while not as important as those related to your children, are still critical to the outcome of your case. If you have no children and very little property, then you may be ok to proceed with your divorce without an attorney. However, if you have a sizeable or complex estate then you should strongly consider hiring a lawyer.
Texas handles marital property division differently than most other states. Texas is a community property state. Community property is a theory under which spouses share in the property acquired during the marriage. It does not matter whose name appears on the title of a home or who purchased certain items. If the property was acquired during the marriage with the income you earned from your work the property is equally yours and your spouse's. No consideration is given to who purchased the item nor to who earns more money.
This reality presents some unique situations for you and your spouse. Community property division can be simple- you both draw a line down the middle of all your property and you get half, and your spouse gets half. However, there are usually external factors at play that also need to be considered. Foremost among them is your ability to earn an income in the future, your health, and your age. If you have major differences when compared to your spouse in these areas, then you run into a situation where one of you may entitle to a disproportionate share of your community estate.
With so much at stake when it comes to property division you need to think clearly about what your options are so that you can make the best choice for your family when it comes to hiring an attorney. The last thing you want is to see all your hard work, saving, investing, and planning to go down the drain in a divorce. If there are circumstances at play that require a share of your community property to go to your spouse, then that may be. However, what you do not need to do is to give away property that otherwise should be yours after a divorce. Discussing with an experienced family law attorney what your goals are and determining how best to proceed is a major advantage to having a lawyer in your divorce.
Your life does not slow down during the divorce
Have you ever sat back for a moment during your life and just asked for things to slow down? Have you ever felt like life was moving too quickly with too much going on? Do your kids seemingly have a new activity to do each week? Are the projects at work stacking up higher than you can handle? Did the A/C unit go out at home and now you must save for a new one? Are the problems in your marriage piling up? These are not out-of-the-ordinary issues for people to experience during their adult lives. It can feel like the world is a big roller coaster and all you may want to do is get off to take a break occasionally.
Unfortunately, we all know that this is not possible. Life comes at us fast and furious sometimes and we don’t get to say when enough is enough. Just when it seems like we couldn't take one more thing on our plates- here comes something else. This doesn't stop just because you file for divorce, either. You may have been putting the divorce off for some time to avoid having to go through all the trouble, the hassle, and the emotional baggage that comes with a life-changing step like filing for divorce.
What you should do when you are planning the divorce is consider that the one thing you cannot create more of is time. Time is a finite resource. We cannot create more of it, nor can we recycle it and get the time we lost back. Rather, we have a limited amount of time with which to use in our lives. No matter what is going on or what the consequences of our actions are, we can always be sure that our time is limited. We don’t get an extra hour in the day to work on a divorce case just because we need to end our marriage.
Why does this matter in a discussion related to whether to hire an attorney? Ultimately, what an attorney does for you more than anything else is performing services that you are unable to do yourself. Start with the law. There is no reason to think that you have any knowledge of the Texas Family Code. Why would you? Again, we have already established that we have a limited amount of time to do the things that we want and need to do. What you need to think critically about is whether the divorce will give you more time or give you less time to do those things.
I would submit to you that you will have less time to do the important things in your life during a divorce. You may find that your life gets easier when you reduce the optional activities of life and instead engage in the necessary activities- work, family life, religious activities, your divorce, and exercise. Maybe eating and sleeping, as well (just kidding). All of these things are attributes of your life that will take some time to adjust to as far as a schedule for yourself and your family. You will find that you may not be able to do everything that you want just when you want to do it. However, there are ways to buy yourself more time than you would have had were you to have gone through your divorce alone.
Hiring an attorney to represent you in your divorce can free up time for you to do other things. An attorney does not make decisions for you in your divorce, however. Rather, an attorney will help you by going through the important parts of your case to give you advice and perspective. Rather than spending all day and all night trying to learn the law and learn how to manage a divorce, you can work with an experienced family law attorney who can do that part with you. Additionally, the attorney can help you to gain different perspectives so that you may be able to look at your case differently than you did before.
An analogy that we like to use is that an attorney allows you to look out the windshield of your car rather than sticking your head out the window. When you stick your head out the window to drive a lot is coming at you very fast. It's tough to drive a car when you stick your head out the window. Rather, what you can do is use the attorney like your windshield wipers. You can keep everything clean and easy for you to see that way. Let an attorney buy your windshield wiper so that you don't have to stick your head out the window to drive.
Having an attorney on board in your divorce is a great advantage for you to have inside the courtroom, as well. Family law attorneys spend a great deal of time inside the courtroom. This does not mean that your divorce will necessarily and in a trial, but it does mean that throughout the life of a divorce case, there are opportunities to attend hearings and other proceedings in court. As a result, it can be a tremendous advantage for you to have someone who knows what they are doing inside the courthouse, knows how to conduct themselves, and knows how to apply the law to your set of circumstances.
What many people do not realize is that not every attorney has courtroom experience. Most attorneys spend relatively little or even no time in court in their typical day. So, you should be sure to hire a family law attorney who is familiar with the practices of the family court as well as the different procedures that are part of a divorce. There can be steps taken and other things to avoid that would otherwise delay your divorce a great deal. As a result, you can put yourself in a position whereby hiring an attorney you save yourself time and give you a better opportunity to succeed inside the courtroom should you have to appear at any point during your case.
Building up a support system for yourself before, during, and after a divorce is also important. Going through the ups and downs of a divorce can certainly be a challenge. Hopefully, you have people in your life already who can act as a support system and provide the kind of feedback and help on an emotional level that you may need to get through your divorce. In addition to friends and family, a good family law attorney can offer emotional support and guidance. When you think that all is lost in your case or that you have no one else to turn to having an attorney by your side may be the support that you need to make it through your case and into a successful life after divorce.
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