Do I need a lawyer?
The simple answer is “no”. If your assets are limited and not complicated, then you may be able to settle your divorce action on your own. However, it has been said: “he who represents himself, has a fool for a client”. Therefore, at a minimum, it is important too speak with an attorney in order to learn your rights and explore your options in the event that a divorce is inevitable.
How do I choose a lawyer?
Like many professionals, lawyers have come to concentrate their areas of practice. It is important that you find an attorney who concentrates his practice in the field of the family law, encompassing divorce, support, alimony, and/or custody. Once you have narrowed your choices to those who practice primarily in the area of family law, your next step is to find an attorney with whom you are comfortable with as a person. A divorce may be one of the most traumatic events that a person may go through, especially when the custody of their child or children is involved. You will be discussing very personal issues with your lawyer and therefore you must be comfortable with him or her and must have confidence in their judgment and feel that you can rely on your attorney’s advice during a time where you may not be thinking clearly.
How will I be charged by the lawyer for his services?
In most instances, lawyers in the area of family law charge through a combination of a lump sum retainer when you retain them and an hourly rate throughout the litigation. The retainer will vary depending on the complexity of your case and the experience of the attorney. Similarly, the hourly rate charged by an attorney will vary depending on their expertise and experience in the field. When you retain your attorney, you will be requested it to sign a “Fee Agreement Letter” which sets forth the exact fee arrangements between you and your attorney. The Fee Agreement Letter will also describe what is expected of you as a client, as well as what you can expect from your attorney.
Should I file for divorce first and how long will it take to get a Divorce Decree?
It may make a difference with regard to who files the Complaint In Divorce action first. Tactically, it may be more beneficial for your spouse to file first. You should review this issue with your attorney carefully. Because of the complexities in each divorce action, it is impossible to determine how long it will take to obtain a final Divorce Decree. At a minimum, the Pennsylvania Divorce Code requires a 90 day waiting period from the date of filing and service of the Complaint in Divorce, before the Court is permitted to enter a Divorce Decree. Therefore, assuming you and your attorney are able to resolve all of the issues raised in your divorce action, the soonest you could anticipate a Divorce Decree would be approximately 4 months. Most divorce actions take much longer to resolve all of the equitable distribution and related issues raised in the divorce action.
How do I support myself and my children while the divorce action is pending?
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has a adopted a set of “Guidelines” based upon the concept that the child of separated, divorced or never married parents, should receive the same proportion of the parental income that she or he would have received if the parents lived together. The Guidelines have made the financial support of a child a primary obligation and assume that parties with similar net incomes will have similar reasonable and necessary expenses. Similarly, spousal support and/or alimony pendente lite, are calculated in accordance with the Guidelines. In addition, the Court will consider expenditures related to the child or children, as well as the amount of custody on behalf of each parent.
Is there such a thing as a dumb question?
No! Divorce is a complicated issue and the hope is that you do not have to go through it. However, if you are caught up in a divorce, you need to know all of the issues related to divorce and therefore any question you may have that is important to you, is not dumb. Never hesitate to ask your attorney any question you may have.