Learn About Divorce Professionals
- About Family Law Attorneys
- About Collaborative Attorneys
- About Mediators & Therapists
- About Divorce Financial Planners
- About Financial Planners
- About Paralegal Services
- About Custody Evaluators
- About Divorce Support Groups
- About Credit Advisors
- About Appraisers & Insur. Agents
About Family Law Attorneys
Perhaps the most significant and prominent professional to play a role in any divorce is the attorney (lawyer). For obvious reasons, these particular fees will be vastly different from state to state and even in any given particular metropolitan area. It is very important to obtain a complete understanding of the actual billing process beforehand so as to avoid any potential misunderstandings or financial mishaps. For example, is there a retainer fee involved? In most cases the answer is yes, meaning a fee is required to be paid up front prior to the undertaking of any work on your behalf. As work is completed, the bill for such is subtracted from the retainer. In some cases, the retainer fee will be used up prior to completion of the divorce process and another retainer will be collected. It is always a good idea to ask for a monthly statement clearly showing for what specific services your retainer has been charged and whether or not you are entitled to a refund if all of the retainer fees have not been used.
It is also of great significance to clarify and understand exactly for what services you will be billed. This can also be an invaluable tool in the choosing of the actual attorney as well. Will the attorney provide you with a complete itemization of the costs involved; i.e., court fees, expert witness fees, and other related expenses? Are the time records accurate and the actual billing statement easily understandable? Does the lawyer make available all documentation relating to your case?
Any good lawyer should not only be able to give you a clear understanding of your legal rights and how he or she intends to represent such, but handle even the simplest of tasks, such as returning phone calls in a timely manner. Remember, the lawyer's primary function is to secure the most favorable and economic outcome on your behalf. For example, if it is both possible and advantageous for your case to be settled out of court, that should be his or her primary focus. Again, it is wise to have all these issues addressed and clarified prior to the actual hiring of any specific representation.
About Collaborative Attorneys
There are some Family Law attorneys who practice Collaborative Law. This is a fairly new type of law practice that has become very popular with divorcing spouses who intent to go their own way in an amicable fashion.
With Collaborative Law, the ultimate goal is to reach a settlement over the following issues, but not limited to, support, alimony, custody, property and debts, in your divorce matter without going to Court. Each spouse is represented by his or her own Collaborative attorney. The attorneys and spouses agree, in a written contract, to share all financial and other pertinent information relevant to the divorce without claiming confidentiality. This vital element of the process is what makes the collaborative divorce settlement process so unique. Since each spouse is willing to cooperate and share this information the time in which the attorneys must do extensive research and actually investigate the financial situation of the marital estate is drastically diminished, which decreases the legal costs and the actual time line of the divorce procedure.
Each spouse also agrees, in writing, with his or her own attorney that if the matter cannot be settled, the attorney will withdraw from representation and the spouse will have to hire a new lawyer to litigate the case. The reason for this is as follows; if the divorce does turn for the worse, there is a sense of conflict in interest, being a Collaborative lawyer typically does not participate in litigious cases (the requirement of getting a new lawyer also does a great job of keeping both spouses in-line with reaching a collaborative settlement).
The spouses and attorneys meet as many times as necessary to completely resolve all the matters at hand. The more complex the case the more times the spouses and attorneys will have to meet.
Keep in mind that this type of legal approach is obviously not applicable to all divorce matters. However, when employed in the appropriate case, the Settlement Agreement reached is almost always more satisfactory and effective to both spouses, because each has had a full opportunity to be a part of the developmental stages of the final outcome.
About Mediators & Therapists
In some instances, while an actual attorney-at-law handling all legal aspects may not be required to facilitate a divorce, the use of an outside third party to help settle particular issues may be needed. These are known as 'mediators' and often are lawyers who charge a reduced fee, therapists, psychologists, social workers, or even clergy members. The major difference between a mediator and an actual attorney would be that a mediator DOES NOT represent one particular party or the other's interests. Whereas a lawyer is paid to specifically represent you and your interests only, a mediator is not. Often, a mediator will absolutely refuse to meet individually with one party or another. The mediator's function is to reach a fair and equitable resolution on behalf of BOTH parties. While it is important to make the mediator aware of your position and goals, unlike an actual attorney, those factors will not dominate his or her decision making process. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to recognize these facts and thoroughly analyze your position and your desired goals before employment of this type of professional. When properly utilized, mediation can be an effective way to keep actual costs at a minimum.
Finally, as divorce can be a very emotional and stressful experience, you may wish to seek out the services of therapists and counselors. These professionals can be invaluable in terms of understanding, resolving, and coping with the wide variety of issues pertaining to an impending divorce. Be sure to obtain a clear understanding of what is and is not covered under any and all medical insurance plans you may have. And, as always, make sure that the therapist and counselor in question is not only professionally qualified, but whether or not he or she is the best suited to match your personality. It is not unusual for therapists or counselors to also provide mediation and custody evaluation services.
About Divorce Financial Planners
A Divorce Financial Planner is an excellent resource for divorcing couples when they choose to go their separate ways.
Financial Planners have traditionally worked with individuals after divorce, helping them build new lives and plan for their future.
By being uniquely qualified to make long-term financial projections, Divorce Financial Planners integrate the methodology of financial planning directly into the divorce process.
Since settlements are in large part financial, Divorce Financial Planners can explain your options, help you set priorities, and lead you through the hard choices ahead.
Often, the financial data on which settlements are based is unreliable. This leads to future problems for one or both parties. Accurate financial information helps the parties achieve workable settlements quicker and accept realistic lifestyle changes when necessary.
A Divorce Financial Planner Helps:
1. Take control of the divorce process
2. Gain a clear understanding of your current financial picture
3. Gain a clear understanding of your future financial picture
4. Be more focused on reaching a fair and workable settlement
5. Negotiate more effectively
6. Ensure a faster resolution of all financial matters, equitably, for both spouses
7. Minimize legal fees
8. Minimize taxes
9. Maximize marital assets
About Financial Planners
Since one of the most prominent issues in any divorce is the financial aspect, the employment of financial planners frequently comes into play. This, of course, is dependent upon the nature and scope of a particular couple's assets. However, it is critical to bear in mind that there are three main types of financial planners. Act accordingly. Some fiscal advisors will charge a flat fee for consultation with respect to and/or development of an actual complete plan relating to all financial issues. Others work on commission, meaning they will earn their actual income through the sale of specific investments. It is important to remember that this type of professional, because of the nature of his or her work, might intentionally or otherwise have outside bias with respect to their advice. And lastly, some will be compensated through a combination of both a fee and a commission. Given the fact that financial planning can be very detail oriented and potentially critical to a person's future financial stability, these types of professionals and their services are being retained more and more often. As always, however, it is necessary that the right questions be asked of such professionals and a thorough analysis of all options available be undertaken before any effective conclusions can be reached.
A few things with which a that financial planner will assist you:
The specialization of financial planners come in many different shapes and sizes. An accountant is one who can provide a wide selection of services, from the audit of a business to the assessment of an employee benefits plan. A Certified Public Accountant can oftentimes operate as a specific tax consultant, however, not all do so. For people with tax concerns, the Enrolled Agent, a tax specialist licensed to practice before the Internal Revenue Service, might be the best place to begin consultations. For a spouse who has reason to believe the other is attempting to hide assets or perhaps alter or misrepresent financial facts, a Forensic Accountant is one who is specially trained to trace properties, evaluate financial reports, and assess value for businesses.
- Which assets are feasible for you to keep.
- Help you understand your tax consequences.
- Whether to take a lump sum or deferred distribution in regards to retirement funds.
- Investment advice for education funding for the child(ren).
- Recommending changes in your will and estate planning.
- Point out cash resources for immediate income.
- Set realistic and obtainable financial goals.
Stockbrokers, as do Money Managers, deal strictly with investment matters. Whereas stockbrokers are paid commissions on the client's monies invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or annuities, money managers charge a flat fee for the creation and development of a specific investment portfolio. Whereas stockbrokers by nature will focus their attentions on the performance of a particular stock or mutual fund, for example, a money manager is more concerned with the performance of the overall portfolio and how that relates to your stated short and long-term goals. Again, as in the case of anyone who is paid on a commission-only basis, it is imperative to recognize any potential motives behind the offering of any specific financial advice.
Your Banking Institution and it's representative(s) are often a great source of not only advice but actual implementation with respect to financial concerns. The opening of, or cancellation of lines of credit, establishment or transfer of accounts, and transaction of loans are services they provide as a matter of course. It is, however, important to bear in mind that bankers, unlike stockbrokers or money managers, often have certain and limited areas of expertise. And, while bank employees are often salaried employees, they sometimes double as salespeople promoting their own institution's products and services and may be also paid on a commission basis so you will need to think and act accordingly.
About Paralegal Services
Paralegals are not trained as lawyers, therefore they are not able to provide you with any type of legal advice. You will hear this response quite often when going through your divorce, because it is very easy to ask the wrong person a question that does not seem to be legal related, but actually is.
Paralegal services are great for helping you prepare your divorce forms. They provide typing service that may save you some time and money. Be sure to have a clear understanding of the cost (whether it is per page or on an hourly basis). If you have retained a lawyer for your divorce, most likely there is a paralegal on staff. Paralegal services typically aid the pro se individual or someone who is simply filing a motion for modifications.
Be sure the paralegal service you choose has been properly trained and has been experienced with the divorce procedure in your area. Completing divorce forms can be some what of a tricky thing, and it is not uncommon for the court or judge to revoke the forms.
About Custody Evaluators
When custodial agreement cannot be reached between the two parties prior to the trial date, a great deal of preparation may be required by the client and the attorney in order to effectively petition the court for custodial rights.
It is very common to seek the professional opinion and testimony of a counselor or therapist that is capable and qualified to perform child evaluations. The evaluator will study the behavior and emotions of the family relationships, and testify in court or at a deposition to explain his or her conclusions.
The members of the family should be aware of the differences between the distinctive roles of the counselor and the evaluator. The evaluator merely studies the family, where as the counselor not only evaluates, but in fact, is charged with the task of providing extensive advice.
An evaluation should never be sought without prior and full consent of both parties. Any subsequent evaluation should also be inclusive of both parents. The evaluation is to determine if a strong, happy, and healthy relationship exists between the child and the parent.
About Divorce Support Groups
Often emotional pain is unavoidable when surviving separation and divorce. Most people do not understand this heartache, or the people who support you are not always available to listen.
Divorce Support Groups are designed so you can meet with other people who understand what you are going through. There are thousands of divorce support groups around the U.S. that provide the atmosphere that will allow you to break from the past and rebuild your life.
Most Divorce Support Groups are facilitated through a church or temple but are NON-DENOMINATIONAL. The Support Groups are open to everyone, and by calling a support group today you may find that it will provide the new beginning you have been searching for.
About Credit Advisors
Credit advisors who are connected with non-profit organizations, such as the United Way, the
YM/YWCA, or religious organizations are often an invaluable source of information and
direction. The Consumer Credit Counseling Service is one such outfit that has offices nationwide
and can be found in your local telephone book or by calling 1-800-388-2227 to access the most
convenient branch near you.
Typically, as consistent with their non-profit status, these groups charge little or nothing for their services. They can assist in negotiations with creditors, implement programs to manage finances, even advise how to create a monthly household budget.
To take advantage of a non-profit credit advisor, however, either disposable income or the willingness to sell assets is required. The credit advisor will, based on your income and debts, negotiate with major creditors such as banks, credit card companies, and department stores to determine how much and how often you will pay on your debt. Payments are made directly to the credit advisor, who in turn transfers the monies to the proper creditors. A credit advisor is often able to secure a cancellation of wage garnishment or have interest and late charges dropped entirely.
About Appraisers & Insur. Agents
During the course of a divorce, assets are naturally to be divided. Several prominent assets may be real estate property, a business, personal property, pensions, and life insurance policies. Appraisers and Insurance Agents are paid by flat fee or on a commission basis. In the case of your home, you will need an accurate appraisal. One such method would be to contract a Certified Real Estate Appraiser or by getting estimates from multiple Real Estate Agents, each of whom would hope to be securing your future business. In either case, the best would be those who are most familiar with your neighborhood.
With respect to insurance issues, it is never foolhardy to re-confirm the value of any life, health, disability, property and business insurance you may have. Determine whether or not a fee is incurred if a specific policy is cashed in or surrendered and the ACTUAL cash value of such, especially in the case of a life insurance policy as that would be 'marital property' certain to be divided via the actual divorce process. When dealing with auto insurance, be certain that you will be paying only to insure yourself (or if applicable, an eligible child).
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