The prospect of your marriage coming to an end is wrought with emotional and financial turmoil. These feelings are further amplified when children are involved. During this critical time, emotional decisions can have lasting and unintended results on a family. No matter what the circumstances, the realization that a divorce may be on the horizon can be paralyzing. It is vitally important to both you and your children’s future that you learn your rights under the law. Seek the advice of a competent legal professional. All too often well-intended friends and non-legal professionals unknowingly give incorrect advice.
In the area of domestic relations law, knowledge is power. Educating yourself regarding your rights under the laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia is the most important step you can take to protect your family and the marital estate. Individuals that gain this knowledge early in the process, will guide their case in the direction they want to pursue. This results in greater control over the outcome. While the majority of domestic relations cases are resolved without protracted litigation, all settlements should be grounded in the protection afforded to individuals under the custody and equitable distribution laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Therefore, no matter whether you use mediation or litigation to address your family’s situation, it is critical that you are fully acquainted with your rights from the very beginning of the process.
While one party to a divorce may be completely blindsided, their spouse may have consulted with a lawyer and obtained important legal knowledge. The unknowing spouse can be both emotionally and legally vulnerable. It is important to engage a legal advocate that will protect your rights and your children’s best interest. Having an attorney review any document prior to signing it, is essential to ensure you rights are safeguarded. Additionally, you should understand that the Commonwealth of Virginia has procedures which allows a party to seek and obtain support quickly to protect the immediate needs of the family and children.
Even when your goal is to reach an amicable resolution of your family law issues, you must first understand your rights. Every family law case is unique and the progression and the outcome that is undertaken should be guided by the circumstances of the individuals involved. It is important to find an attorney that listens to the path that led you to their office and is committed to working with you to develop a roadmap to help you achieve your goals. Because all domestic relations law issues are emotional, it is important that you share your passion about your family, so that the attorney can zealously advocate for you in a cost-effective manner.
How to Prepare for Your First Meeting with an Attorney:
1. Find an attorney that is committed to spending the time with you that is necessary to inform you about the laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia at the initial consultation. Your first consultation should give you an understanding of the legal process and the alternatives.
2. Prepare a short narrative of your marriage, children and path that led you to their office. The facts which are unique to your family are important.
3. Convey to the attorney facts which are relevant to understand your child/children and their best interest. Let your attorney know about a child’s health issues, IEPs, or other disabilities. The goal is to engage in a course which has the least impact on your children, so it is important to understand each of their needs.
4. If you have information available regarding your spouse’s gross income, the cost of health insurance for the children and work-related child-care costs, bring that information with you. An attorney can compute the child support guideline worksheet for you, so you know an amount of child support you may expect.
5. If you have an understanding of your assets and liabilities, bring a list so the attorney can provide you information specific to your case. If you do not have a complete understanding of your marital estate, know that you are not alone. Many clients are not fully acquainted with what makes up their marital estate, and the role of an attorney is to help develop that evidence.
6. Be prepared to discuss the, monetary and nonmonetary contributions that you and your spouse have made to the well-being of the family and the marital estate. This factual information is relevant evidence which only you can provide.
7. Write down any questions you have so you do not forget to ask them. Understand that the legal process can take on many forms so there may not be an absolute answer. However, knowing the options moving forward helps you guide the route your case will take.
8. Articulate your goals so the attorney can help you develop a realistic short and long term strategy to achieve them and protect you and your children.
Empower yourself with both knowledge about the law and a legal advocate that will listen and guide you through the process. Being educated and engaged at the onset will help to build a foundation for your family and their future.