On Monday, we talked about some financial steps women can take to begin to prepare for their divorce and custody cases. Though there aren’t perfect answers to these questions in many cases, there are things you can do (make sure you’ve read the article!) to help as you begin to think about your case strategy and other choices you could or should be making.
But preparing financially (though it’s a big part of the process) is really only ONE part of the process. You should also be preparing legally for what you’re about to face as well.
What other steps can I take to make my financial plan for divorce?
There are still more things you can do to help prepare for your divorce. The first three things I pointed out are designed to help financially, at least in the interim period between when you separate and when a (1) temporary support is awarded at pendente lite, (2) an agreement is signed, or (3) a judge makes a final ruling in your case.
If you STILL need help…
Will an attorney represent me pro bono?
Money is key in a divorce, and there are very few, if any, attorneys who take on cases pro bono. (I don’t personally know any, I only write this that way to allow for the possibility that some attorney, somewhere, might take a divorce case pro bono.) If you need an attorney to represent you (most people do), you’re going to need to be financially prepared to hire someone to represent you.
You’re welcome to call around to talk to attorney offices to see whether they’d take on a case pro bono, but don’t expect much. We also can’t take cases on contingency fees in family law cases (the “there’s no fee unless we get money for you!” kind of thing you see in commercials, especially from personal injury attorneys); it’s considered unethical, and we could be disbarred for doing it.
Can’t I get a court appointed attorney?
No. In divorce, there’s no such thing. Court appointed attorneys are provided in cases where a person’s liberty is at stake – meaning when there’s the possibility of a jail sentence. Custody and divorce cases do not apply. In the judge’s view, divorce and custody cases are optional, not mandatory. You can’t help if someone accuses you of a crime; all you can do is mount a defense. You CAN help, though, whether you choose to file for divorce or custody—and, anyway, it’s not like you risk going to jail. I don’t tell you this to suggest that its sound law; I’ve often thought that it’s not very fair that some of the women I see are unable to get even court appointed representation. I only tell you to give you an idea of how the law works in cases like these.
What about Legal Aid?
Definitely call Legal Aid. Sometimes they can help, especially if you’re really impoverished. They’re often not super helpful, but they can sometimes point you in the right direction.
Generally speaking, if you fall below a certain portion of the poverty line, you can get representation (or at least some guidance) from Legal Aid. Legal Aid doesn’t take contested cases though (meaning cases where an agreement can’t be reached). Why? Aren’t people facing contested cases the very people who need legal help the most? Probably. But there’s also no doubt about it that contested cases take a lot of time, energy, and money – and in an organization like Legal Aid, where funding is limited and attorneys are already overburdened by insanely heavy case loads, taking even one contested case takes resources away from all the others who could reach an uncontested resolution. It probably doesn’t seem fair, especially if you’re facing a contested case, but… That’s how it works.
Feel free to reach out to Legal Aid, though. In many cases, even contested ones, they can at least give you information to point you in the right direction.
What other legal resources are there to help me make my financial plan for divorce?
Good question. I like the way you think. Getting all the information is definitely the first step towards careful, rational preparation for anything, but especially for divorce.
1. Request a free book or any of our free reports.
There’s SO MUCH free information on our website! Between the library portion of our blog, where you can get specific information on topics that interest you (seriously, just search spousal support, contested divorce, separation agreement, collaborative divorce, grandparent rights, pro bono, or an other issue that you’re interested in, and see just how much information is there), and our resources page that includes access to any of our four free books (on divorce, military divorce, how to hire an attorney, and child custody and visitation) or a wide range of free reports.
Talk about an education! Pretty much anything you could want to know about Virginia divorce and custody law is available on our site, and we’re happy to send you a free electronic copy of any of our books (a hard copy, too, if you live in our immediate area) or reports.
2. Attend a monthly divorce seminar.
Want a chance to ask your questions live, to a real attorney? Look no further. Our monthly divorce seminars are taught three times a month; on the Second Saturday of the month in Virginia Beach and Newport News, and on the third Tuesday of the month in Virginia Beach.
Each seminar is taught by one of our attorneys and deals with many of the most frequently asked questions we get – like, when am I separated? When can I change the locks? How is spousal support determined? How does custody work? And, of course, so many more – plus, we take questions from the audience, too! It’s a great way to get some of those initial “can’t eat, can’t sleep” questions answered.
3. Come in for a consultation.
Yup. We’re at that point. Once you’ve read all you can read on our website, and attended the seminar to ask any questions that you’ve not been able to get answered or just wanted more clarification on, it’s time to talk one on one with an attorney about your specific case.
Wondering what to expect? You’re not alone, and it’s a good idea to know ahead of time what happens in our typical appointments. You probably have a lot of questions, and we’re here to help make sure you get them all answered, and have the opportunity to come up with a custom tailored plan of action, designed to take all of your needs into account.
A consultation is a great way to take your planning to the next step. It’s personalized, confidential, and the next step to get the information you need to begin to prepare for your divorce.
It’s great that you’re thinking about all the ways you can prepare for divorce. It’s difficult, but not impossible, and with a little bit of information and a whole lot of empowerment, you can make the best decisions possible for you and your family.
For more information about our books, free reports, seminars, or consultations, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.