We live in a time when a substantial percentage of all marriages in the United States, including Utah, end in divorce. Although the actual numbers are subject to much debate, it is undisputed that divorces affect a large segment of the population. While divorce is the right decision for many families, divorce nevertheless presents many legal, financial, and emotional difficulties. A divorce lawyer can help mitigate some of these difficulties and help find the right solution for families looking for a divorce.
The Difficulties of Divorce
Divorce is potentially a very expensive process. Because contentious divorce proceedings can last for years before the parties manage even to dissolve the marriage, the expense of maintaining such an action can easily spiral out of control. In addition to being financially burdensome and time-intensive, divorce, perhaps more than any other legal dispute, is well-known to be emotionally taxing.
While other cases a family law attorney takes on, like adoptions, can be emotionally taxing, the results are primarily positive. In divorce cases, however, emotions are more likely to be negative in nature. Those negative emotions tend to intensify as the two parties dispute how child custody and property should be allocated between the parties. Cases become much more difficult when there are children involved.
A divorce lawyer can manage some of the more convoluted legal difficulties and mitigate the influence of fraught emotions. Having a cool-headed, professional, and competent divorce attorney on your side can also minimize the emotional and financial costs of a divorce. You would do well to avoid an attorney who struggles to manage his or her own emotions or behavior with regard to the case, as one of the primary reasons for having a divorce lawyer is to have your case managed by someone who makes strategic decisions based on logic rather than emotion.
Understanding a Divorce Lawyer’s Role
The two parties in a divorce case are known as the Petitioner (the spouse who initiates divorce proceedings) and the Respondent. While neither party is legally required to be represented by an attorney, going without one is not recommended. Divorce, like most legal matters, is ill-suited to DIY efforts. No divorce attorney can ethically represent both the petitioner and respondent in connection with a divorce proceeding, and you should avoid using attorneys who offer or encourage such an arrangement.
Most divorces can be settled without going to trial. In the current state of the Utah court system, the parties generally will not be allowed to set a trial date unless they have attempted to come to a resolution with the help of a mediator.
A mediator is a neutral party who attempts to help the petitioner and respondent come to a resolution through mediation, a process which is quicker and less expensive than going to court. Mediation allows the parties to control the outcome of their case, rather than leaving it in the hands of a court. It also allows parties to cut the process short, and bypass formal and expensive court procedures. The length of divorce proceedings depends a great deal on whether the parties are able to come to an agreement to resolve the case.
Should the parties manage to agree, a divorce lawyer can draft a legally binding settlement agreement containing the terms to which the parties have agreed, which forms the blueprint for the court’s final order in the case. In any divorce where there are minor children, issues of custody, parent time, and child support will usually last well beyond the date when the court issues a decree of divorce, meaning that a party to a divorce may need the services of an attorney many times until the children reach the age of majority.
A good attorney will represent your best interests during the entire divorce process, keep you informed as to the status of proceedings, and educate you about what to expect. For example, your divorce lawyer will know whether or not a divorce education class is required in your area. A divorce attorney can also present options you didn’t know were available based on their legal training and experience.
Hope for the Future
Amidst handling contested cases, dividing or settling your estate, modifying child custody agreements, and managing other features of divorce, the right attorney can help you through a difficult time. Every divorce case is individual and unique, and at Stevenson Smith Hood Knudson, P.C., we give them the attention and care they deserve. You will have an attorney who cares about you as an individual, and is available to communicate with you when you need him or her. Divorce will likely be an unpleasant experience for you, but the right attorney will help to make it less so, and will work to see that your best interests, and those of your children, are protected.