Planning A California Divorce

Planning A California Divorce (Preparing for California Divorce)

The Complete Guide to Planning and Executing a Divorce in California

Before you divorce, you should understand what to expect during the divorce. By understanding what is going to happen, you can feel more in control of what is going on and can plan ahead. Therefore, it is important that you know what to expect from the California divorce process.

There can be significant roadblocks ahead of you. You will need to know the lay of the land. When will those roadblocks pop up and what you can do to avoid them.

In this major moment of your life, you need to learn what you will be going through and what the rules are for what is ahead of you. By knowing the rules and preparing for the legal reality ahead, you will be in the strongest position to get both what you want and get through this in the least stressful manner possible.

Planning A California Divorce: Before You File for Divorce

Stop. Take a breath. Let’s think about what lies ahead.

You will need to file for divorce. There are rules associated with the process of filing for divorce. You can do the divorce yourself. There is no law that says you can’t. However, you may need or want to hire an attorney.

But…

How do you hire an attorney?

Hiring an attorney is scary, even for attorneys. It is not simple or easy.

First, there are a lot of attorneys. There are many capable and competent attorneys who you can hire. How do you find the one that is right for you?

You will need to research the attorneys. You will need to learn how to interview an attorney.

Choosing the right attorney for your divorce is a crucial step in your divorce.

How do I find an attorney?

In the old days, attorneys were either found in phone books or from a referral. The attorney with the biggest ad in the phone book or the one attorney that a friend referred you was the way to find an attorney. Why? Because attorney advertising was prohibited.

Now, attorney advertising is allowed, as you can see on TV and bus-stops on any given day.

However, there are only three basic ways to find an attorney.

  1. You can look in the phone book. However, most attorneys spend advertising dollars in the phonebook because it is essentially a dying industry.
  2. You can ask around your friends and family and hope that you get a good referral. They can hopefully share a great experience and hopefully that translates to a great result for you.
  3. Go to the Internet and search for your attorney. Read the reviews on the attorney. Check at multiple websites that rank attorneys.

The best suggestion is to use all three methods above to create a list. Once you create a list, you should call and set up a time to talk to the attorneys on your list.

You always want to interview the attorney first.

Finding the Family Law Attorney

After you have created your list, call the offices. But what do you say? What do you ask? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Can the attorney represent you in the County where you live?
  2. How long has the attorney been in practice?
  3. Does the attorney and their staff have the ability to handle your case?

Finding someone that truly meets these basic standards may be difficult, but it is worth the work in finding them.

The Consultation

When you think that you have found the attorney that you may want to hire, ask to schedule a consultation.

The purpose of the consultation is to see whether the two of you can work together, Some people think that the attorney’s personality does not matter, but that is wrong. If the attorney is rude, talks down to you, or does not listen before you actually hire them, what makes you think they are going to get any better when things are in the thick of battle and you have hired him. I have taken over many cases where the clients hired what they thought was an aggressive attorney, but the attorney was really a just a jerk.

During the initial consultation, there may be a charge.

At the Law Office of Sean Musgrove, there is no charge for the first telephonic appointment with an attorney. We feel that we should not charge you for interviewing us for a job. We also feel that after you talk to one of our attorneys, you may not want to hire anybody else because of the level of customer service we give, even at the initial consultation stage. We are proud of what we do, what we know, and what we can do for you. From the first phone call, you will see what sets us apart.

When you meet your attorney for the first consultation, remember that your attorney is walking into your life that you have been living all of your life for the first time. Your attorney should both listen to you and ask questions so they can learn your case.

Should never feel intimidated or judged by your attorney. You should feel comfortable and welcome. The Law Office of Sean Musgrove works hard at this as all the attorneys realize that you are going through one of the most difficult things in your life. The attorney also should be able to explain the legal issues in a way that you understand.

If an attorney is rude, makes you feel stupid, does not listen, and they cannot explain basic legal issues to you in a way that you understand, do not hire them. It will not get any better.

If you are going to hire the attorney, talk about how you will work together

If you are going to hire an attorney, you are committing into a costly relationship. Ask your attorney what will be the best way to work with them. How will you be notified of developments of your case. What happens if you have questions? How should you communicate? Will email be best?

At the Law Office of Sean Musgrove, if you call and want to talk to an attorney, we feel that you should be able to. If your attorney is not available right when you call and the legal support staff cannot answer your inquiry, then you will be given an appointment to talk to your attorney. This appointment will be either telephonic or face to face, whatever you want. We work for you.

At the Law Office of Sean Musgrove, almost 100% of all documents are scanned into the system, and as documents come in they will be sent to you for your review. If you have any questions about what you are seeing, we invite you to call and talk to us.

Finally, when you talk to your attorney, ask about billing and how their retainers work. Ask how much they bill hourly. Ask what they do to keep costs down. Ask about alternative billing options such as flat fees. It is important that you understand these things ahead of time so you understand what you are paying for.

At the Law Office of Sean Musgrove, there are actually billing professionals that you will talk to, at no charge, if you have a problem with your bill. They will actually listen to your question, investigate the issue, and get back to you with an answer.

If you are going to hire a Divorce Attorney, here’s what you should ask…

To determine if the attorney you are interviewing is the right fit for you, here are some suggested questions.

Ask About the Office

  • Are you experienced in family law?

Attorneys can practice in many areas of law. Some just “pick up” a few divorce cases because they need the cash, although they do not have the day to day experience in family law.

It is so very important that you hire a law firm who have expertise in family law. The Law Office of Sean Musgrove has the experience in family law that you may be looking for.

  • How will your office be able to support my case?

Ask how their office works.

  1. Do the attorneys do all the work themselves? If so, they may ignore your case.
  2. Do they have paralegals and other support staff working for them? Do they work together to keep costs down?

If you are hiring a law firm, how do the lawyers work with other lawyers in their group?

The Law Office of Sean Musgrove work as a legal machine. There will be an attorney assigned to your case, however, all of the attorneys work together based on their individual strengths and the needs for your case. We have paralegals and staff to assist the attorneys, which helps drive the total cost of your divorce down. If needed, some work will be split up between attorneys so that they can work fast to keep your case moving along.

It is acceptable to ask your attorney what strategy they might have and how long will it take to get into Court and resolve my case. The attorney should be able to answer basic questions.

However, you must remember that facts and evidence matter, and one fact can change everything. A real seasoned attorney will tell you their opinion and also tell you that opinion may change based their review. As your case develops, strategy has to adapt and change to reality.

Questions About Costs

What are the hourly rates for attorneys working on my case? What are the charges for paralegals? What are the charges for other staff working on my case? What type of work will the attorneys do versus what paralegals will do.

These are important questions because not all work done is attorney work. Drafting a draft of a letter is attorney work. However, putting that draft letter onto letterhead, making sure the grammar, spelling, and formatting are correct is work for a paralegal. They can do it faster and quicker than an attorney. This can cost you or save you, depending on how the firm works.

How can I reduce my costs? Your attorney should be able to instruct you on how to use the law office in the most cost-efficient manner.

You deserve answers to these basic questions. If the lawyer answers in a vague manner, or avoids answering at all, do not hire them. You deserve to know what you are paying for.

When the Law Office of Sean Musgrove is hired by you, the fee agreement will be presented to you. The attorney will review the fee agreement line by line with you. There is full transparency about the process and what you will be paying for.

What you need to understand so your attorney help you

If you feel your life is in a whirlwind, remember your attorney is there to help you. The attorney should know how to take that chaos you are experience, and start triaging it like an emergency room nurse. Understand that and trust your attorney. Your attorney should know what to do.

Here’s an analogy to think about. If you live in Kansas, you probably live in an area where there will be a tornado alert at some time. Tornadoes happen. Well, during tornado season, a person can choose  to worry about tornados all the time or they can realize what to do in a tornado.

Having an attorney during your divorce is a lot like that. You can worry all day about this or that, but it is much better to know what to do if this or that happens.

When new problems arise, you will talk to your attorney and come up with a plan. If your attorney is not panicked, you should not be panicked.

As your relationship with your attorney grows, you should feel prepared for anything because your attorney should be able to tell you what might happened and what your options are.

When you hire an attorney, you have to remember that not everything is an emergency.

Also, your lawyer is not a psychologist. If the stress of your divorce is making you want to talk to your attorney everyday even if it is about the same thing, then that is probably not utilizing your attorney in the best possible way. If you are stressed out and suffering, you should talk to a trained professional.

It is important that you communicate with your lawyer honestly. Your attorney needs to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. You need to tell your attorney everything, even if it not flattering. Your attorney can work with what he knows. Your attorney will not judge you.

It is also important that you have realistic expectations about what is going to happen. Television has created a false picture about what the law is. The law can be slow and time consuming. Your lawyer is bound by laws and ethics. Your lawyer did not create the system, he only knows how to navigate you through it. He is your tour guide through the legal landscape, not the designer.

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Here’s what you should expect from your attorney after your hire them

– After you hire your attorney, you should have a case plan within 48 hours of hiring. The case plan should lay out what the attorney needs, what you need to provide the attorney, what will be dome, and what the goals are.

– You should expect to sit down with the attorney who will be working on your case to talk about the case details. Your attorney should listen, ask questions, raise concerns, explain his thought process, and come up with a specific plan.

– If you have not already filed for divorce, your attorney should be filing the divorce papers within 72 hours of being retained unless there is a strategic reason for not doing so. Your attorney should give you a stamped copy of what was filed with the Court.

– Once the papers for divorce are filed, your spouse should be served right away. If your spouse is ducking service, then special steps can be taken to keep the case moving along. If the papers cannot be served, the process server should be able to provide a “due diligence” statement so the Court can allow you to serve the other side by publication. Your case should not be held up because someone is playing unfair. Of course, since this takes time and money to do, your attorney should be providing you with options.

– You should expect to be given homework right away. You will be asked to provide certain documents, from bank statements, car titles, and maybe even text messages. You cannot shrink away from this, as you are the expert of your marriage and only you can help your attorney.

– If your attorney says that you need to file a Request for Order with the Court, then you should expect to be working with them closely.

  1. Your attorney will need to interview you to draft your declaration.  The declaration is your sworn statement that the Judge will read before your hearing.
  2. After your attorney writes your declaration, you will want to meet with your attorney to make sure it is 100% accurate. Your attorney will make the changes, and once complete, you will sign the paperwork.
  3. After you sign the documents for Court, your Request for Order will be filed with the Court. Once filed, the Court will give you a Court date to appear. Your attorney should notify you both of the upcoming Court date and give you a stamped copy of what was filed with the Court.
  4. When the other side responds to your Request for Order, you should get a copy of the response. You should also have a meeting with your attorney so they can draft the “reply” to the response if necessary. If necessary, you will need to review and sign it like you did the request for order. Your attorney should give you a stamped copy of what was filed with the Court.
  5. You should have a meeting with the attorney a before the hearing to tell you what to expect at the hearing and discuss any last minute strategy.
  6. You should expect your attorney to be present and prepared at your hearing.
  7. After your hearing, you should expect a meeting with your attorney to discuss what the outcome of the hearing means to your case.

If your attorney says that you need to file a response to the Request for Order with the Court, then you should expect the following:

  1. Your attorney will need to interview you to draft your declaration.  The declaration is your sworn statement that the Judge will read before your hearing.
  2. After your attorney writes your declaration, you will want to meet with your attorney to make sure it is 100% accurate. Your attorney will make the changes, and once complete, you will sign the paperwork.
  3. After you sign the documents for Court, your Response to the Request for Order will be filed with the Court. Once filed, the Court will give you a Court date to appear. Your attorney should notify you both of the upcoming Court date and give you a stamped copy of what was filed with the Court.
  4. If the other side responds to your Response to the Request for Order with a Reply, you should get a copy of the reply. You should also have a meeting with your attorney so they can be prepared to respond in Court in oral arguments or by way of written objection.
  5. You should have a meeting with the attorney a before the hearing to tell you what to expect at the hearing and discuss any last minute strategy.
  6. You should expect your attorney to be present and prepared at your hearing.
  7. After your hearing, you should expect a meeting with your attorney to discuss what the outcome of the hearing means to your case.

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