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The process of ending a marriage can often be complicated and painful. Depending on the level of acrimony between both spouses, Delaware divorce lawyers can help complete paperwork, mediate disputes or represent husband and wife in family court. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are planning to file for divorce in Delaware.
How the divorce process works
There are two grounds for terminating a marriage:
• No-fault divorces in Delaware do not require either party to have committed a wrongdoing. The spouses must have lived apart for at least six months prior to filing for this kind of separation.
• At-fault divorces in Delaware do not require a spouse to have lived separately from the other person for six months before trying to end the marriage. Physical or mental abuse and adultery are some of the grounds for which you can request an end to the marriage. You will have to provide evidence of these transgressions in court. In this case, it can be helpful to have a DE divorce lawyer represent you.
The first step in filing for divorce in Delaware is filing a petition for divorce with the local family court. Your spouse will then be formally “served” with a copy of the complaint. If they agree to the divorce, this will be an uncontested divorce and a court appearance may not be required. However, if a spouse does not agrre to the terms of divorce or the proposed terms of separation in the complaint, a court date will be scheduled.
Couples are encouraged to try to agree on the terms of their separation if they are planning on filing for divorce in DE. Some common areas of dispute are:
• Child support payments
• Child custody arrangements
• Visitation rights
• Alimony payments
• Dividing shared property
Should two spouses be unable to resolve their differences over these or related issues, DE divorce lawyers can help mediate between the two. If there is no agreement, the judge will hear both sides’ arguments and issue a legally binding decision. Some of the factors the court may take into consideration include:
• The length of the marriage
• The standard of living established during the marriage
• Both spouses’ fiscal health and ability to be self-sustaining
• In child custody disputes, the child’s preference will be taken into consideration if they are mature enough
The more complicated your case, the more likely it is you will need a Delaware divorce lawyer to represent you. Similarly, if you want to challenge any payments you are obligated to make, legal counsel will be helpful.
When to hire a DE divorce lawyer
If it is at all possible, couples who are going to separate should try to resolve their issues without an attorney’s help. Paying for a Delaware divorce lawyer can be an unnecessary expense. Couples who can work together and complete their own paperwork will make a difficult process less time-consuming and emotionally draining.
You may want to start thinking about consulting Delaware divorce lawyers when spousal negotiations do not yield an agreement. This does not mean you and your spouse are determined to go to court. A couple may choose to pay for the services of a DE divorce lawyer experienced in mediating between spouses before filing a complaint for the court. This will be less costly than committing to a protracted legal process.
If communication between two spouses breaks down entirely and court-effect mediation does not help, the case will advance to trial. A Delaware divorce lawyer who has helped with mediation will not be allowed to represent either side in court. While both spouses may represent themselves in family court, one or both may choose to retain private legal counsel. This DE divorce lawyer may not be the same attorney as the one you hired to mediate.
When you decide you need private legal counsel to help with your divorce in Delaware, it is important to not rush into any professional relationship. Ask friends and family if they can refer you to DE divorce lawyers with specialized experience in your kind of case. The Delaware State Bar Association can also refer you to an attorney for a $35 fee. Prior to agreeing to meet with any Delaware divorce lawyers, check their disciplinary records online to make sure they are in good legal standing.
Because ending a marriage can be a painful process for both spouses, you should be especially careful to make sure you are not hiring an attorney who will not aggravate the situation. Some DE divorce lawyers may make guarantees they will not be able to keep. Beware of unrealistic promises or grandiose language used on websites or in advertising.
Meeting with Delaware divorce lawyers
When you have received referrals, it is time to prepare for your initial consultations. You may need to meet with several Delaware divorce lawyers before you find someone who you trust to represent you.
To make the most out of your first meeting, you will need to assemble any documents that have a bearing on your application for divorce in Delaware. Financial records, prenuptial agreements and any other relevant documentation should all be assembled for DE divorce lawyers to examine. You may be asked many specific questions about the details of your case and should answer them as comprehensively as possible.Prepare a list of questions to ask all DE divorce lawyers you consult, including:
• What level of experience do you have in handling cases of divorce in Delaware?
• If you do not have specialized knowledge in my kind of case, can you refer me to a more experienced DE divorce lawyer?
• What can I realistically expect from the legal process?
During this first meeting, you should also obtain a detailed, written estimate from all Delaware divorce lawyers of how much you should expect for their services. Attorneys must clearly explain any charges you do not understand.