4 Ways the Right Divorce Lawyer Can Make the Process Easier

Most people understand that, when they are going through a divorce, they need to have a good divorce lawyer on their side. After all, we all know someone who didn’t get the quality of representation they needed, and suffered heavy financial consequences – and perhaps even the loss of time with their children – because of it.

As important as it is to have a good divorce lawyer on your side, however, it’s also something that’s very convenient. That’s because part of a divorce attorney’s job isn’t just to ensure that your interests are protected, but also to make the process smoother.

Here are four quick ways that the right divorce lawyer can make things easier for you:

1. By looking out for your interests during your divorce proceedings. Beyond simply knowing the law, a good divorce attorney will learn about your situation, and your priorities, to make sure that they are properly represented. As tempting as it might be to simply work through a mediator, that person does not have your interests at heart and cannot work solely to protect your interests.  Alternatively, a divorce lawyer job is to advocate for their clients’ interests and help achieve clients’ goals.

 2. By understanding the nuances of divorce law. Given the complexity of different legal statutes, it’s probably not surprising that most of our clients aren’t very familiar with their rights during the divorce process. Having reviewed your case and gone through the process dozens of times before, a good divorce lawyer might be able to help you spot legal opportunities that you weren’t even aware of.  Although friends, family and coworkers may try to ‘help’ by sharing their own divorce stories, those stories may not be relevant to your situation and may only result in unrealistic expectations or misunderstanding of your legal rights and entitlements.

3. By negotiating with your spouse’s divorce attorney. Negotiating things like custody and placement of children and the division of property and debts between divorcing spouses can quickly become a personal and emotional process. Between seasoned attorneys who know their clients’ top priorities and goals; however, the process can often be handled much more quickly, calmly, and efficiently. This facet of what we do alone can dramatically decrease the stress and anxiety you feel during your divorce proceedings.

4. By keeping you calm during the legal divorce process. In the same way, your divorce attorney will have been through this process dozens (and maybe hundreds) of times before and they know what to expect, what’s reasonable, and where the major challenges are likely to lie. For that reason, they can help you remain calm and measured each step of the way, especially at times when you may feel that your spouse (or their attorneys) are being unreasonable.

Although you might wish to never need the services of a good divorce lawyer, when you do, it’s great to have the right team on your side. That’s because they won’t just give you a much better chance at finding the right financial and child-related terms that you’re looking for, but can make every step of the process easier, faster, and less emotionally taxing.

To schedule a free initial office consultation to discuss your divorce or alternatives, please contact us at 414-258-1644 or visit our website for further information.

Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer?

Our last post talked about how you can file for divorce by yourself.  The paperwork is easy and readily available at the courthouse or online.  But, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to hire a divorce attorney.  Of course, you are going to think that, as a divorce attorney, I am just trying to drum up business for myself or my colleagues.  However, I can tell you some of the horror stories of people who come to me after their divorce trying to “fix” their mistakes or address issues that they missed.  Sometimes, such as in the case of property division which is final upon divorce, these things simply cannot be corrected later and you will be out of luck and could cost yourself thousands of dollars.

Here are some situations where we absolutely advise you to hire a divorce lawyer.

1.        You don’t have an agreement with your spouse.  There is no getting around this one.  If you don’t have a complete agreement with your soon to be ex-spouse, your only option is negotiation and/or trial.  Without an experienced divorce attorney, you will not be aware of all of the options to be able to come up with a creative solution to settle your case.  We have been doing this a long time and will be able to pose a variety of options for you and to know what is reasonable in terms of settlement.  And, when all else fails, you must try your case to the judge.  There is no way that you can do yourself justice in this regard.  We know the law, the judges and the procedures.  Whatever you pay in attorneys fees, you could cost yourself in the long run in terms of what the court will award you at trial without an attorney.

2.       You have children.  In Wisconsin, there are three different issues related to children: custody, placement and child support, which can include the payment of children’s expenses.  There are many different options when it comes to placement and many factors which must be taken into consideration.  Therefore, by nature, custody, placement and child support can be complicated.  Without a specific divorce agreement, difficulties and problems may arise in the future.  An experienced divorce lawyer has handled enough of these cases to be able to point you in the right direction in terms of a placement order.  Even though we are not child or family therapists, we have some ideas about what works best for kids. We also have experience in the types of issues which can cause disputes between parents in the future and how to address those.

For example, I sometimes have people who don’t want to be away from their children for a long period of time so they come in and tell me they worked out a schedule in which the parents will alternate placement every other day.  This is a terrible schedule for most children!  The transitions are very disruptive to children and they are never able to get settled.  Or, similarly, parents come in and tell me they agreed to an alternating week or two week schedule.  Again, except for teenage children, this is not generally a good schedule.  Young children cannot handle being away from either parent for such a long time.  However, if you have never been divorced before, you may not realize this or you may not be aware of other (better) options for placement. An attorney can help you with this.

Another common issue which causes disputes is the payment of variable expenses or uninsured medical expenses for children.  Under a shared placement schedule in Wisconsin, variable expenses are shared. Medical expenses are always split. But, how does this work?  Not very well, actually.  Experienced attorneys have standard language or options to address the payment of these expenses and put into place a method which minimizes disputes in the future.  If you fail to specify how these expenses get paid, it will be difficult to enforce this order in the future which could cost you thousands of dollars.

Not having an attorney to guide you through these complicated issues can cause you to have disputes and problems down the road.  In the end, you may end up hiring an attorney anyway because you cannot resolve these problems yourself.

3.      You have assets with value.  Even if it is just house, there are numerous options when dealing with property.  Do you know all of the options you have and the bases you have to cover when awarding or selling real estate?  I had a situation once where the parties did their own divorce and simply agreed to sell the house and split the proceeds.  Later, the husband, who was living in the house, was failing to maintain it, refusing to cooperate with the sale process and stopped paying the mortgage.  Unfortunately, because their agreement was silent as to any of the specifics regarding the sale, there was little the Wife could do.  Eventually, the judge did step in at my request and ordered the Husband to vacate the house so it could be sold.  But, because the judgment did not indicate who would pay the mortgage during the sale process, she could not order him to make up those back payments.  A very costly mistake for my client.

If you have a business, investments and/or retirement accounts, there are various considerations which go into a divorce judgment regarding those assets such as value, taxes, capital gains, etc.  Even though an attorney is not an accountant or financial advisor, experienced divorce lawyers can navigate you through these waters.  Did you know there is a special type of order which is needed to divide a retirement account?  Again, if you try to save attorneys fees, you may just cost yourself more money down the road by missing a crucial point or dividing your property in a way that is financially harmful to yourself.

4.         There is abuse or a power imbalance between you and your spouse.  We are seeing more and more cases in which there is an abusive or controlling spouse.  If you are on the wrong end of this relationship, it is very difficult to stand up to this person and make good decisions for yourself.  Often times, even with lawyers, the abused or controlled spouse doesn’t want to fight and just wants to get it over with.  This can have a devastating financial impact on your or your children down the road.  A lawyer is a buffer and someone to stand up for you in these situations.  You are getting divorced to break away from this toxic relationship – don’t let your spouse poison your freedom by bullying you into leaving the marriage in a detrimental financial position just because he or she wears you down and you are not able to stand up to them.  A lawyer is there to protect your interests and fight for what you are entitled to – not what your spouse thinks you deserve.

5.        Your spouse is hiding assets/income or being dishonest.  An experienced divorce attorney will know where to look to uncover hidden assets or income.  They also will know how to conduct discovery in a way which does not rely solely on your spouse.  For example, attorneys can subpoena employers, bank accounts, etc.  A party cannot do that on their own.  For more information on this topic, see our website at Uncovering Hidden Assets in Divorce.

6.        Your spouse has an attorney.  You don’t absolutely need your own attorney but you do need to realize that your spouse’s attorney is only representing his or her interest.  People often try to minimize costs with only one lawyer and that can work if you are cooperating and are able to reach an agreement between yourselves.  However, if that is not the case, then you need your own attorney.  If you are uncomfortable or if you don’t agree to what is being proposed, you also need your own attorney.  Again, regardless of how nice or civil they are being to you, your spouse’s attorney can only represent their interest and cannot give you legal advice.  At your final hearing, the judge will question you extensively about your right to have your own attorney.  If you choose not to and later you determine that the agreement was not in your interest or more beneficial to your spouse, you will not be able to change your mind – especially in the case of property division or a waiver of maintenance.

There are other situations as well where you will be better off with an attorney.  I cannot cover them all in this article.  Just remember – if you are uncomfortable, overwhelmed or feel like you are getting the short end of the stick, consult with an attorney!  You may feel that you cannot afford the attorneys fees or simply don’t want to waste the money.  However, you need to ask yourself – what are you really saving if you cost yourself money with an unfair agreement or if you create a situation where you end up having to go back to court because of a deficient divorce judgment?  I have a saying – “don’t step on dollars to pick up pennies” which certainly applies in this situation.

If you have any questions or would like to meet with one of our lawyers for a free initial office consultation, please call us at 414-258-1644.  You can also visit our website for more information.

-Teri M Nelson

What To Expect From Your Divorce Consultation

In researching potential blog topics, I ran across an excellent article written for the State Bar of Michigan: The Initial Consultation with Your Divorce Attorney: What to Expect When You Don’t Know What to Expect .   This article is so well written and so thorough that I really don’t have much to add.  But, I will summarize and comment.  I will also discuss in terms of our office and our procedures at Nelson & Davis, LLC.

The first topic discussed is the article is the initial contact and information you need to provide.  When you call our office, we will ask for some basic information such as what type of action you have or may have, what county you reside in and whether an action has already been started.  This is important because it assists our intake coordinators in determining whether we can help you at all.  We do not practice in certain counties and people sometimes are confused as to what constitutes a “family action”.  Our office only handles divorce and paternity cases.

If we determine that your case is something we can help you with, we will tell you what our retainer is and ask you whether you would like to schedule an office appointment.  We don’t want you to be surprised by our retainer only after you take the time to come to our office and we don’t want to waste your time or ours if you don’t want to, or can’t, pay our fees.  We also will only do in-office appointments and not telephone consultations except in rare cases.  There are some attorneys who will do telephone consultations but we find it works best if we meet potential clients in person.

If you decide you want to schedule an appointment, we then ask your name and the name of your spouse or other party.  This is crucial information and sometimes people do not want to give it to us but we will not schedule an appointment without it.  We keep that information confidential but we must determine if we have a conflict of interest.  The most common conflict is that we have already met with the other party.  In that case, we cannot meet with you.  We do not disclose that fact (nor will we ever disclose that to the other party if he/she contacts us) but simply will tell you that we cannot meet with you because we have a conflict.  However, there may be other conflicts.  One of our attorneys may know you or your spouse/the other party in another way and may feel it would be a conflict to represent you.  Or, we may have represented someone connected to you such as your employer, an employee, a relative or a business associate.  Those individuals are a great source of referrals for us and it usually is not a problem but, depending on the facts, we also may consider it a potential conflict.  Whenever there is a potential ethical issue for us, we try to err on the side of caution.

When you come in for your appointment, we will also ask you to fill out an intake questionnaire.  We will ask you to provide more specific information including your income and assets.  The reason for this is so we can provide you more detailed information about what to expect in your case.  All of this information is kept strictly confidential.  The article does a very good job in describing the type of information you will be asked to provide and why.  Keep in mind, if you are uncomfortable in providing any of this information, simply discuss that with the attorney you are meeting with.

The one difference or problem I have with the article is that it indicates that the attorney will be giving you advice at your initial consultation.  This is not true! Until we are actually retained, we cannot provide you with legal advice.  However, what we will do is review the facts of your case, tell you what the law is, what the process is, what you might expect to happen and what we can do for you.

In our firm, it is our goal to provide you with realistic expectations about your case.  Keep in mind, we may tell you things that you are not going to be happy with.  However, we are going to give you an honest evaluation of your case.  It does not help you if we fill you with unrealistic expectations only for you to lose or be disappointed later.  If you want the kind of attorney who is simply going to do whatever you want, then we are not the firm for you.  Be forewarned though – hiring that kind of attorney is only going to cost you attorneys fees and disappointment later.

We have some other blog posts which you may find helpful which discuss what type of attorney to look for, when to start looking for a divorce attorney and what questions you can ask at you initial consultation (Archives – May, 2012).

If you have any questions or would like to meet with one of our lawyers for a free initial office consultation, please call us at 414-258-1644.  You can also visit our website for more information.

3 Questions to Ask a Divorce Lawyer Before You Hire Them

Going through a divorce can be a difficult and painful process. It’s made even worse by the fact that most people aren’t emotionally or financially ready to handle what’s ahead – even if they are the ones filing for divorce from their spouse. Nonetheless, finding the right divorce attorney is an absolutely critical decision, and one you don’t want to put off any longer than you have to.

With the right divorce lawyer on your side, you can stand a good chance of achieving a fair resolution and protecting that which you are legally entitled to. With the wrong divorce lawyer, however, you could find yourself in the midst of a long struggle that leaves you dealing with unintended consequences for the rest of your life.

Because this is such an enormous decision, it’s important that you do the right kinds of research. Here are three questions to ask a divorce lawyer before you hire them:

How many clients have you represented as a divorce lawyer in the past?

Although experience isn’t everything, it’s important for your divorce lawyer to have a sense of the way things work, and several past cases to draw lessons and insights from. Additionally, having a divorce lawyer with lots of experience allows you to take a closer look at their previous track record and see what they’ve been able to achieve for other clients in the past.

There isn’t any set amount of experience that’s perfect for a divorce lawyer, but be careful working with anyone who hasn’t been practicing for at least a few years or more. Given that the outcome of the proceedings will affect you, your finances, and your family for a very long time, you probably don’t want to entrust the job to someone without a little history behind them.

Who is your perfect client?

Because divorce is such a personal and multifaceted process, there are divorce attorneys who specialize in different types of cases, situations, and even clients. And so, the chances are very good that you could find a divorce lawyer in your area who has helped lots of other people who were in a situation similar to yours in the past.

Ask about your divorce lawyer’s perfect client, because the answer will tell you what sort of situations they are most familiar with – and the ones where they are most likely to get the results you are hoping for.  Also, ask your attorney how you can help and what types of things you can do to assist in the process.  You should be able to have input and control into your own case.  This will save you attorneys fees and give you greater satisfaction with the end result.  Your attorney should welcome your assistance and your input.  After all, it is your life and you have to live with the results.

How will you handle my case?

Depending on the reputation, schedule, and experience of your divorce lawyer, he or she may maintain a very small staff with a couple of executive assistants, or a very large one with several junior attorneys in the office. Neither of those is necessarily better, but it is good to find out from the outset how much of your case will be handled personally by your divorce lawyer, and how much will be assigned to other members of the team.

You should ask your attorney how they will communicate with you, what you should expect in terms of procedure and how things work in general.  You should also ask how quickly your attorney can respond to your questions and/or what happens if they are in court or you can’t get in touch with them.  Communication is key and you need to know up front how this will be handled.

Lastly, you should find out if your attorney will work cooperatively with the other party or his or her attorney or if they plan on litigating from the beginning.  You should decide the answer to this question – not your attorney.  Everyone has different expectations in their divorce and how they want their case to be handled.  Your attorney is working for you and in your best interest.  Sometimes what you want is not necessarily in your best interests, however, and you should feel comfortable listening to your attorney’s advice on this.

Even the most amicable divorces are rarely easy, from a legal standpoint or an emotional one. For that reason, you need to have the right divorce lawyer on your side.

If you have questions about the divorce process, or just want to meet with a divorce lawyer call us at 414-258-1644 to set up a free initial consultation today.  You can also visit our website for more information.

5 Signs You Need a New Divorce Lawyer

It’s unfortunate, but not every divorce lawyer is a great one, and there are attorneys out there who are more interested in collecting an hourly fee than they are in properly representing your interests while you legally separate from your spouse. And even beyond that, not every good divorce attorney is a great match for a particular client or situation for reasons that have to do with their background, fees, personality, or other details.

The bottom line is that sometimes you need to divorce yourself from a lawyer or law firm before you can get on with the business of divorcing from your spouse. Here are five signs you need to find a new divorce lawyer:

1. Your divorce lawyer doesn’t have enough experience. Going through a divorce could turn out to be the most significant legal and financial process you ever undertake, and one that will likely affect every day for the rest of your life. With that in mind, you want someone with years of experience in divorce law representing you, not a person who is still making a name for themselves.

2. Your divorce lawyer doesn’t ask many questions. No two divorce situations are identical, and your priorities (like keeping certain assets or maintaining child custody and placement) might be different from the ones other people had in the past. Because of that, it’s important to have a divorce lawyer that asks a lot of questions, so they can properly represent you. If they don’t, it’s time to move on.

3. Your divorce lawyer can’t remember you or your case.  Do you feel like you are re-inventing the wheel every time you talk to your divorce lawyer?  Do they forget your name or the major facts of your case (like whether you even have children)?  While your lawyer can’t be expected to remember every detail at all times, they should at least retain the basic facts of your case.  Even better, they remember most of the facts of your case.  If they don’t, they either have too many cases or a terrible memory or don’t care.  Either way, that is not good for you or your case.

4. You rarely see or hear from your divorce lawyer. Depending on the size of the law firm handling your divorce, you may spend a lot of time talking to junior attorneys, paralegals, and office assistants. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s also important that you have access to your divorce lawyer when you need to meet with him or her. If they can’t ever make time to speak with you, then you might consider taking your case elsewhere.

5. Your divorce lawyer stirs up emotional arguments. A good divorce lawyer will help you stay calm and measured throughout the legal process. If you find that your attorney regularly speaks in a way that makes you feel heated, then it might not be a good match, since overly emotional thinking during a divorce often leads to a longer negotiating time frame… not to mention decisions that you might regret later.

Your divorce is too important to trust to the wrong legal team, so if you spot one of these warning signs, consider looking elsewhere for representation.

If you need a great divorce lawyer to help protect your interests, why not call us at 414-258-1644 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys today?  For more information, also see our website.

Why All Divorce Lawyers Aren’t the Same… and Why it Matters to You

If you are just starting the process of a divorce, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed and frustrated. Your first impulse might be to find a great divorce lawyer with reasonable fees who can help you through the process and just get started right away.

That’s understandable, but it can also lead to big problems later.

Navigating the legal framework of a divorce is a lot more complicated than filling out forms, and there are many different ways to approach the process. Even the best divorce lawyers can have very different strategies and methods. More than that, working with one or the other can entail big differences in costs, stress, and even damage to your future relationships with your ex-spouse and children.

To put it another way, not all divorce lawyers are the same, and the differences are important to understand. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Divorce attorneys can have very different strategies

Some divorce lawyers are great at protecting assets, while others are experts in securing things like child custody and placement. To find the right match for your situation, consider what your biggest priorities are, and then try to find divorce attorneys who have matching experience. Once you meet with them, get a sense of what their legal strategy is like, and how that might affect your divorce proceedings.

It’s important to agree with your divorce lawyer’s negotiation style

Although there will undoubtedly be attorneys acting as middlemen, your divorce lawyer is essentially helping you to negotiate against your former spouse. That can be an emotionally draining process, and one that leads to poor decisions if it isn’t handled properly. For that reason, it’s important that your divorce lawyer have a negotiation style (no matter how aggressive or consolatory) that you agree with and support.

You may want a divorce lawyer with trial experience

Once things go to a courtroom, the entire dynamic of a divorce proceeding can change, and you’ll want a divorce attorney who’s comfortable in that environment. A divorce lawyer with trial experience will know how to manage emotions, make a favorable impression of the judge, and generally ensure that your best case is being put forward.

You don’t want to have a personality conflict with your divorce lawyer

You don’t have to like your divorce lawyer, but it is a good idea to choose one who doesn’t have a personality that clashes with your own, or one who doesn’t seem sympathetic to your situation. Whatever the outcome of your divorce proceedings are, it’s likely that they’ll continue to affect you for a very long time to come, so don’t partner up with a divorce attorney who doesn’t seem like a good match for your personality.

New clients are often surprised at the big differences that can exist between different divorce lawyers and the types of cases they handle. It might seem like a lot to take in at a particularly difficult and stressful time, but finding the right attorney for you is the first step toward a fast, efficient, and favorable divorce proceeding.

Are you looking for a great divorce lawyer to represent you? Call our office at 414-258-1644 to arrange a consultation today.  For more information, see Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC.

When Is It Time To Look For a Divorce Lawyer?

Often, the need to find a good divorce lawyer is obvious: Your spouse has served you with papers, you’ve been legally separated for a while, or you just know in your heart that “it’s over.” In some situations, however, things might not be that clear. Perhaps you are concerned that your marriage might be ending, or are worried that your spouse might file for divorce in the future.

When that happens, how do you know when it’s time to look for a good divorce lawyer?

Although there might not be any one unmistakable sign, our advice would be to remember that earlier is almost always better. That is, the moment you think you might need a divorce lawyer, you should probably start discreetly looking for one.

Here are a few good reasons why:

A good divorce lawyer can help explain what you’re getting into

There is not only the legal process of filing for divorce itself, but also all of the steps that are bound to come after, including a review of your assets and financial position, custodial agreements, and negotiating with your spouse’s divorce attorney. By starting a bit earlier, you can make better long-term decisions that could turn out to be incredibly important for the rest of your life.

Finding a divorce lawyer early means you won’t have to rush to find one later

The last thing you want, if you suddenly find that you are being sued for divorce, is to have to find a divorce lawyer without having adequate time to find a lawyer you are comfortable with and ask the questions that matter to you most. As with the divorce itself, choosing a divorce lawyer isn’t a step to take lightly, so don’t procrastinate on your search if you think it might be necessary.

A good divorce lawyer can help you take steps to protect yourself

If you know, or even suspect, that a divorce is imminent, then now is the perfect time to take a look at your financial situation, living arrangements, and other details that could suddenly become very important during the divorce proceedings. There are numerous things you can do right now to protect your future (or your children’s futures) by planning ahead with your divorce attorney.

Your decision isn’t final until you file for divorce

Scheduling a meeting with a divorce attorney doesn’t necessarily mean you will ultimately have to file for divorce. It could be the case that you decide it’s not the right avenue for you, that you want to give your marriage more time, or that there are other issues to be resolved first. In any of those situations, having the facts beforehand and preparing yourself can turn out to be invaluable later – even if it’s just for your own peace of mind.

It’s understandable that lots of people don’t want to be in a rush to meet with a divorce attorney, especially if they aren’t sure about the future of their marriage. If you have reason to suspect you might need a divorce lawyer in the future, however, follow our advice and start making some preliminary plans today. If you do end up needing a good attorney, you’ll be very glad you thought ahead and got one working for you.

To schedule a free initial office consultation to discuss a possible divorce, please contact us at 414-258-1644 or visit our website for further information.