Your Divorce, Custody & Spousal Maintenance Questions Answered:
In our firm, we have represented clients with a wide assortment of problems, many of whom have engaged in what is referred to as “fault based conduct” that arguably could be blamed for the breakdown of the marriage (at least in part). If we only represented “saints”, we would have no clients! While you may be embarrassed by events that have occurred in your marriage, keep in mind that a seasoned divorce attorney has “heard it all and seen it all” and is not likely to be shocked by any particular revelation. It is important for a potential client to know that any communications between attorney and client are privileged and will not be divulged to any third party, unless the client gives permission. It is also very important for a client to be honest with his or her behavior as it relates to issues that could impact the divorce process. The majority of the time, if your attorney is aware of unpleasant facts early on, the attorney can work with those facts in formulating an overall strategy for the client, often minimizing the impact of negative facts. The worst situation occurs when a “bombshell” is revealed in court and your attorney learns of it for the first time.
In Georgia, attorney fees may be awarded at either the temporary hearing, the final hearing or both and it is based upon the relative economic circumstances of the clients. It is a violation of the State of Georgia Bar Ethical Rules and Code of Conduct to take a divorce case on a contingency basis; therefore, the majority of divorce attorneys will need some kind of upfront payment to represent a client but can petition the court for reimbursement for their client. A client who desires to obtain fees from their spouse can have their attorney ask the court for reimbursement from the other side at either the temporary hearing, the final hearing or both.
You will first need to determine if you have an uncontested or a contested divorce. If it is uncontested (meaning that the terms for the divorce are agreed upon), we prepare the necessary documents to obtain a divorce for you and will ask you detailed questions about the agreed upon terms for custody and visitation, child support, alimony, division of assets, debt allocation and attorney fees. We will also provide guidance as to resolution of each of these areas, if need be. If the divorce is contested, be prepared to provide the attorney with numerous financial documents (generally, three years of tax returns, two years of bank statements, twelve months of credit card statements and twelve months of securities, pensions, and 401k statements. You will also need to fill out several questionnaires and statements for your attorney that include financial, marital and custody information. The more information we know about the client, the better prepared we are to advise you, whether it be towards settlement or trial.
Can They Use The Same One? Neither party is mandated to have a lawyer, although it is highly recommended that each party seeks counsel. There is an old saying that “he who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client” and there is definite wisdom behind it. Would you operate on yourself? While there is no requirement that either party hire a lawyer, there is a hard and fast rule as to the lawyer for one party representing or giving advice to both parties. This concept is known as a conflict of interest and is a serious violation of the State Bar of Georgia’s Ethical Rules and Code of Conduct. The reason for this principle is to protect the client; your interests are adverse to your spouse’s, even if you want or have reached an agreement on the terms of the divorce. If a lawyer tells you otherwise or invites you and your spouse to come together for a consultation, run as fast as you can from this type of attorney. This lawyer is putting the desire to earn a fee ahead of the interests of the client, not to mention the value of his or her license to practice law.