A family law attorney handles various issues, including divorce, uncontested divorce, child custody, adoption, paternity, child support, and spousal support. Other family law matters these attorneys handle include grandparent visitation, domestic violence, and modifications of divorce judgments. Family law attorneys follow the laws in their state. For example, getting a divorce in Chicago, Illinois, differs from getting one elsewhere due to the local laws involved.
When Do You Need a Family Law Attorney for a Divorce?
Anyone getting a divorce would benefit from the assistance of a family law attorney. That is true even if the divorce seems simple and straightforward.
Many people consult a lawyer while they are in the “thinking” stages to learn about their options and to make the most informed decisions they can. However, getting a lawyer at any stage can be beneficial. A lawyer who comes in relatively late is still able to offer a wealth of expertise.
It’s possible to get an attorney after a divorce, even if you never used one before or during. An attorney can help with modifications to divorce decrees, for example.
Divorce can be painful and personal, no matter the circumstances. An attorney works on behalf of his or her client to advocate for the client’s best interests. He or she can act as a balance during what is often a fraught and emotionally charged process. For instance, people may not make the best decisions for themselves, their children, or others when they are feeling sad, confused, guilty, angry, or even relieved.
Many divorces involve issues such as property division, debt division, parenting time, and child support. The decisions a person makes during this time can resonate for a lifetime.
Legal Issues That a Family Lawyer Can Help With During the Divorce Process
One thing about family law: It covers a relatively wide scope. A family law attorney should be able to help you with anything that happens before, after, or during a divorce. If you’re just considering divorce, you don’t have to commit to anything. Talking with an attorney is a smart way to decide if you want to proceed at this time, later, or not at all.
Family law attorneys assist with contested, collaborative, and uncontested divorces. Contested divorces are more contentious and take longer. They tend to be more complicated and heated than uncontested divorces, but uncontested splits can have their difficulties, too. Common issues or disagreements that arise in divorce include:
- The best interests of any children involved
- Child support (and related issues such as paying for extracurriculars and college expenses)
- Spousal support (spousal maintenance)
- Domestic violence
- Child custody or visitation
- Property and asset division
A divorce attorney can guide clients through the paperwork, deadlines, and discussions about children, pets, assets, debts, property, and more. Attorneys help with negotiations and third-party mediation as well.
Of course, divorce is not a requirement for clients to seek family law help. A family lawyer can assist with prenuptial agreements, civil unions, and paternity matters.
If you need child support agreements or other types of agreements modified years after a divorce, a family lawyer can guide you through the process. Some family law offices handle adoption and surrogacy as well. It’s somewhat common for family lawyers to specialize in other areas, such as real estate, too.
Questions to Ask a Family Law Attorney in Chicago, Illinois
When you’re considering family law attorneys in Chicago, Illinois, it helps to ask targeted questions that help you find out more about the attorney’s communication style and how he or she can help you. It can also be a good idea to have a focus in mind. For example, the best questions to ask when talking to a child custody lawyer would differ from those you would ask if the focus of your divorce was trying to keep your house.
Of course, many people meet with lawyers without having any idea yet of what the major issues will be in their divorce. Maybe child custody won’t turn out to be the issue you thought. Good general questions to ask include:
- What type of cases do you usually handle?
- Tell me everything I need to know about my situation, given what I have explained to you.
- When will you communicate with me and how?
- How does billing work?
- What do you expect from me as a client?
How to Change Child Support Payments
You must go to court to change child support payments or child support amounts because judges must enter a new court order. It is a huge risk to try to modify payments unofficially between you and your co-parent. If anything goes wrong, the courts are inclined to follow what is officially required instead of a side agreement.
Family lawyers can guide parents through modifying child support payments due to a drop in income, a change in the child’s needs, or another reason.
Perhaps the most important part of the process is to not delay. Talk with a lawyer as soon as your circumstances change or if you suspect you won’t be able to meet your child support obligations at some point in the near future. Child support changes are rarely retroactive. What you owed before the court changed your amount to pay likely will not change.
In many cases, you can adjust child support payments as long as you show a judge that the need is valid. For example, if you were laid off from your job and are legitimately searching for new work, you could see your payments reduced.
However, if you quit of your own accord, your child support payments might not change. Consulting with a lawyer can help you make informed life decisions.
Likewise, many people need help figuring out how to file a lawsuit for unpaid child support. Their co-parent might be behind on payments, and going to court may be the only way for custodial parents and their children to get that money.
Child support is a key parental responsibility. It is also usually necessary for parents to meet a child’s basic expenses, and the courts recognize that.