The 5 Professionals You Need on Your Side During a Divorce
You have probably heard the old saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know” before, but when you have made the decision to divorce, that saying becomes much more relevant in your day-to-day life as you work your way through the divorce process. Divorce is more than just deciding “we aren’t going to be married anymore,” as it involves making decisions that will affect the rest of your life, your spouse’s life, and your children’s lives. Therefore, this decision should never be taken lightly. While it’s certainly important to have the best attorney you can afford on your side, there are other professionals that clients should have on their side during a divorce – especially divorces which involve a long-term marriages, significant marital estates, or custody of children.
1. Legal Professional – Your Attorney
It goes without saying that the most important professional you need on your side is an attorney, but not just any attorney. You need an attorney who practices exclusively in Family Court. Many attorneys have a general practice or are excellent in other practice areas. However, just as you would never go to a brain surgeon to fix a foot problem, why would you want to go to a criminal or personal injury attorney to handle your divorce and/or child custody case? You should hire the best family law attorney your budget will allow. Remember, your parenting future and your financial future will depend on the decisions this attorney will help you make. If your case involves contested hearings or a contested final trial, your future will be decided by a judge listening to the arguments made by the attorney you hire. Experience matters.
2. Emotional Support Professional – Your Therapist
The divorce process is stressful and full of emotional ups and downs like nothing you have experienced before. You need to be healthy physically and emotionally throughout the process in order to withstand it all. I often refer our clients, many of whom have never experienced a need for therapy before, to a professional therapist. No, I don’t believe our clients are “crazy” or “mentally ill”, but having been divorced myself, I have experienced the turmoil that comes with contested divorce and child custody cases. Over the years, we have seen countless clients learn to adjust to new realities as “soon-to-be ex-spouses” or the “part-time” parent or the “sole-custody single-parent.” These transitions, even when part of the client’s original goals, are still major life shifts and having help during the adjustment process is never a sign of failure, but rather a sign of great strength and wisdom.
3. Financial Professional – Your Advisor or Accountant
While some attorneys, like me, have a financial or business degree, there are many cases where relying on financial advice from only your attorney would a tragic misstep. In marriages that have lasted many years, or which have accumulated a number of high-value assets, it’s important to have a financial professional on your legal team to get expert opinions on both value at the time of separation (which the Family Court will require to be able to equitably divide the assets) and also calculations for any special equity you may be due for property not considered wholly marital in nature. If you or your spouse are self-employed or either of you owns an interest in a business, a financial expert will be necessary to determine the true annual income which will be used for purposes of alimony and child support calculations. Yes, this is an added cost to your litigation expenses, but I have seen many cases where a client saved (or gained) hundreds of thousands of dollars by having an experienced forensic accountant on our side at the time of settlement negotiations or trial.
4. Real Estate Professional – Your Appraiser and/or Agent
Most divorcing couples own at least one piece of real estate – the marital home – and while it may be easy in some cases to agree on the value of the home, in cases where the parties disagree about the value of their real estate, an appraiser will be a critical addition to your legal team. When a marriage involves multiple pieces of real estate, having a real estate expert will be the only way to properly illustrate for the Family Court the true values of the properties for purposes of equitable division. If any properties are to be sold as part of the divorce process, you will want to have a highly experienced real estate professional onboard to list and market the properties to get the maximum dollar value from each property sold. Depending on the tax consequences of any sales or transfers, you will also want a real estate professional who is experienced in working with divorcing couples and their tax professionals.
5. Co-Parenting Professional – Co-Parenting Coach or Therapist
If you are expecting child custody to be contested as part of your divorce, you will want to talk to your attorney about who specializes in co-parenting therapy in your area. Even if the court doesn’t order you and your spouse to attend co-parenting therapy, having a few sessions with a co-parenting coach or therapist is never a bad idea. Parenting after divorce is much different than parenting as a married couple living under the same roof. A co-parenting therapist can help you learn the best communication skills for successful parenting post-separation. While you may no longer be in love with the other parent, unless the other parent has done something truly egregious in the court’s eyes (such as child abuse, drug addiction, imprison, etc.), they will retain parenting rights and the two of you will be expected by the Family Court to cooperate with each other in the realm of parenting. Having a professional on your legal team will be a godsend when the emotional aspects of the case get heated and it becomes difficult to discuss normal day-to-day parenting decisions with the person you are now fighting against in court hearings.
Of course, there are many other sources of support and guidance during the divorce process such as your family members, close friends, and spiritual advisors, but the professionals discussed above will be well-versed in dealing with divorce and are going to be objective in matters which may be too emotional for you or your personal support network to see with normal levels of objectivity. When choosing these professionals to work with you, you should only hire those who make you feel at ease with their professional practices and who are straight-forward when rendering their opinions. You don’t need team members who won’t be honest about the weaknesses in your case or who won’t point out your bad behavior when it’s harmful to your goals in the case.
If you or someone you know is considering starting the divorce process, Ben Stevens has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over twenty-five years, handling all matters of family law, such as child custody, child support, and divorce. He and his team are well-equipped to handle all divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact our office today at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule an initial consultation.
Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule an initial consultation.
ABOUT J. BENJAMIN STEVENS
Ben.Stevens@offitkurman.com | 864.598.9172
Aggressive, creative, and compassionate are words Ben Stevens' colleagues freely use to describe him as a divorce and family law attorney. Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He is one of only two attorneys in South Carolina with those simultaneous distinctions. He has held numerous leadership positions in the AAML, and he currently serves as one of its National Vice Presidents. Mr. Stevens has a statewide practice and regularly appears all across South Carolina. His practice is focused on complex divorce and child custody cases.
ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
Offit Kurman, one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the United States, serves dynamic businesses, individuals and families. With 15 offices and nearly 250 lawyers who counsel clients across more than 30 areas of practice, Offit Kurman helps maximize and protect business value and personal wealth by providing innovative and entrepreneurial counsel that focuses on clients’ business objectives, interests and goals. The firm is distinguished by the quality, breadth and global reach of its legal services and a unique operational structure that encourages a culture of collaboration. For more information, visit www.offitkurman.com.
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