Divorce is one of life's most stressful events. Not only does it take a toll on your emotions and mental health, it also wreaks havoc on your finances and your relationship with your family members, and often results in the loss of belongings or property. Women who did not work during the marriage or who relied on their husbands for financial support are especially affected by divorce. Fortunately, there are many legal aid organizations and resources that can assist women going through divorce.
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Divorce is a legal proceeding and involves state court approval to formally terminate the marriage. Because court proceedings can be contentious, many parties engage lawyers to protect their interests. This makes divorce both financially and emotionally draining, and puts those women who were not the bread-winners in the relationship at a distinct disadvantage.
It is more likely that an attorney will be needed if the divorce is contested, or if the parties are not able to reach an agreement regarding the division of property or custody of the children. Women with limited financial resources may need to inquire into low-cost legal aid. Most state bar associations maintain lists of family law attorneys who volunteer their time to represent low-income clients.
The time frame for obtaining a divorce depends on the state court in which it is filed, as well as the complexity of the case. Most divorces, however, are finalized within a few months. While the divorce is pending, you can petition the court for a temporary support order to ensure that your spouse provides you with any necessary financial assistance during the process.
Having an experienced family law attorney assist you in your divorce can be invaluable in protecting your rights. An attorney can advise you on whether mediation is good idea, and assist you in reaching a settlement with your spouse that satisfies both your financial and emotional needs.
There are many online attorney matching services that can match you to a family law attorney in your area who meets your requirements for cost, expertise and availability. For example, both LegalMatch and FindLaw provide a list of attorneys by state and discipline. All attorneys listed are in good standing with their state bar associations, and most provide reviews and recommendations from previous clients. There is no cost to use these services (see Resources).
If you were a victim of domestic violence during the marriage, there are many pro bono attorneys and legal clinics that offer their services free of charge to domestic violence victims. Contact your state bar association or local police department for more information.