This is one of the most common questions we're asked as family law attorneys: "How do I pay for you? I don't have any money, I need to get a divorce, my spouse is cheating on me, my spouse is beating me, what do I do? How can I make this happen? Is there anything I can do to try to get relief from my spouse?" And the answer is yes, there is. The California Family Code in general and the cases that have interpreted it have made it very clear that it is the desire and the expectation for both parties to have as level a playing field as is possible.
Many people come to me and they ask me, "how can I get a divorce when I really don't know anything that's going on with the finances? I don't even know how much my spouse makes. I'm a stay-at-home parent and that's my job. My spouse is the one handling the income generation, but other than that I really don't know anything; I don't even know how much our house payment is. What do I do?" And the answer is that there are all kinds of things you can do. One of the first things you should do is try to retain an attorney. And you may say, "well I don't have the money to do that." But the attorney has the ability, or you could do it without the attorney, to go into court, explain the basics of your financial situation and the fact that you need the money and ask for a contribution so that you can go out and hire an attorney. And if the facts and circumstances support it, you can get that order from the court. And once that happens, what if it's a complex matter; what if it's complex litigation and there are all kinds of assets you don't even know about? There's deferred compensation, pension plans, restricted stock units, bonuses. What do you do with all of that? There are professionals there to help provide the answers. You can get forensic accountants who can do an analysis of the financial situation and an analysis of the bank accounts. The court has the power to order your spouse to give you all the information that you need. Everything your spouse knows, you are entitled to know as well. And if they don't give you that information voluntarily, the court will order them to give you that information. So you do not have to go into a divorce scared, worried, and wondering what's going to happen. If you have the opportunity to retain an experienced family law attorney, you will find that the process is very structured, it is very regimented, there are remedies, there are procedures in place that can get you the fees you need to represent yourself in these proceedings with an experienced attorney, with the costs that you need to perform the analysis and the discovery of the assets that has to be done and, if it needs to be presented in court at trial, the money for that as well. There is a community asset: if you and your spouse have $50,000 or some large amount of money in the bank, you can take the money from there to pay for your attorney. There are lots of options, and the key is to get yourself into an experienced family law attorney's office for a consultation. And then you will be surprised and pleased to see what your opportunities are.