"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 of a playing field as possible. Many people come to me and they ask me, "How can I get a divorce when I really don't know anything about what is going on with the finances? I don't even know how much my spouse makes. I am a stay-at-home parent and that is my job and my spouse is the one who is handling the income generation, but other than that I don't know anything. I don't even know how much our house payment is. What do I do?" The answer is there are all kinds of things you can do. One of the first things you should do is try to retain an attorney. Well, you may say "Well I don't have the money to do that." But the attorney has the ability or you can 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 you can 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 is a complex matter? What if it is complex litigation? There is all kinds of assets that you don't even know about.
There is deferred compensation, pension plans, restricted stock units, bonuses. What do I 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, an analysis of the bank account. 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 and worried and wondering what is going to happen. If you have the opportunity to retain the services of 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 discovery of the assets, that has to be done and it needs to be presented in trial, the money for that as well. If there is a community asset, and your spouse has $50,000 or some large amount of money in the bank, you can take the money from there to pay for your attorney. So there are lots of options, the key is to get yourself into a consultation with an experienced family law attorney for a consultation, and then you will be surprised and pleased to see what your opportunities are."
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