Put simply, marriage is the emotional, financial, and legal joining of two otherwise separate people.
Spouses who are considering divorce will often start on the legal aspects (usually by speaking with an attorney), but it’s important to consider how you’ll deal with the other elements of your marriage as well.
Remember, lawyers can only help with the legal side of things.
For this reason, it’s usually wise to build a “dream team” of experienced professionals who can provide you the guidance you need to navigate the other aspects of your divorce.
For example, you may want to consider hiring a financial advisor, a therapist, or even an experienced childcare provider as a temporary measure to help you get your life back on track.
In most cases, the scale and complexity of your divorce (as well as how friendly you are with your spouse) will be the determining factor in this decision to hire other professionals.
However, all divorcing spouses should at least consider whether other professionals can help simplify the divorce process.
In this article, we’ll cover 11 common professionals that divorcing spouses will often talk to in Virginia.
However, before you decide to hire anyone, you should always speak with an attorney to see whether such professionals are necessary in your situation.
Attorneys and Legal Professionals
As we noted above, divorce is primarily a legal process.
For this reason, it’s usually wise to start with legal professionals when building your divorce dream team.
To begin, you should keep in mind that your choice in an attorney will largely depend on the scale and complexity of your case.
For example, if you and your spouse have a shared goal of an amicable divorce, you can likely just look for an attorney with experience in uncontested divorces.
If, on the other hand, you expect a complicated and drawn-out contested divorce, you should seek out the assistance of an attorney with experience in Virginia’s contested divorce process.
Similarly, depending on your situation you may want to seek out the assistance of other legal professionals, such as an estate planning attorney or a mediator.
Regardless of your specific needs, you should always start your divorce by talking with a locally-based divorce attorney.
Only an experienced family law attorney can provide the guidance you’ll need during your case.
(1) Family Law Attorney
Family law attorneys specialize in resolving complex family-related issues in local Circuit Courts.
In addition to issues such as divorce and child custody, family law attorneys will often have experience in various areas such as adoption, name changes, paternity, and child support.
Put simply, your family law attorney will be the backbone of your case, and will provide most of the services you need to finalize your divorce.
While the court will not require that you hire an attorney for your case, it is still highly recommended that you speak with one before filing any paperwork.
As noted by the Virginia State Bar:
“Although an attorney is technically not required in a divorce proceeding, each spouse should obtain separate legal counsel if there are issues in the divorce that may be contested, property rights need to be determined, or the custody of the children is in dispute.”Divorce in Virginia
Basically, the more complex your case becomes, the more you can benefit from hiring an attorney.
Even in the most simple of divorce cases (such as with uncontested no-fault divorces), an attorney can provide invaluable guidance and peace of mind, allowing you to safely and quickly navigate the otherwise complicated Virginia divorce process.
(2) Family Law Mediators
In Virginia, mediators are (generally) trained professionals with experience in helping opposing parties resolve their differences outside of court.
For instance, most of Virginia’s mediators are current or former attorneys and judges, or are otherwise similarly capable legal professionals.
This is because there are many rules and guidelines that Virginia mediators must follow.
In the contexts of this article, mediation can be an incredibly useful tool for hashing out various contested divorce issues before you have to take them to court.
For example, judges can (and often will) order mediation as part of the normal contested divorce process because they recognize just how helpful these sessions can be.
So, if you and your spouse disagree on who should end up with the car, it’s usually more productive to start in mediation than it is to fight out the issue in court.
After all, mediation is basically a cheaper, faster, and more private version of what the judge will do in the courtroom.
Further, experienced mediators can often turn an otherwise antagonistic divorce into a collaborative endeavor through skilled negotiation and planning.
Put simply, in cases that are likely to turn contested, it’s almost always in your best interests to talk over the benefits of mediation with your attorney first before you take your case to court.
(3) An Estate Planning and/or a (4) Tax Law Attorney
In especially complex divorce cases, your family law attorney may refer you to an estate planning or tax attorney who has more experience in these specific elements of divorce law.
For example, an estate planning attorney could guide you in updating your estate to better match your post-divorce wishes (such as by adjusting your will or trusts).
Similarly, if you have significant amount of property, it may be wise to speak with a tax attorney who can advise you on how your taxes will change after you file for divorce.
While most people don’t need additional attorneys to resolve their case (as your divorce attorney will likely take care of most of these issues themselves), it’s important to remember that additional resources are out there.
Especially in cases where your divorce attorney refers you to another professional, you should take care to remember and act upon the advice of these additional supporting attorneys.
As with the estate planning and tax attorneys above, not everyone needs to speak with a financial expert during (or after) their divorce.
Put simply, in most vanilla divorce cases a financial advisor is useful, but not necessary.
However, as is the case with most divorce cases, the more complex or contested your case becomes, the better it is to have seasoned professionals on your side.
At the very least, it’s critical to begin and end the divorce process with a clear understanding of your financial situation.
Often, your divorce attorney will provide you with advice in this regard.
Sometimes, they may refer you to a financial professional, or ask that you speak with one on your own.
Always, you should take care to fully understand the basics of Virginia’s equitable distribution process, as these laws and procedures will lay the groundwork for how you divide and distribute your property and assets.
Finally, please remember that the professionals we list below are simply options for you to consider.
Only speak with these professionals after discussing their pros and cons with your divorce attorney.
(5) Financial Advisor and/or (6) a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Commonly, divorcing spouses with complex budgeting and property division needs will choose to speak with a financial advisor or a certified public accountant (CPA) about their case.
In addition to the advice from your divorce attorney, a CPA can provide a great deal of practical advice on how you should divide or manage your finances both during and after your divorce.
This is especially relevant if your divorce would have a significant impact on how you file your taxes in the year following your divorce.
As another example, some divorcees find it advantageous to have a post-divorce cash flow plan or a strategy for how they’ll manage the bills after they move out of the family home.
Regardless of your circumstances, a CPA can be a useful resource for when you have financial questions about your divorce case.
(7) Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA)
As a more specialized alternative to hiring a CPA, you may want to consider speaking with a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA).
Whereas a CPA has general knowledge about all things financial, CDFAs specialize in minimizing the short and long-term effects that a divorce will have on your life.
Note, however, that CDFAs are generally only recommended in complex situations.
For example, you may want to speak with a CDFA if you own a business with your spouse or have significant enough assets to warrant the cost of the CDFA.
Finally, please remember that, despite their divorce-focused certification, CDFAs are (usually) not attorneys and cannot help you with filing your divorce.
Always speak with an attorney before you speak with or hire any financial analyst.
(8) Forensic Accountant
Most people won’t need a forensic accountant.
However, if your spouse had significant control over your marital finances and you can’t make sense of your past spending, you may want to consider speaking with one about your case (usually after speaking with an attorney about the situation).
For example, you may want to hire a forensic accountant to track down and audit missing or commingled money.
Similarly, a forensic accountant can give you a more complete look at how your spouse operates the family business or other finances.
Then, you and your attorney can use the results of this investigation to make better-informed decisions about your case.
A Quick Final Note on Expert Testimony
There is a stark difference between a situation where your attorney informally refers you to another professional and a situation where they directly involve an expert in your divorce case.
In most cases, your attorney will refer you out to another professional the moment you ask a question they don’t have a solid answer to.
After all, divorce attorneys specialize in divorce procedures, not complicated financial planning or tax laws.
If, however, your attorney starts to discuss the importance of expert testimony, you should pay close attention to their words.
Directly involving an expert in your case is a long and complicated process, and attorneys will generally only do so in situations where they need the expert’s testimony to prove or support an element of your divorce.
Remember, it’s perfectly common for an attorney to refer you out to a professional when you have questions that require specialized answers.
Directly involving such a professional in your case, however, is an entirely different matter, and is a topic that is far too complex and case-specific to cover in an article such as this.
All you need to know is that you should listen to the advice of your attorney if they ever tell you to go and talk with another professional, as they will likely have a very good reason for recommending this action.
This fact is especially true for the financial professionals we’ve listed above.
Supporting Professionals to Consider
Many divorcing spouses seem to underestimate the positive effect that supporting professionals can have on their lives.
For example, while a counselor or therapist may not be necessary in all divorces, their services can most certainly make the entire process easier to manage.
Similarly, while they may not qualify as “professionals,” it’s also often wise to ask for the support and assistance of your family members and friends during this difficult time.
Put simply, much like how you’ll want to build a divorce dream team to help with your case, it’s usually a good idea to build a strong support network that can help you move on with your life.
While we’ll list a few common people to consider below, anyone who can make your life easier during your divorce is worth considering.
(9) Counselor and/or (10) a Therapist
Separating yourself from your spouse can be a taxing and emotional endeavor.
These emotions, combined with the added stress that the divorce will add to your life, can cause some spouses to develop negative views about themselves, their life, or their relationships.
For this reason, it’s usually wise to attend some form of counseling as a way of working through these complex issues in a healthy fashion.
While counseling or therapy may not work for everyone, the important thing to remember is that divorce can have a negative impact on your emotional well-being.
For this reason, you should always stay aware of the toll that the divorce is having on your mental state.
Similarly, you may want to consider taking your children to therapy due to the profound effects that a divorce can have on their development.
Even during an amicable divorce children will often become confused and upset with the sudden changes occurring in their lives.
Further, the court will always base decisions on the best interests of the child (or children) when determining things like property division, child custody, and visitation.
For these reasons, it’s generally a good idea to focus on your child’s emotional well-being during the divorce.
(11) Real Estate Agent
Spouses will often disagree on the issue of who gets to keep the house after the divorce.
While this is certainly an important question to resolve, it also highlights another problem that can lead to issues during (and after) the divorce.
Namely, where will each spouse stay while the divorce is ongoing?
While this may seem like a rather simple question, finding housing can be a bit more difficult than one might expect, especially in the short time frame after you separate from your spouse.
As noted in Virginia’s divorce law:
“A [no-fault] divorce from the bond of matrimony may be decreed…on the application of either party if and when the husband and wife have lived separate and apart without any cohabitation and without interruption for one year.”Virginia Code § 20-91(A)(9)(a)
While it’s possible to live “separate and apart” under the same roof, it’s usually a better idea to find separate housing from your spouse in order to better meet this separation requirement.
For this reason, it may be beneficial for you to speak with a real estate agent who has a better understanding of the current housing situation in your local area.
Other Service Providers / Friends and Family
In addition to the professionals outlined above, you may also want to hire or consider other service providers who can help you manage the little things while you get back on your feet.
For example, you could hire movers to help you relocate to a new home or apartment, or you could ask your friends and family to pitch in.
Lawn care providers, cleaning services, mechanics, and many other service providers could all help you simplify your new single life in the short term and can help set you up for long-term success.
Put simply, it’s generally a good idea to rely on (or hire) other people for the small things in life so you can focus on getting through your divorce as quickly and easily as possible.
Hire a babysitter to look after the kids every now and then, consider whether a cleaning service will fit into your budget (if only for the short term), ask a friend to help change your oil.
Most importantly, try not to do everything yourself.
The theme of this article is “building a divorce dream team,” but it’s important to remember that you may have a few key members on your side already.
Rely on your support network. If your support network can’t do something, see if a local professional can help.
Ultimately, remember that the end-goal of any divorce is a fair and equal division of all marital property and responsibilities.
If an experienced professional can help you meet this goal, it’s usually a good idea to at least consider the effect their services can have on your case and well-being.
During a divorce, it’s usually a good idea to build a “dream team” of experienced professionals and close loved ones who can help you resolve your case as quickly and easily as possible.
In most situations, you should start by speaking with a family law attorney, who will then refer you out to other professionals as your case progresses.
On the personal side of things, it’s usually also wise to speak with professionals who can help you move on with your life, such as a therapist, a real estate agent, or a childcare provider who can give you a night off to rest.
Regardless of the complexity of your divorce, it’s generally a good idea to at least consider whether the benefits of hiring these professionals outweigh the costs associated with their services.
For this reason, you should always ask your attorney for advice on how to best proceed with your case.