Responsible Family lawyers know they can’t be experts in everything.
They should know divorce law completely. But they also should know enough about other areas of law and expertise to tell you that you need expert help. Here are some examples:
1. Forensic accountants
These are usually CPAs with expertise in court systems and further expertise in family law. They can value a business, for example, or apportion the equity in a house, as a further example, or divide up stock options, or calculate tax effects, and more—all services provided more accurately and less expensively than lawyers.
2. Retirement specialists
Good divorce lawyers commonly refer clients to lawyers who specialize in dividing the interests in retirement accounts such as 401ks and pensions. Orders dividing such accounts require detailed knowledge of the laws that apply to tax-deferred assets, as well as the terms of individual pension plans, all in addition to knowing the family law provisions applicable to dividing such accounts.
3. Military specialists
Every aspect of family law is affected by the rules applicable to active military personnel and retirees from the military (especially those with military pensions).
4. Social Security
California state courts have no jurisdiction to make orders about Social Security benefits (other than to consider such income for support purposes). For example, you may have to choose between accepting survivor benefits of your spouse’s account, or an award based on your spouse’s benefit, or your own benefit.
5. Mental health professionals
You may think your lawyer is your personal counselor, and to some extent that’s true. But lawyers are not trained therapists, for the most part, so consider whether you could use the help of a therapist.
6. Child specialists
Your lawyer should know the law of child parenting in a split family, but far more important than the law is understanding the children’s interests.
7. Real estate specialists
Don’t argue about what the house is worth—find out from an expert.
8. Bankruptcy lawyers
If you’re wondering about this, at least consult someone to find out if this is a viable option.
The list could go on and on. Consider asking your lawyer, in appropriate situations, if a specialist could help clarify the factual bases for the decisions you are making.