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People have an obligation to support their families during and after a divorce, and those who shirk these responsibilities should face the consequences.

For many people, divorce is a long time in the making. 

If you believe your relationship is headed toward divorce, knowing when to consult with an attorney is almost as important as choosing the right attorney for your case.

If you are the person initiating the divorce, you should consult with an attorney before you speak with your partner. 

During your initial consultation, your attorney can advise you about any steps you should take before informing your spouse of your impending divorce. 

For example, you may be advised to make copies of financial documents, take photos of certain items of property, or begin saving up a certain amount of separate money. 

Once your spouse knows about your plans to divorce, you will lose the element of surprise. By speaking with an attorney before your divorce takes place, you can sometimes use that element to your advantage.

If you are not the one initiating divorce, you will probably need to play catch-up. If your spouse has already hired an attorney and filed the initial paperwork, you will need to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Your spouse may have already taken an inventory of assets, debts and personal property, and you will need to do the same quickly.

Additionally, when you are served with a divorce petition you only have a limited amount of time to file a response — usually around 20 days. 

Your attorney will need time to get familiar enough with your case to file a response or a request for additional time. Hiring an attorney soon after you are served with the divorce papers will prevent your case from dragging on unnecessarily.

After a divorce case begins, spouses who are concerned their former partner may be hiding assets will need to hire financial experts like accountants or auditors to make sure the numbers on the financial affidavits don’t lie. 

Reviewing the financial information a person produces is often the best way to check for inconsistencies that may affect the amount of support that person must pay.

When your former spouse lies about his or her financial state, you and your children suffer. People have an obligation to support their families during and after a divorce, and those who shirk these responsibilities should face the consequences.

No matter who begins the case, an attorney can help prepare both parties for the months between the initial breakup and the finalized divorce. 

This may include preparing temporary restraining orders that prevent both parties from spending joint funds or temporary parenting plans that dictate where the children will spend their time.

Whether you are preparing for a divorce or were caught unaware by an unexpected divorce filing, a qualified family law attorney can help. 

They will make sure your future and finances are protected in your divorce case, and will help you negotiate a divorce agreement or parenting plan that fits your family’s changing needs.

Kimberly Powell is a family attorney at Ashby Law, a Pacific Northwest Family Law firm serving the Walla Walla community. Contact her at 509-524-8488 or mas@pnwfamilylaw.com.

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