For some couples embarking on marriage, it just makes more sense to consult with an attorney beforehand. There may be debts, property, or child custody issues at play. Family law attorneys can help you understand the marriage requirements in your state, draft a prenuptial agreement (or "prenup"), and provide legal assistance for other issues pertaining to marriage. That said, you may be able to get by with just a single attorney consultation, too. The following resources will help you better understand the process of hiring a family lawyer, learn about the most common reasons marrying couples hire attorneys, find legal counsel in your area, and more.
Getting Married: Do You Need a Lawyer?
The work of an attorney is not necessary for most marriages, but there are some instances where one or both of the parties should get legal help. If you need more information about marriage requirements or if one party is a foreign national, for example, an attorney can work with both partners together. But for other legal processes in which one or the other's interests are at stake, such as a prenuptial agreement, each party needs to work with their own lawyer.
So while you don't need a lawyer in most situations, it's important to consult with one if you have any doubts or concerns about the legal ramifications of your marriage. For instance, those planning a destination wedding will need to know whether the marriage will be valid upon return to the United States and whether any special steps need to be taken.
If you were previously married, you will need to present the county clerk with either your divorce decree or former partner's death certificate. So if you need copies of either, or if there are extenuating circumstances standing in the way, an attorney may be able to handle it for you. If you were in a common law marriage -- in other words, your state recognizes a legal marriage in the absence of obtaining a marriage license -- you may have to prove its validity (prior to the divorce or death).
How to Find and Work with an Attorney
If you and/or your spouse-to-be have specific legal questions or would like to draft a prenuptial agreement, you will want to speak with a family law attorney experienced in marriage. Most family law attorneys also handle divorce, child custody, spousal support, and child support matters. You also want to make sure the attorney you hire is a good fit; the lawyer who helped your friend may not necessarily be the right one for you and your needs.
When you research lawyers, you'll want to know something about their background and experience. You should find out how long they've practiced law; what types of cases they typically handle; whether they have handled a case like yours before; and their success rate. It's also helpful to know the attorney's legal approach; how they communicate with clients; and generally whether they would be a good fit for you personally.
Once you've found the right attorney, you'll want to ask about their billing process. Depending on your case, certain billing structures are more advantageous than others.
Click on a link below to learn more about getting legal help with your marriage.