You survived the holidays. The kids are back in school. The end-of-year crunch at work is over. Life should feel good, but it doesn’t. You know you aren’t happy in your relationship. You’ve grown apart from your spouse. You’ve tried marriage counseling, but things have not gotten better. You know the relationship died several years ago but you are scared. You don’t know what to do. You’ve witnessed friends and family members going through horrific expensive divorces and you do not want that for your family. You and your spouse have children together. If you get divorced, you want to be able to attend your children’s events with your spouse without there being animosity. You want to have a good working coparenting relationship post-divorce, but you just do not know how that can be accomplished.
Does this sound familiar? I know when I went through my first divorce, I was scared. I was not an attorney at the time and my husband was physically abusive. I had an 18-month-old and was 2 months pregnant. I was unsure of my future, and I did not know where to turn.
A close friend recommended an attorney in town. The attorney had represented my friend’s daughter. I scheduled an appointment and retained that attorney. However, that attorney did not really understand the issues. I still remember as if it was yesterday when my attorney called me after my estranged husband stormed into my attorney’s office and demanded to speak with her. My attorney immediately called me and told me “You need to get control of your husband.” Here I was a victim of domestic abuse, and the attorney was calling me to get control of my abusive husband. The trial for my divorce was scheduled 8 months later, one month after giving birth to our second child. The process was expensive even though my husband and I owned very little. All we really had were our two children. I was not happy with the judge’s decision, but it was finally over. At no time did I feel that my attorney really understood my situation.
FINDING THE RIGHT ATTORNEY
Finding the right attorney is one of the most important decisions you will make in any divorce or family dispute. It can mean a highly contentious divorce or a collegial one. There are attorneys with business models that are based on creating or perpetuating conflict to increase attorney fees. There are many attorneys who never ask the client questions. They tell the client what should happen, and the attorney determines how the divorce will proceed. There are other attorneys who once the client retains them, the client never has access to them.
There is good news. It is possible, because I’ve experienced this with my clients’ numerous times, for divorcing and separating couples to remain amicable during the divorce/separation process and remain friends after divorce. It does not mean there is no conflict. It just means those couples chose attorneys who are problem solvers and have the skills to help the clients navigate conflict appropriately. Attorneys who were curious about their clients, asked questions, listened to the answers, and helped advise their clients after hearing from the client.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
Before searching for an attorney, it can be helpful for you to spend time answering the following questions:
- What do you hope to feel during the divorce process?
- If you have children, what do you want for your children as you go through the divorce process? (This includes adult children.)
- What do you hope your relationship with your spouse will be like at the conclusion of your divorce?
- How do you hope you will feel about the divorce in 2 years?
- What are you looking for in an attorney?
- How do you want to feel when talking to your attorney?
- What values are important to you? Do you want an attorney who shares your values?
Here are some things to think about or ask when meeting with an attorney:
- What is the attorney’s typical approach to divorce?
- How much access does the client have to the attorney after being retained?
- How much does the attorney use their staff when responding to client communications?
- How does the attorney typically work with the opposing counsel?
- How many of the attorney’s cases go to trial?
- How many of the attorney’s cases settle in mediation?
- Is the attorney explaining different options on how to approach your divorce including options that do not involve court?
- Is the attorney asking you questions about yourself and your situation?
- How interested is the attorney in your story?
- Is the attorney understanding you?
- Is the attorney listening to you or selling you a pitch?
- Does the attorney’s style resonate with your values?
- Does the attorney’s style prioritize minimizing the damage to your family?
When selecting an attorney, make sure the attorney aligns with your values. Research the attorney’s reputation. Do you want an attorney who is a problem solver or a problem creator.
There is a way to divorce respectfully. I remember meeting with a client who began crying during her initial consultation with me. When I asked her why she was crying, she said something unexpected “I didn’t realize there is a way that I can divorce and remain friends with my spouse afterwards.” it is possible. You just need to find the right attorney.
For more information or to schedule a consult, you can contact me at (801)464-4004 or firstname.lastname@example.org.