Scheduling an initial divorce consultation is a big step, especially if your spouse is not pursuing divorce.
However, going to an initial divorce consultation does not necessarily mean you intend to run to the courthouse anytime soon.
A consultation can provide you with a toolbox of information which will allow you to reflect on your situation before deciding your next steps.
1. Get Educated, Ask Divorce Questions
Every situation is unique. A productive initial divorce consultation provides an opportunity to discuss your divorce issues and understand what a post-divorce life may look like. Typical divorce issues include division of assets and liabilities, child custody, child support, and spousal support.
If you decide to divorce, fighting it out in court is only one option. At the consultation, you can learn about the litigation process. In addition, you can learn about divorce mediation and collaborative divorce processes. These processes provide out of court settlements. They are voluntary processes that typically cost less than litigation. However, they require the consent of both parties and, depending on your situation, they may not be suitable options.
2. Determine Your Strategy
A divorce consultation can help you determine your strategy. Depending on your situation, you may decide to get some things done before pursuing a divorce. For example, if you are unemployed, you may decide to find suitable full-time employment before pursuing divorce. This may help avoid divorce issues pertaining to your income.
It is important to understand and think about what your post-divorce life may look like. Based on this, you may decide to hold off pursuing divorce until enough time has passed for a different outcome to evolve. For example, if you insist on having custody of your minor children 100% of the time but know the chance of that happening will be slim to none if you divorce now, you may consider waiting to pursue divorce until your children are on their own and custody is not an issue.
3. Interview the Divorce Attorney
It is important to figure out the type of divorce attorney you want to hire. This decision may coincide with the divorce process you choose (litigation, collaborative divorce, mediation). For example, do you want to hire an attorney who spends a lot of time in court or who focuses on out-of-court settlements? Or perhaps one who has collaborative skills and is trained in the collaborative divorce process? What type of attorney do you want to hire?
Meet with an attorney. Websites provide biographical information, but a face-to-face meeting provides first-hand knowledge of an attorney’s demeanor and personality. It may be helpful to prepare questions prior to the meeting. Question the attorney about his or her experience, fee structure, and anything else you deem important to your situation. If the attorney says an associate will be assigned to your matter, perhaps meet the associate.
4. Post-Divorce Consultation: Make an Assessment
Attending an initial divorce consultation does not mean you will file for divorce immediately. It can actually have the opposite effect. For example, you may decide to take another look at your marriage and fix whatever is broken. Or you may decide to wait a certain period of time and then revisit the possibility of divorce. Or you may realize that you do not want to pursue divorce at all.
If you decide to pursue divorce, do you have enough information to determine your next steps? If not, consider scheduling a follow-up consultation or a consultation with a different divorce attorney. It is important to understand your divorce issues and the different ways you and your spouse can resolve these issues. This is valuable information to help you decide your next steps. Take one step at a time, consider your options, and proceed the way you deem best for you and your family.