BEFORE YOU GET DIVORCED, TALK TO AN ATTORNEY
Welcome to divorced exposed where we provide insights for staying married and inspiration for surviving divorce. This episode focuses on hiring an attorney before you make any major decisions about ending your marriage.
Most of us get married thinking it will last forever. Then reality sets in. We change, we grow and so often, we stop doing it together. Some couples manage to work through the tough times and some couples throw in the towel – or at least one person does – and at some point, the big D word enters the picture. At divorce exposed, we want to provide insights for staying married and inspiration for surviving divorce.
My name is Debbie DeChambeau and I am your host….
Today’s episode is for someone thinking about getting divorced or who might have just found out that their spouse wants a divorce. We are talking about getting legal advice so that you know your legal rights and how to find an attorney.
Before I get too far into the episode I wanted to let you know a couple of things.
First, I’ve started a FB group that I hope you will join. I’ve linked to it in the show notes or you can find it under Divorce Exposed. We have a FB page and a FB group. Join us on both. I’d love to keep the conversation going in the group and get your thoughts on the ideas that I bring up in this podcast. Just keep in mind that the idea behind the group isn’t to banter about bad marriages but to share insights for staying married and inspiration for surviving divorce.
Also, if you like what you hear in this podcast, could you go to iTunes and leave a review? I’ll leave instructions in the resources portion of this episode just in case you aren’t sure how to do this. Your review really makes a difference in iTunes promoting the podcast for us.
The most important thing to remember is that I am not an attorney, a therapist of a financial advisor. If you are going through difficult times and feel you need help, please reach out to someone, either a friend, family member or a professional and get support. I’ve listed some resources on the resources page of the website and encourage you to check there or reach out to your friends and family for referrals. Your life matters and getting help is the best thing you can do for yourself during this difficult process.
How do you find the right attorney as you begin the divorce process? You will find a lot of information online, but having an attorney that is licensed in your state, who knows the laws specific to your state and who has experience in family law matters is the best thing you can do for yourself during this difficult time.
There are many people today who are able to end their marriage without hiring an attorney but my recommendation is that you at least have an initial consultation with an attorney to get professional advice so that you get what you are entitled to and you don’t give up more than you need to.
The first thing is to understand the type of attorney you want. Just because someone is an attorney doesn’t mean that is who you want to hire for your divorce. Hire yourself a family law attorney or a divorce attorney. Basically it is the same, they just use different lingo. Make sure they are with a practice that focuses on family law and divorce and stay away from other types of attorneys like personal injury, estate planning and criminal. They usually don’t know the law for divorce like someone that specializes in the area. And using a specialist is going to get you the biggest bang for your buck.
I would also look for an attorney that is in the jurisdiction that you want to get divorced. For example, I live in Montgomery County and Frederick County is 10 minutes away. There are attorneys in Montgomery County that practice in Frederick County but if they aren’t in the courthouse all the time and don’t know the judges, I wouldn’t recommend hiring them. As crazy as this might sound, when an attorney is familiar with the judges because it is where they practice all the time, it can make the process a little smoother. It’s a minor detail, but one that I think shouldn’t be overlooked. One of the attorneys in my area bicycles with some of the judges every month. I don’t believe this influences any decisions that the judge makes but it can’t hurt when the attorney knows how the judge thinks and how this can impact the presentation of a case.
Consider hiring someone that has a partner or at least a staff member. One of the things that you will want as you are going through your divorce is to have questions answered, sometimes in a timely manner. If your attorney is a solo practitioner, their time is limited. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t good, but if they have other cases, they will get to you in your turn and sometimes that might be too long for comfort. When the attorney you hire has a staff, the staff person can answer questions and move your case along, giving you better peace of mind when the attorney is in court or preparing for another case. You will probably be frustrated enough dealing with your spouse during this process, feeling frustrated with your attorney, someone you are paying, shouldn’t happen, but by understanding what to look for, you can minimize this possibility.
Where To Find An Attorney
So where do you find an attorney? I would start by asking your friends / family who they have used, who do they know. If you are speaking with someone that actually used them, ask them how they handled the case and if felt they received fair treatment.
Another place that you can find an attorney is online – but remember to look for divorce attorney or family law attorney and check out the reviews. There is a lawyer review site called AVVO. You might also want to look at yelp, google my business and other social media platforms for reviews as well. As with many reviews, you’ll get some good and some bad so read between the lines and make sure that you meet the person yourself.
Some lawyers will offer a free consultation or apply the fee for the consultation to your retainer if you hire them. But I would not recommend hiring someone without the first meeting. You want to make sure it feels right before you hire them. I would also suggest that you interview 2-3 attorneys before you make your final decision.
One other thing to keep in mind when you are interviewing attorneys is that once an attorney has met with you, they can’t represent your spouse. I’m not suggesting that you meet with every attorney so that your spouse can’t hire one, but know that this is an agreement within the legal field to avoid conflict of interest. I know that when I went to hire an attorney, they wouldn’t represent me because they had represented my ex-husbands wife. I thought that was a stretch, but it was their choice.
As you prepare for the first meeting, I would do a little bit of research ahead of time so that you are prepared with different questions you should ask. You might be nervous talking to the attorney or as you talk about getting divorced, you might get upset, which is perfectly understandable. By having your questions prepared, you’ll get more value from your consultation. I would also suggest taking someone with you to take notes because it can be an emotional experience and you don’t want to forget what the attorney is telling you. I’ll put together an episode around this in the next few weeks, to give you some guidance, but the more prepared you are for the meeting, the better you will feel afterwards.
Having an attorney that you feel you can communicate with is important. Divorce is never fair and the process can be just as bad as the final outcome. I’m not saying that your attorney should coddle you, because that could get expensive, but having an attorney that sets expectations can help you to manage yours and if you can’t communicate, it will be even tougher.
There are two things you want to accomplish before you begin the divorce process. You want to know your rights, and how the law will apply to you. What can you / can’t you do and what can/can’t your spouse do. The sooner you know your rights, the sooner you can begin to plan accordingly. If you are the one that wants to end the marriage, you will probably begin to take steps to simplify the process as you move forward.
If you are the person who really didn’t want the divorce and are being somewhat blindsided, pull up your bootstraps because you could be in for a very bumpy ride. People get crazy during divorce – sometimes for spite, sometimes out of desperation, sometimes because the other person just insights it. Keep this in mind and try not to let it happen to you.
Having the right attorney and knowing your rights is essential.
There are different ways that you can get divorce, not every divorce has to end up in court and not every case has to end up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, you might hire a mediator instead of each of you getting your own attorney or you might decide that collaborative divorce is a better process. We will talk about these different ways to negotiate your divorce in an upcoming episode. But for this episode, I wanted to encourage you to get legal advice before you start the process so you can somewhat manage your expectations.
There are two other professionals that you should probably talk to as well as you go through the divorce process – two that aren’t always talked about as much. You probably don’t need to talk to them right away but I would meet with them before you begin your divorce negotiations. The first is an accountant and the second is a financial advisor. Your accountant will talk to you about the tax implications of different things you might want to do as part of the divorce. Understand how child support, alimony, and how you claim dependents will impact your taxes moving forward. If you sell property, if you have investments, how will these be divided and what is the best way for you to move these assets to minimize tax consequences. All of this is negotiable as part of the divorce settlement, so go into the process with knowledge.
Also talking with your financial advisor can help with future investments and things that you might want to consider negotiating. There is a new professional designation for financial advisors called Divorce Financial Planners and another called Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. These are individuals that have extended their studies to help facilitate people going through divorce and addressing the needs from a financial perspective. You might want to look for this designation as you seek out a financial planner to help you through this process. Remember, an attorney focuses on the law but your investments can have a different type of impact on your future, so I would recommend you have a conversation with these types of professionals as well.
Remember, the goal of this episode was to encourage you to seek legal advice before you begin the process of getting divorced and to help you understand the type of attorney you should hire.
As we bring this episode to a close, I hope that you feel empowered to talk with an attorney and get the advice that you need. Getting divorced is never an easy decision and talking to an attorney can be scary, but it’s important to get the information that applies to your state from a professional who deals with this regularly.
And on a more positive note, if you are in or near NYC, why not get yourself some new photo’s. Maybe you need a few pics for your online dating site, maybe you just need a professional headshot. My good friend, Rick Becker of Becker Studios is great and you’ll love the results!
If you aren’t going through divorce, maybe it’s time for a happy couple photo! You can get his information in the resource portion of the show notes and also on our resource page of the website.
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