Five Tips for Preparing for a Divorce Consultation

Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP
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Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP

Back to school also means an increase in divorce filings.  If you are considering a divorce, one of the first things you should do is consult with a lawyer (or a few lawyers).  Consulting with a lawyer is not cheating on your marriage. The purpose is to be educated about the divorce process and the consequences of divorce.  You should learn what is involved in divorce before you make the final decision and make sure you are prepared for the aftermath of separation. One of the first steps will be scheduling consultations.  To make those consultations as productive as possible, you should consider these five tips.

If your spouse has told you they want a divorce, the same tips apply.  Be sure you schedule consultations quickly with reputable lawyers. Be sure you still take time to prepare for the consultation.  Making the consultation productive will be even more important when the process has already been started.  

  1. Know the basics

At almost any consult you are going to be asked for some basic information.  Spend some time before hand collecting this information. You should know the date of marriage, the date you separated from your spouse, costs of any unusual needs, a basic budget, both spouses schedules, and basic income information.  If you and your spouse have entered into any agreements (i.e. prenuptial agreement, postnuptial agreements, separation agreements, etc.) you should also bring these agreements with you.  

If you have access to financial paperwork you should bring those documents with you.  Income information such as a recent tax return and recent paystubs for any working spouse is useful at a conciliation to discuss support numbers. If you don’t have access to the paperwork, spend some time before the consultation trying to estimate the income of both spouses.   This helps the attorney get a better handle on the financial aspects. The attorney may be able to run more accurate support and economic calculations. Also, this will help the attorney to give better advice about financing the process.  

Note that if either spouse is a business owner; bring your working knowledge of the business.  How is the business owner paid, what perqs do they receive. Any knowledge about a closely held business can help narrow down issues in a divorce.  

If you have children you should also know the children’s dates of birth, childcare costs, children’s schedules, and special needs of the children.  

The more information you bring the more specific and productive the consultation can be.   

  1. Know how to keep your conversations confidential

A divorce consultation is a confidential meeting.  It should be noted that having a third party (friend or relative) present at the consultation can result in the meeting not being confidential.  It is suggested that you attend the consultation by yourself. You can have a friend/relative travel to and from the appointment with you for moral support.  If you want to have some of the information conveyed to your friend/relative you should have that conversation with the attorney at the consultation before bringing the third party into the meeting.  

To further protect the confidentiality of your relationship with the lawyer you should consider make your spouse doesn’t access to communications.  Let the attorney know whether or not it is safe to leave voicemails on your cell phone or send you emails. Be sure to consider whether you spouse has access to your phone, phone bill, or cloud.  Can your spouse access messages on your phone? Does your spouse have access to your email address? Is the login for your email address saved on a shared computer? If your spouse has access to your phone, can they access your email through the phone?   It may be best to set up a new email address and not save the login to any device your spouse can access.  

Communications with a lawyer are confidential, but if your spouse has access to your email they may not stay that way.  Keep in mind that if your password to you email is saved on a shared computer or phone your spouse can access that email.  It is safest to create a new free email account

  1. Think about how you want to proceed with a divorce

When most people think about divorce they think about a court battle, but that is not the only option.  Consider whether or not your spouse would consider an alternative dispute resolution such as mediation, arbitration, or collaborative law.  You might also want to think about how comfortable you are discussing the financial matters with your spouse.   

Family law attorneys deal with divorce on a daily basis.  Attorneys are often subjective in their analysis of your case.  Be prepared to have difficult discussions about 

The attorney may provide some emotional support, but you should consider finding other sources.  A therapist is a great person to provide the emotional support needed throughout the divorce process.  Conversations with the therapist are confidential.  

Also, make sure that the attorney you choose is someone who you think can help you achieve your goals through the divorce.  It is often useful to meet with more than one attorney if time permits.  

  1. Prepare emotionally

Divorce is emotional.  You grieve the death of marriage just like the death of a loved one.  The complication is that both spouses grieve at different times. At the start of the legal process the spouses are often in different stages of the grief process.  

You are about the share the private details or your family life with a complete stranger.  That complete stranger is going to challenge you and give you information that you will not like.  There is some aspect of divorce that each person dislikes. Emotionally prepare yourself for this.  

  1. Make plans to pay

How are you going to pay for the consult?  Usually cash is best. If you pay with a credit or debit card the transaction will appear on the bank or credit care statements.  Your spouse may google the lawyer which could add stress to your current situation. If you can use cash it will not appear on your statement.  But that means you need to make sure you have the cash on hand.  

Conclusion:

When you go to any consultation take a list of prepared questions.  Know what issues you want to tackle during the appointment. Don’t be afraid to speak up.  Be prepared to deal with a changing reality and hear some difficult information. The more educated you are about the process the easier it becomes.

The first steps are daunting.  As you move forward it becomes more manageable. 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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