What is a Divorce and What should I Expect?
A general discussion of the Dissolution of Marriage Process
Is a Divorce what you really want?A Divorce, currently a Dissolution of Marriage, is the legal end of a emotional and financial entanglement. The process is unkind, cold and indifferent if you do not have the support of your Attorney, family, and friends. The steps are fairly straight forward but very personal. In the event you are contemplating a divorce, or in the process, it is important to realize the Courts are not prepared to heal the emotional response that is generally experienced. In this writing I will attempt to offer some guidance and insight which will hopefully prove helpful.
I. Is a Divorce what you really want?
This is a question only you can answer. Others will have their opinion, but it is your life and only you can, and only you should, make this decision. For some, the decision is easy. In cases of abuse, abandonment, or neglect, the other spouse has made the decision for you. In such case the divorce is simply a process of sorting out the financial aspects of the marriage. So long as no children are involved, is much more of a business transaction than an emotional process. However, I would still caution against taking legal advise from the internet, beauty shop, or the barber shop. This is your life that is at issue and you are marshaling the financial where with all to move forward with your life. When the matter is more emotionally charged, and children are involved, the decision to go forward with legal action becomes much more difficult.
Always keep in mind, the final decision is, and must be yours and yours alone. No ethical attorney will push you into a divorce action. No one but you, your spouse and children, if any, will suffer through the process or have to live with the outcome.
You have made the decision to Divorce, now what?A. Select proper Counsel... but how is that done?
The short answer is research. The best starting point is referral to Counsel by someone who has already been through the process and is fully satisfied with their prior Attorney. Even when a trusted friend, relative, or acquaintance has made the referral. Please take the time to become informed. Each state has a Bar Association with a website which will allow you to confirm basic facts about any attorney, how long they have practiced, whether family law is the focus of their practice, and whether any complaints been filed. Look at the potential Attorney’s website, the amount of information varies but is time well spent. Contact the Attorney’s office and see if they offer a free initial conference. Competent and confident Attorney’s do not hesitate to provide a free consultation. The initial consultation gives both the Attorney and the Client the opportunity to make an assessment as to whether you will be comfortable trusting your future into the hands of the Attorney. Have your concerns been heard? Is the Attorney someone you can trust in your “gut”? It is also the Attorney’s opportunity to determine whether yours is a case He/She wishes to get involved with. If you do not feel heard, or if money is the Attorney’s primary concern, run don’t walk and find someone you can trust.
Most, if not all, Attorneys require some initial money to be deposited before commencing work. Your payment assures the Attorney of your commitment to the process and gives the client some “skin in the game” as motivation. Make certain there is a written Engagement Fee Agreement and you are provided a copy of such.
B. Okay, I’ve decided to hire the Attorney, what next?
In every case the Attorney is going to require information with which to prepare the necessary initial documents. Be prepared to complete some Financial Disclosure, it may seem intrusive but it is truly necessary. Cooperate with the Attorney’s request for documentation, they are not being nosy but need to know what is important for your future. The initial documents outline the end goal of the Client and most attorneys are not competent mind readers.
The Courts do not move quickly but the Attorney should be responsive to your questions and concerns in prompt and timely manner. Depending upon the number of issues at hand and the level of agreement to end the marriage between the parties a divorce may be completed in as little as a month, or in complex and highly contested matters could take in excess of two years. Fortunately for most the answer is somewhere in between. Some entanglements take a lot of effort to disengage, and others walk into the Attorney’s office with the matter agreed and it is a simple and smooth process.
In every case, my best advice to my clients is to communicate with their spouse if possible. The parties can solve a lot of the issues over coffee at the kitchen table. The fewer issues contested, the less the divorce is going to costs in time, money, and expenditure of emotions. The lower the Attorney Fees the more money each of the parties will have to spend on their necessaries or on their children. There is no requirement to spend $20,000.00 to fight over matters which are not actually in dispute.
Direct negotiations are not always possible, but when the option is available and taken advantage of properly money, time and emotional energy is preserved.