Don’t Hire An Attorney Until You Do This

Karen BigmanDivorce Process

When the decision is made to get divorced, the instinctual thing to do is to find an attorney. Indeed, it’s critical to understand the legal implications of your particular situation to whatever extent possible, but how can you absorb and understand the information you’re getting before you even know what you want?

When you’re getting divorced, your head is swimming with emotions, your schedule is all over the place. You’re now shuttling your kids between two homes and everyone around you is firing advice at you whether or not you want it or if it serves you well. Couple that with trying to hold a job and manage your finances and you’re likely not thinking straight at all.

Here are a few simple tips to get you ready to put together your divorce action plan:

  1. Take a deep breath (or 10). You need to stop doing everything for just a few minutes so you can focus better. Deep breathing relaxes you and replenishes your mind so you can think more clearly. Repeat regularly.
  1. Think about your ‘end game’.  Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Successful People, suggests figuring out where you want to go first. What are your goals for divorce? What information do you need to reach them? Who would be the best people to support you?
  1. Take referrals from friends with a grain of salt. Your friends and family have the best of intentions but what’s right for them or their best friends, is not always what’s right for you. Do you really want the ‘bulldog’ attorney if you and your ex are on decent terms and hoping for an amicable divorce? On the other hand, do you want a meek, sweet attorney that you would gladly socialize with to face off with the top celebrity attorney in town?
  1. Investigate alternate types of divorce like Mediation or Collaborative divorce. You see it on TV and you read about in People magazine, doesn’t everybody use an attorney to get divorced? Well, yes but…there are several different processes of divorce. Investigate the one that’s right for your situation.
  1. Cry to your friends, family and divorce coach or therapist, NOT your lawyer. Get all the tears out before you meet with them. Do you really think Kleenex is worth $500/hour?
  1. Do some basic research on the laws in your state. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire an attorney, however, if you’re armed with some information, you will know what questions to ask. For example, is your state a ‘no-fault’ divorce state-easy answer? What does that actually mean-now there’s a question for an attorney.
  1. Get at least a cursory understanding of your financial picture. The first thing your attorney will ask you to do is to complete a ‘statement of net worth’ listing all your assets and liabilities. You will need to have this information for any negotiations, more importantly, you will need to know it for yourself.
  1. Be prepared to take notes. If you can help it, don’t go see a new divorce professional after you’ve been up all night crying. Try to have a clear head and absolutely take notes about everything you learn. Bring someone with you if necessary. It doesn’t cost any extra to have someone with you but it will cost extra if you have to ask the same questions more than once.

Divorce is hard and often very painful but if you can get organized and focused, you reduce the stress and hopefully have a better divorce.