However it happened, you are now facing divorce.
You might feel so relieved to have made this decision [or that someone else did] that you are happy to sit with it a while. Maybe you haven’t even spoken to your spouse about it yet. Conversely, perhaps you want to be divorced, like, yesterday, and are itching to move the process along as quickly as possible.
Many people think that Step 1 is to hire an attorney–but hold on a hot second and think about a few of these things.
>Take some time to process your feelings about getting divorced. This is an extremely emotional experience and you want to be sure that you are at your peak for decision making purposes. Give yourself some time to settle in to the idea that this is what is happening before you hire an attorney. You should also take some time to learn about the process, and determine what TYPE of divorce you are looking for. Maybe you think you can do it with just a mediator. Maybe you KNOW you will need an attorney. Everyone is different. This is also a great time to hire a Divorce Coach. A coach can help guide you through ALL the steps of this process, as well as provide the emotional support you need to be able to make good choices for yourself and your kids.
>Start gathering your financial documents. A good place to start is to know what all your household bills are, and have things like bank and credit card statements, as well as your three most recent tax returns handy. Obviously there is more to it than that, but it’s a good start.
>Know that if you hire a divorce attorney before you tell your spouse, it can make your divorce more contentious. Already having an attorney lined up before you speak to your spouse can cause your divorce to be more acrimonious than you would like it to be. If you think you will both agree to the divorce and can work together to make it happen, then great. If you think you will be in a high-conflict situation, you should make sure you have all that paperwork mentioned above, plus information on IRA’s, investments, mortgages, and loans too. You should have an idea about where you will live, and who is moving out. In some cases, divorcing couples can handle remaining in the same house, but it is pretty impossible if you are in a high-conflict situation.
>Now focus on hiring an attorney. Get recommendations from friends who have been divorced and find out who they used. Check those people out online. Find out what their philosophy is: maybe some are ‘sharks’ and others are more easy-going with a ‘settlement’ mindset. Then decide who you want to interview. Make sure you interview at least three attorneys before hiring someone. Some of them even charge you for this consultation, so be aware of that possibility.
When I started this process, I felt like I was begging attorneys to take me as a client. Put that feeling away ASAP. Remember, YOU are interviewing THEM. You need to have a comprehensive list of questions to ask them before you get there so you can find the attorney that can get you the best settlement or best represent you in court to move forward in your new life. And guess what? I have put that list together for you–no guessing or forgetting.
In my comprehensive resource “Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney on Your First Consultation”, I cover:
How to get to know the attorney, their approach, and their team
How to communicate with them, their fees, and how you will be billed
How they handle emergency cases that might include substance, spousal, child abuse, or other matters of an urgent nature
Questions you should ask about assets and finances
Questions you should ask regarding alimony and child support
…and much more! (Click on this link to find out more)
Don’t rush it. It’s a process that takes a longer time than you expect, probably for good reason. Take it step by step, day by day, and you’ll come out on the other side thankful that you did.