You're tired of fighting!  You're fed up with your spouse and marriage and want a divorce.  Or, perhaps a sudden problem has brought about thoughts of ending your marriage.  Is it time to consult an attorney?

Reasons to consult an attorney  

Consulting an attorney is not the same as hiring one.  In most cases, attorneys offer a free or low-cost initial consultation.  This doesn't mean you are committed to hiring the attorney nor will the attorney be your representative until you have retained him/her.

The initial consultation will rarely be the time to get into all of the details about your situation.    It's an opportunity to get an idea of your legal options if you choose to move forward.  A local attorney will be able to give brief information about the divorce process, his/her fee structure, your legal rights and state laws.  Knowing this may help you decide if divorce is right for you and if the attorney is the right representative.

Time is of the essence

If you or your spouse meet with an attorney, know that the attorney cannot legally consult the other spouse for the purpose of representation later.  So, if there is an attorney you think you want to represent you, setting up a consultation as soon as possible may be wise to avoid your spouse locking you out of the representative that would be the best person for your case.

You've been served

If you've been served with a petition for divorce, your spouse has hired an attorney or begun the process of divorce (to include asking for one), it's a good idea to speak with a legal professional right away.  The attorney can help you understand the local process for divorce and, if you decide to do so, prepare a response upon hiring him/her.  You have limited time to respond to a petition, so don't delay even if divorce is not what you want.

When not to get a lawyer involved

Avoid knee-jerk reactions 

Unless you're worried your spouse may have some legal advantage to your not "lawyering up" immediately, it's may not be a good idea to retain an attorney directly following an argument, spouse's confession or sudden change in your marriage. This is especially true if the cause is uncharacteristic of you, your spouse or your marriage.

It's a bad time to make big decisions since your emotions will make it difficult to think objectively about your legal course-of-action. This wastes time and money.  It may also cause your spouse to seek representation prematurely, which may double the bill for something neither one of you are really prepared to initiate and possibly don't want. 

If you hire an attorney to scare your spouse into "behaving better" or "to provide the love and commitment you've been deprived", know that the tactic rarely yields the result spouses seek.  Nor should you use an attorney to demonstrate to your spouse and other's the severity of your spouse's bad behavior.  

While consulting an attorney as a reaction to something your spouse has done may seem right, as mentioned above, don't necessarily retain him/her (unless otherwise recommended based on unique circumstances).   Strong emotions are common during the process of meeting and retaining an attorney for any family law matters, but your emotions should not be in control.

Call the right professional

If your marriage has suffered a recent infidelity or your spouse has confessed to something, you may want to call a counselor or mental wellness professional before an attorney.  

Remember, your attorney's office is not the place to vent about your feelings and your spouse.  It's a good idea for both spouses to go through a cooling off period after a major following a major argument or confession from a cheating spouse.  A marriage counselor, marriage workshop and/or individual therapy can be helpful during this time.

Seeking legal representation should be done when you have employed sound reasoning and it is advised and/or advantageous to do so. There are many legal reasons to immediately hire an attorney, but most of the emotional ones aren't helpful.

Divorce may be a far reach from what you really want and if that is the case, it could present on-going painful obstacles to your immediate and long-term happiness. This pain will last until the divorce and marriage are behind you. This does not magically happen when your divorce is final. It can take months or likely years to recover.

Divorce is not the easy way out

In fact, divorce may be the most difficult of all options following a problem in your marriage.  Many people don't realize it until they are knee deep in the process.  It's really best suited to people and/or situations that yield no other solutions that would produce and maintain each spouse's personal happiness, love and commitment for the other.  While the process is hard for these people, staying together is harder, making divorce the right choice and an attorney a good call.

If you and your spouse have yet to try other options like marriage counseling and other means to acceptance, forgiveness and dedication to improving your marriage, divorce may not be the best and only option. 

But remember, it takes two.  If your spouse isn't on board with saving the marriage, very little will help.

However, after considering the marriage, problems and situation you may have recognized a divorce is a possible solution to your long-term happiness. This may provide a happiness that cannot be realized with your marriage intact.

Still not sure?

Attorney's average cost in the U.S. is $250 per hour

Rushing to retain an attorney, only to decide to reconcile is a costly mistake that could be avoided.  It's also not a good idea to initiate a divorce before you have thought through the many changes that will occur as a result of your separation and divorce.  

We have prepared a list of considerations weighted heavily on the practical needs to support oneself, children, former spouse & household while maintaining resources necessary to cover legal expenses until a judgement is reached.

Living situation (You can't do much without housing)

You will want to make sure you have a reasonable living situation and are prepared for changes as they may affect your housing and/or means to support it.

Finances (You won't get far without money)

You will want to insure that you have the means to support yourself while maintaining your finances (debts and household expenses) with or without your spouses income and/or can afford to provide support to your spouse if required in the separation and/or divorce settlement. Support to a spouse may include, but not limited to, alimony, maintenance or one-time settlement.

Children (Your family's happiness, support and housing must be considered)

You will want to insure your children will have a better and more stable environment with both parents living in separate households or parts of the home. You will also want to understand the laws of your state and the basics of child support, custody and visitation to be financially and emotionally prepared for the best and worst case scenarios.

Legal Expenses (What can you afford and does it match your circumstances?)

Attorney fees begin at the time of hiring. You will begin with a retainer and continue to pay your attorney according to his/her schedule of fees. While some attorneys may simply prepare your paperwork for an uncontested divorce for $1000 or less, others may have rates exceeding $250/hour with the total divorce expense escalating with, among other things, every legal motion or response. Often this comes about when one or both spouse's are in significant disagreement over one thing or another related to the divorce or marriage. So if your spouse is extremely unlikely to be cooperative you will want to consider the worst case scenario of legal expenses.

Interviewing a potential attorney

When it's time, you'll consult an attorney to get a broader legal view of your pending divorce. Your goal is to dissolve your marriage with the least amount of time, problems and money. There is no way to sugar coat a legal dissolution of a failed marriage intertwined with emotional drama and pain. So, from this point on, know that your attorney is your attorney and not your therapist. It's time to toughen up and speak law, or at least understand it so that you can get the best settlement possible. For the complete list of questions to cover in your interview, refer to our article, What to ask during your first consultation.

Online resources v. legal experts

There are numerous types of divorce and many options that can help you avoid litigation and costly mistakes.  While online articles ,like those on DMK, can help with general divorce related information, a local attorney is the best source for legal guidance. 

Utilize online resources to prepare to speak with an attorney rather than as a substitute for one.  This will save you money and time when consulting with a legal expert.  You will be better prepared for your consultation(s) and a more knowledgeable legal consumer. 

Topics to consider when shopping for an attorney

Choosing an attorney to represent you in a divorce is a very important decision. It helps to know what the majority of people consider when choosing an attorney to represent them in legal matters. Some of the most important things they consider are: years of experience, rates, case history, client testimonials, reviews on sites like Google®, Facebook® & Yelp® & location. For a complete list check out our article: What do people consider when hiring an attorney?

Legal Options (You understand the laws of your state as they apply to your case)

You have researched on your own, referred to our Legal Guide and consulted with an attorney who can explain how state laws may affect your case based on your current circumstances and expectations. This can include property laws as they affect division of assets, child custody and support, alimony, maintenance, "waiting periods", legal separtion requirements, annulments, etc.

Finally, you will want to have interviewed one or more attorneys before you hire the best one who has the background and personality that will be best, based on your circumstances. Having a plan to get through the various stages of planning for your divorce is helpful in knowing what questions to ask a potential attorney and what information to compile prior to hiring him/her. Most people find their attorneys on-line or by word-of-mouth. For assistance finding an attorney near you, utilize our Legal Directory.


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