If you are considering a divorce, one of the first thing 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. It is important to learn what Is involved in divorce before you make a final decision about moving forward and make sure you are prepared for the aftermath of separation. This also applies to if your spouse has told you they want a divorce. To make a consultation as productive as possible, you should consider these five tips.
- 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 of separation, the date you began to cohabit you did so prior to marriage, a basic budget and basic income information. If you and your spouse have signed any agreements, i.e. prenuptial agreement, postnuptial agreement, you should bring these agreements to the consultation. If you have access to financial information such as tax returns and recent paystubs, these can be useful in discussing support obligations. The more information you bring, the more specific and productive the consultation can be.
- Know how to keep the conversations confidential. A divorce consultation is a confidential meeting. If you bring a third party with you, (a friend or family member), the meeting will no longer be confidential. Bringing someone with you for moral support is not unusual but consider the meeting protocol in deciding if that person should sit in on the entire meeting.
It is also important to consider whether your spouse has access to your voicemails or emails. Make sure your spouse does not have access to communications from your lawyer from your phone, a phone bill or cloud. If your email login is on a shared computer or your spouse can access your email from your phone, it may be easy for them to access what you think are confidential communications. It is wise to consider setting up a new email address and do not save the login information to any device that your spouse may access.
- Think about how you want to proceed with a divorce. People often think of a court battle when they think about divorce. It does not have to be that way. There are other options. Consider whether you and your spouse would be good candidates for a collaborative divorce. If so, you should consult with a lawyer trained and experienced in “collaborative law” as it is a very specific process. Oregon requires mediation although mediation can take a number of different forms and can occur at various stages of the divorce process. This is something you can discuss in your consultation.
- Prepare emotionally. Divorce is an emotional process. You may grieve the loss of a relationship just as you grieve the loss of a love one. Spouses often experience this process in different ways and at different stages. In a consultation, you will be expected to share the private details of your family life with a complete stranger who may challenge you and give you information that you do not like or agree with. Your lawyer is not your therapist and considering the value of engaging someone to help you with this process may be worthwhile.
- Make plans to pay. How are you going to pay for the consultation? Cash may be best if you do not want the transaction to appear on a credit card statement or bank statement for your spouse to see.
Finally, you should always be prepared for a consultation with a list of prepared questions. Think about the issues you want to try and tackle during the meeting. Don’t be afraid to speak up and be prepared to hear some difficult information. The more educated you are about the process, the easier it hopefully becomes. Contact one of our experienced family law attorneys to set up a consultation and determine the next best steps for your particular situation.