The holidays are over. Family obligations have come to an end. The gifts have been unwrapped and returned and the bills are crashing in after a rabid shopping season. Your focus has returned to your relationship with your spouse and you realize, or are reminded, you are unhappy.
The beginning of a new year is always busy for family law attorneys. People resolve that this is the year to put their unhappy marriage behind them and get a fresh start on life. Life is short…every day counts…and many people conclude that staying in an unhappy marriage is not an option.
A call to a lawyer is never easy, but I have heard over and over that that it lifts a huge weight once that call is made, a meaningful consultation takes place and legal representation is engaged. If you, or someone you know, are in this position, here are some important steps to move toward that new life:
- Finding a Lawyer. The best way to find a lawyer is through a personal referral. Start talking to others about your situation and you will quickly find that many people can recommend a good family law (divorce) lawyer. If you do not want to talk with friends and family about your impending divorce, call a trusted advisor such as your accountant, business lawyer, estate planning lawyer, financial advisor or maybe your religious or spiritual counselor.
- Set up a Consultation. A consultation will give you the opportunity not only to meet the lawyer, but to get insight into his or her thoughts about your situation and a strategy for how he or she recommends that you proceed. The most meaningful consultation will come from paying the lawyer for his or her time. A 30 minute free consultation does not do your case justice. A reasonable consultation takes 1-2 hours. Busy lawyers are not going to offer this amount of time for free, so be prepared to pay for a meaningful consultation. It is in your best interest.
- Tone of Your Divorce. Most people are angry or hurt by the prospect of a divorce. This is understandable and expected. An angry (i.e., expensive) divorce is good business for a lawyer, but is it good for you and your children? You need to decide the tone you want to set. A lack of anger (by you and your lawyer) in the handling of your case does not mean a lack of zealous representation and good results. Some lawyers thrive on fueling the anger of a client because they believe it is good business for the lawyer. I do not feel anger is good business because it usually is not in your best interest as the client. The tone is ultimately up to you, so choose a lawyer who will represent the tone you wish to set in your divorce. Angry and hurt feelings are valid, but those emotions are best addressed through the assistance of a therapist, not a divorce attorney.
- Keep The Children Out. The divorce is adult business. If both parents do not work to keep the children out of the battleground and to keep the children’s best interest in mind, then the children are likely to become collateral damage of the divorce. Remember, the children love both parents – it is the parents who no longer love each other. Consider consulting with a child therapist early. Doing this can give you both guidance on how to tell the children about the divorce and assure them they are loved and that their lives will be disrupted as little as possible. This is very hard for spouses who are angry and hurt, so individual therapy for each spouse can help to give you the strength to rise to the challenge to be focused on what is best for the children. Taking such an approach is easier said than done; but ask anyone who has gone through the process and you will find, it is advice well worth heeding.
It is a new year and a time for new choices. Choose happiness.