Getting a Divorce is stressful. Here are some articles to help.

Browse Articles on the topic of Getting a Divorce

Understand Your Divorce Attorney: A Glossary of Legal Terms

Sometimes do you feel that the kind of divorce help you need means hiring a translator? Do your eyes glaze over as soon as your divorce attorney starts talking?  Does it sound like s/he is speaking Latin? You aren’t alone. Divorce is complicated and the law does have a very specific language. But that doesn’t mean you can’t figure out what it all means. Just like you might use a travel guide to help you communicate in a foreign country, you can decipher the language of divorce using this helpful glossary written by the American Bar Association.

 

The Language of Divorce. (Click image to view or print)

Glossary of legal terms related to divorce

 

Poor Little Rich Women?

By Liza Caldwell

As a working Upper East Side mother (and for many years before, residing there as stay at home mom) I read with amusement Wednesday Martins’ recent New York Times essay on her culture shock in living among the moneyed mothers of this demographic. I say “amusement” as in the same kind of titillation I derive (but try to deny) watching an episode of “Gossip Girls,” or the “Real Housewives” of any city. We want to believe, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “that the rich are different.”

But let’s be clear, Dr. Martin’s piece — published a week in advance of the release of her new book Primates on Park Avenue — does not advance our conversation on what modern women need to know about marriage, mothering, and attaining self-fulfillment. It’s a distraction, pitting women against women.

Here’s Dr. Martin, a mother and an anthropologist by training, describing “the tribe” she encounters when she moves to Manhattan’s Upper East Side:

 I met the women I came to call the Glam SAHMs, for glamorous-stay-at-home moms, of my new habitat. My culture shock was immediate . . . to discover that the most elite stratum of all is a glittering moneyed backwater.

. . . .The women I met, mainly at playgrounds, playgroups and the nursery school where I took my sons were mostly 30-something with advanced degrees from prestigious universities and business schools. They were married to rich, powerful men, many of whom ran hedge or private equity funds; they often had three or four children under the age of 10. . . .. (A)nd they did not work outside the home.

Instead they toiled in what the sociologist Sharon Hays calls, ‘”intensive mothering,” exhaustively enriching their childrens lives by virtually every measure, then advocating for them anxiously and sometimes ruthlessly in the high-stakes games of social jockeying and school admissions.

Does Dr. Martin mean to imply that all stay at home mothers deserve her contempt, or just the rich ones? Is the decision to “stay at home” inherently sexist?

I thought we women had attained the right to choose here, and in so many other domains — not only for reproductive rights — but how to live and raise our families, if we are lucky to have the choices?

And what makes this tribe different from wealthy women across this country, be they in New York City, rich suburbs, or Silicon Valley? Aren’t they living out the values of our rich, industrialized society?

These women are not poor, as you and I would readily agree. Like you and me, and countless women across this country, they made and continue to make life decisions based on what society tells us is important: getting into the best schools, working hard, and choosing mates for their ability and potential to provide. It’s basic and makes perfect sense from an anthropological viewpoint. The question that arises is does this formula guarantee for happiness and self-fulfillment? Does it make for happy women and men, and grounded, centered children?

I would argue that these thirty-year olds are smart, but still young. They are trying to be good parents, keep up with their peers and do what their social circles expect. It doesn’t mean that they are not individual women who behind closed doors are still wrapping their heads around what their daily lives look like and the compromises they have made. Or that, they are not questioning themselves and what it is to be a modern woman. But for the time being, they are mothers caught up in the values of our system that tells them their kids must excel to thrive; and it’s their job to ensure these goals are successfully attained. Whether their kids will or will not depends very much on the moral compass that exists in that house and the kind of partnership they have with their mate.

The problem with this this “tribe,” or these women, is the same problem that exists everywhere. If the marriages are not a shared partnership, if the wife does not feel respected like an equal partner but an employee, servant, or maid, then the power is not equal and the relationship, regardless of the money, is feudal-based. If ultimately, she feels trapped for being out of the workforce for years, then she might feel imprisoned with an outdated skill set that gives her no way out if her marriage begins to spiral down. Frustrated and stuck, she may become a poor role model for her kids, a self-justifying martyr, a depressive, a drunk, or an angry (for being unheard, unseen) woman. Just like so many of our moms.

What is unique to this tribe is the self-recognition of privilege; the simultaneous investment and compromises one has made to get there and the hidden shame one sometimes feels for having arrived there and not feeling altogether satisfied as a person.

How then to reconcile having so much with feeling so little?

If you’ve spent most of your lifetime investing in what society tells you should be attaining, then to question your decisions and where you are now is to question everything the tribe stands for, it’s tribal-cide. It’s embarrassing, especially when you know there are others in this world who have far less, and mustn’t their lives be so much harder? How dare I complain? These are just a few of the disempowering messages we tell ourselves as women. Shut up, and get over it. Shame, denial, fear of the unknown keeps us spinning for years, or maybe, forever.

As a divorce coach and advisor who assists women from all walks of life, I know the question for all of us is about happiness and self-fulfillment. Forget gender, class, ethnic background, or the social constructs that are used to divide us. It’s about each and every one of us, our basic human right to live a life fully — and authentically.

Staying in an unlived life, playing a small game as dictated by society, limits our impact and shuts down our future. What is truly possible for you, your children, your community, even our shared world, if you were to understand who you are, what your real values consist of, and then unleash that wisdom in the form of your unique, individual power?

Porter Magazine agrees in their current Summer Issue 2015. In a feature entitled “Modern Love,” Porter says that women are increasingly, no longer buying the dictates of society. They are doing things differently from their tribal elders. Educated and Internet adept across the board, women have become skilled in problem solving by sourcing support and advice. Women are finding their mates, seeking out information and experts for sustaining their relationships, and when these relationships begin to unravel, they are turning to others to guide them. Which is how Porter found us.

As cofounders of SAS for Women, Kim and I understand all the hard-learned externalities and personal challenges of changing a life and running against the currents of society. If you are considering upturning the tables and facing the social stigma of divorce, there are all the unknown tactical and logistical decisions to contend with, and also the internal conflicts we have with ourselves. It’s not clear how to proceed, how to breathe, how to get on, how to grapple with the pain, and move through it. This is to say nothing about your fears of how divorce will impact your children.  However, let us remind you, we are modern women. Most of us do have choices — though we might not see them — and there are ways to mitigate the pain for you and your family.

Like the cast from any reality show, the tribe on the Upper East Side can be reduced to superficial stereotypes. What’s more important is to recognize that even now, no matter where you are on the social scale, women are still struggling with achieving equality in the workforce and at home. If your mate supports and respects you, and you have an understanding of how you will achieve mutual fulfillment, whether one of you stays home or you both work, then you stand a good chance of dividing and conquering life’s challenges and raising healthy children. If it falls to women to play second-class citizens, if we continue to not unite across all social constructs of class and color and way of life, then we are destined for these divisive, ongoing, internal, external, and tribal conflicts, these fruitless conversations. We will never get to the root of the problem of inequities and how to redraw them. What is worse, our children are destined to repeat them.

 

Liza Caldwell and divorce coaching celebrated in Porter Magazine

Porter Magazine Explores Divorce Coaching and Modern Women

Women today are more educated than ever before in history. Now the majority gender graduating from colleges and universities, many of us — no matter our age — have more access to information than ever in our lives, thanks to the Internet.

But the flip side to this advancement is that we are also, now programmed for instant gratification. We want to understand everything there is to understand – quickly. From analyzing a subject as a whole to breaking it down to subparts, we want our instant takeaways. Because Google says it’s possible, we seek the right formula for the best outcomes so we can move on with our To-do list.

Next!

But, when it comes to divorce, and if and how you should do it, is it wise to proceed in all haste? Once you’ve researched it up and down, and read and read, can you seek divorce gratification?

Many women who come through our doors at SAS are smart and edgy. They have done their research. They’ve read about mediation and contested v. uncontested divorce models. They’ve evaluated lawyers’ websites and counted the stars. They’ve listened to friends and their divorce tales. But in their quest to disprove or readily self-apply a recipe, women contacting us have reached an impasse. There is something telling them to double check, to look for critical insight to their own particular story: the way their divorce will or is already impacting their kids, or affecting their job, or their health, and their foundering meaning for living. “Support” is one thing some ladies say they need; while others, bewildered and confused, admit they don’t know what they are looking for: they don’t know what they don’t know.

For all of them, one word rings true. “Guidance.” They are looking for safe and seasoned guidance for their divorce challenge — and for all the other parts of their life that are affected.

As the founders of SAS, Kim and I know, among the most important insights we share is to give our clients a sense of real time and what is possible. Those who harness the courage to connect with us are often on overdrive in a frantic cycle of self-preservation or paralyzed by all the unknowns and fears that surround life-changing decisions. Our job is to slow you down and dispel the fog of information-overload so you understand right now where you are and what real choices you face, so you can see more clearly to take the right step for you and your family. Our job is also to tell you, you can’t know it all.

There are no ready-made answers to divorce. It is a life reckoning that is also an awakening, a process, and there is a learning curve. As for instant-gratification, you cannot digest it in two meetings with a lawyer or multiple sittings in front of a computer. You must travel it. Yes, there are many aspects and milestones that will mark your progress on the road, and knowing exactly where you are helps you prepare for what is potentially ahead. The fact remains, you must still navigate the road, the exact destination of which cannot be fully predicted.

No matter how much you study or cross reference, you cannot have all the answers at once and seeking divorce gratification risks too much. The impact of hasty decisions, “just to be done with it!” may negatively impact your children, increase the threat of litigation and court, and impair your long-term mental, physical, emotional health and your financial well-being; all of which ultimately undermines your ability to live the way you choose once the dust settles.

But knowing what you don’t know is hard.

This is why we are honored to be recognized by Porter Magazine as one of three women influencing the conversation on modern love today. Porter states irrevocably that compared to our predecessors, modern women are doing things differently when it comes to love — and, yes, the resolution of their relationships. Women are not only accessing information (and their mates) through the Internet, they are also seeking professional support for nurturing, and sustaining their relationships. And when things spiral down, women today are thoughtfully seeking professional support for the pain and heartache that comes with it. In their Summer Issue 2015 (pages 194, 197-98), Porter endorses divorce coaching and celebrates SAS for Women as the go-to model for thoughtfully and healthily bringing closure to a relationship.

The message is clear: armed with information and the right guidance, modern women are moving beyond the stigma of divorce and doing it their way. Because they are committed to themselves and their families, they are investing in the here and now for their best future.

Note to Reader: Created by Natalie Massenet, the founder of the 400 million-dollar-a-year online retailer, Net-à-Porter, Porter Magazine is the new, glossy, and revolutionary addition to the fashion magazine scene. Directed and run by smart, empowered women, Porter is doing something new. The quarterly combines the visual concepts of fashion magazine with online-catalogue marketing while also offering great interviews and fascinating stories for and about women. It is digitally-protected, however; which means if you wish to read the Modern Love article and interview with Liza Caldwell of SAS on page 198, you must go-online and purchase the magazine or read the pdf here.

Money under a mattress

How to Pay for Your Divorce

When I was growing up, every Friday night, my father would give my mother her “weekly allowance” when he came home from the office.  It wasn’t really her money, but rather the cash she needed each week to pay for groceries, gas, her hair dresser, and whatever other necessities she had for herself and for the family. Out of these funds, my mother always put aside some undetermined handful. This was her “Piska” money, she told us.

Don’t ask me what the real translation of “Piska” is, but my mother also referred to it as her Rainy Day Fund.

Years later, when my sisters and I were cleaning out our parents house before moving them into an apartment, my mother told us to make sure we looked for an old suitcase in the attic. When we found it, we were to look inside and find its pocket and not just throw the suitcase away. When we did, we found stacks of dollars. My mother at the age of 85 was still saving for her rainy day. When we brought the suitcase downstairs to our mother, she immediately confessed that Daddy didn’t know about this money and there was no reason to tell him.

Knowing about saving for a rainy day since childhood, and growing up in a traditional family where mom stayed home raising three daughters, and cooking, cleaning, car pooling in support of the general welfare of our family, when I started working and later married, I, too, always had a designated account for my own use.  While not afraid of a rainy day, I also wanted money for me, money, which I did not have to account to for anyone.

Today, there are many highly educated and functioning women who are fearful when their marriages are falling apart. They wish to leave the marriage but panic because they have no “war chest” to fight their spouses with if it turns adversarial; or they are afraid they will be cut off from marital resources and not be able to afford a divorce.  How to pay for divorce is keeping them in an unhealthy place.

Regardless of the state of your marriage, it’s important for you to consider yourself. Today’s electronic banking and tracking system does not mean there is not a viable method for a woman to secure funds to pay for a divorce. Even if it means taking $50 from the ATM and stashing the cash at your office, a drawer, or your best friend’s house, there are ways for you to know you will have the security to engage a lawyer and will be able to eat if your vindictive partner cuts off the monetary funds.

If it is too late to start “saving ” money, there are other ways to engage counsel.

Many lawyers or mediators accept credit cards these days. Alternatively, most credit cards have cash advance limits if you prefer not to leave a paper trail. If your spouse has more money than you, you can request that your spouse pay some or all your legal fees. If your spouse does not agree to this, you can ask a lawyer to help you initiate the legal means to securing your representation. Before credit cards, there were always other ways women helped themselves. These means are still viable. You can turn to a good friend or family for loans (offer to pay them interest), or sell assets, like jewelry or art that may belong to you. The important thing to remember is to not stay in a hopeless place because you think you can’t afford your exit.

For more than 18 years, Nina Epstein and law partner Elyse Goldweber have helped individuals and families in the New York City metropolitan area with the full range of legal issues associated with creation and dissolution of personal unions—including divorce, separation, and child support, as well as employment challenges and related business matters. For more information on how they might assist you with your concerns, visit their website or call 212.355.4149.

Although SAS periodically features links to and writing by other professionals on the SAS website, SAS for Women™ is not responsible for the accuracy or content of that information. As for what is best for you and your future, SAS always recommends you speak to a professional to discuss the particulars of your situation.

Helping Your Children Understand You’re Getting a Divorce

How do you help your children understand you are getting a divorce, when inside your head you are not clear if divorce is the right thing? Even if you are sure you want to end it, you probably have reservations . . . some that are buried deep in your heart and soul about whether this is the right move.

How does one know if it is the right thing to divorce? How do you share with the kids something that is scary and unknowneven for you?

You help your children by helping yourself first.

Let’s start with the practical part. The practical part is Can you put together a way to support yourself and your family?

Your marriage might be stone cold dead, but you still have to eat and to provide for your children. I am not saying that a lack of resources should stop you from divorcing; but you have to have a plan. You must know what you need. What can you expect your husband will contribute? Can you work more, or go back to work? What are your basic needs for shelter, utilities and food? Meet with someone who can teach you about money  so you have a practical understanding of how your life will change.

If you are lucky, and there is money available to you, then perhaps you will not have that conversation with your children about being more frugal, cutting down on Christmas presents, or cutting back on lessons or activities they presently enjoy.

Having a handle on the practical allows you stand more firmly when you talk to your kids. Like all matters of divorce, telling the children and how much you tell depends on their age, their level of maturity, and their understanding that Mom is not doing this on a lark. She is doing this to further her and their potential happiness.

The “Daddy and I both love you” isn’t going to cut it. They get it; they will know you both love them. What they will not know is why they can’t take piano lessons or have that super sled once promised for Christmas. It’s not a game for them; it’s their life. So be sure to have several (–as many as you can) talks about the practical results of an impending divorce.

When you have a good understanding on how much money you will have, there will come a time to discuss your new financial situation with your children. You can say that in this new life you and the children are approaching, one of the changes will be in the way you spend money. Depending on the age of your children (I would say not to burden them if they are under the age of ten) you can point out that there will still be money for treats, just not as much. If there is an amount you can identify, say $100 a month, that you feel you can spend on your children’s non-essentials, like fun stuff, talk with them about how that money should be spent. X amount for movies. X amount for toys, etc. In a way, it will be a matter of some pride for them to have a role in the family finances. You can start paying them small amounts for chores, remember to stress “saving,” and by sharing and showing, give them a sense of both control and companionship in what will probably be reduced circumstances.

Take advantage of every social service you can find – and there are quite a few. Government, religious and social service organizations have a wide range of help available, from therapy to help with finances to advice about medical care. Use those social services for support.

What about the less clear, less practical parts of understanding your decision to divorce?

If your husband is overtly hostile or has been abusive, it will be a lot easier for the children to understand why you want a divorce.

But what if he is just boring, or the sex is absent? He’s a nice enough guy, but not for you? That’s the really tough one. In this case you don’t need to do much more than make it clear that Daddy, while a terrific guy, is just not the right husband for you, that you have been unhappy and you deserve a chance to see if you can be happier on your own with the children. You can point out that the children are the most important things in your life, and you will definitely be a better Mother out of an unhappy marriage. Unhappiness is something children understand. So don’t try to make up reasons why Daddy isn’t working for you. Leave it at “unhappy”, “discontented,” or perhaps by drawing on some parallel friendship your child may have had with a friend that did not work out.

One common problem women divorcing share is that they over romanticize their marriages. After years of annoying behavior and bitter fights, suddenly your ex looks, well, better. Better than being alone and shouldering the burden of raising the children, mostly alone. This is the “devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know” fear of facing change.

Listen, don’t romanticize your marriage; remember the bad times. If the good times outweighed the bad times, you wouldn’t be divorcing. See what your relationship was for real; and don’t stay in a disempowering place that perverts the strength you have shown in leaving a bad marriage for a brighter future.

Thirty years ago, Sheila Levin left New York City and moved to Vieques, Puerto Rico to follow her dreams.  A novelist, therapist, mother to three, and grandmother to five, Sheila is twice divorced.  She knows from where she speaks. Find her books Simple Truths and Musical Chairs at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Although SAS periodically  features links to and writing by other professionals on the SAS website, SAS for Women™ is not responsible for the accuracy or content of that information. As for what is best for you and your future, SAS always recommends you speak to a professional to discuss the particulars of your situation.

lady contemplating

Retired NY State Judge Encourages Divorce Mediation

I am a Certified Divorce Mediator, Retired New York State Judge, and a former Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office who had the distinction of serving under the Honorable Robert M. Morgenthau.

During my many years on the bench, I observed the havoc and tragedy visited upon parents and children involved in divorce. All too often the most important decisions facing parents concerning their children’s lives were removed from the parents, and instead usurped by attorneys, law guardians, and ultimately by the court. The frustration that I endured as a judge in attempting to negotiate settlements in the parties best interests, was insignificant compared with the pain and suffering of the litigants during proceedings, which frequently took years to resolve and exacted a considerable emotional, as well as financial burden.

Upon retiring from the bench, I began to explore alternatives to traditional divorce, which culminated in obtaining a certification in Divorce Mediation, a faster, far less expensive, and most importantly, far less acrimonious way of obtaining a divorce in New York State. I am always delighted when divorcing parties can be assisted in making their own legally binding decisions concerning their children and their assets, outside of court proceedings that usually take months, as opposed to years to resolve, and at a fraction of the cost of a traditional divorce.

As we all know, the divorce process is an extraordinarily painful experience, which takes an appreciable period of time to heal from. It is important to fully understand not only the emotional components of divorce, but the potential custodial and financial implications as well.

The best “survivors” of divorce are those who have participated in structuring what their life will be like after divorce, not only for them, but for their children and their ex-spouse. Mediation provides the way of accomplishing that. Mediation not only diffuses the acrimony between the parties, particularly important where children are involved, but most importantly lets your voice be heard about what’s important to you, not your attorney’s voice or a judges voice. Divorcing couples are those who understand that having control of your life is important at any juncture, and even more so when going through the emotionally charged period of divorce. A mediated divorce allows you and you alone, to have control over your future, an important survival tool. A mediated divorce reflects your decisions about all aspects of your new life, an extremely powerful tool in resolving the feelings of fear, uncertainty and helplessness that often accompany divorce.

Helen Sturm is uniquely situated as a Divorce Mediator. She has extensive experience on the bench dealing with issues of custody, support and domestic violence, in combination with the skills she was taught and employed in evaluating witnesses and evidence during her many years as a prosecutor.  Please visit Helen’s website if you would like to learn more about mediation or her work, or contact Helen at  hcs1212@gmail.com

Although SAS periodically features links to and writing by other professionals on the SAS website, SAS for Women™ is not responsible for the accuracy or content of that information. As for what is best for you and your future, SAS always recommends you speak to a professional to discuss the particulars of your situation.

How To Help Your Child Cope With Divorce

How can you help your children cope with divorce or even, separation?

There are many factors that determine the long-term effects of divorce on children. The quality of the relationships among family members has a significant impact on whether or not these long-term effects are damaging.

What we know is that when you focus on creating and maintaining a low conflict environment, kids stand the best chance of growing into healthy, thriving adults. Consider printing the list below and taping it to the inside of your bathroom mirror. The “Bill of Rights for Children Whose Parents are Separated or Divorced” was created through the work of Jill Greenstein, a psychologist at Putnam Valley Elementary School near New York City in 1997. Greenstein involved a group of students, known as the “Banana Splits” to come up with advice for parents and children going through divorce. Read this list from time to time to remind you of all the little and large things that must be done to ensure your children’s well being.

The Bill Of Rights for Children Whose Parents are Separated or Divorced

  • The right not to be asked to “choose sides” between their parents.
  • The right not to be told the details of bitter or nasty legal proceedings going on between their parents.
  • The right not to be told “bad things” about the other parent’s personality or character or behavior.
  • The right to privacy when talking to either parent on the telephone.
  • The right not to be cross-examined by one parent after visiting the other parent.
  • The right not to be asked to be a messenger from one parent to the other.
  • The right not to be asked by one parent to tell the other parent untruths.
  • The right not to be used as a confidant regarding the legal proceedings between the parents.
  • The right to express feelings, whatever these feelings may be.
  • The right to choose not to express certain feelings.
  • The right to be protected from parental warfare.
  • The right not to be made to feel guilty for loving both parents.

At SAS, we are educators, mothers and divorce coaches. Schedule a 45-minute complimentary consultation today to discuss your story and your children; connect with Kim or Liza at 917.485.1323 or visit our Contact Us page.

divorce papers

Divorce Papers: I Have to Fill Out What?

Perhaps the attorney you consulted (or a friend who has already been through divorce) mentioned that one of the divorce papers you will need to complete is a “Statement of Net Worth,” a “Case Information Statement,” a “Financial Affidavit,” or a “Financial Disclosure.”

Huh? Don’t panic, they are all basically the same thing.

It means you will be required to share all of your financial information with your spouse and the courts. There is no getting around it; divorce is a whole lotta paperwork.

Of all the divorce papers you will fill out, this financial one is critical, so keep these things in mind:

Every state is different: many states have a form you can download and fill out, others simply give you a list of things you need to gather. Look online for your county courthouse website and find out what your state requires.

This document is important: it determines how you will split up your money, belongings and debt, as well as determine child support and spousal support. It literally determines your immediate financial future, so take it seriously.

You and your spouse will each have to fill out your own: if you are on good terms, you may be able to complete this task together. However, if not, you will fill it out and give it to your attorney, who will share it with your spouse’s attorney.

Everything must be accurate and complete: be very detailed when you fill it out. Comb through your bank statements, credit card statements, household bills, online accounts, etc. Don’t guesstimate on numbers! If you don’t know the answers, do some detective work and find out the correct numbers.   If you find out new information after you have submitted it, be sure to give an updated form to your attorney right away, at any point during your divorce.

Your attorney will not be double checking this for you: so it’s vital that you are careful and thorough. He/she may look for obvious mistakes, but that’s about it.

This is a “sworn” document: which means when you sign it, you swear you are telling the truth. If either one of you lies on this document, you will face legal action. SO TELL THE TRUTH.

Don’t wait until the last minute: it’s a lengthy and involved process to track down every dollar and cent you’ve saved or spent for years. So don’t try to fill it out in one sitting; plan on completing it over a few weeks.

Don’t hesitate to seek help on this: if you don’t feel fairly confident that you understand your finances, if your finances are complicated, or if you suspect your spouse is not being honest, get help. A divorce coach or certified divorce financial planner will be able to help you.

Filing divorce papers can be overwhelming, so reach out for help. At SAS, we are here to guide you through all aspects of divorce, including the paperwork and accompanying you to those meetings you dread. Give us a call, we’ll get you started.

credit: Weheartit.com

Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney at a Consultation

You are “pretty sure” you want a divorce but you have no idea how to get started…or maybe you do not know if a divorce is what you want at all, but you are desperate for information. Either way, you think maybe you’d better speak to a lawyer, but that idea is terrifying. How will you know what questions to ask a divorce attorney at a consultation?

Don’t worry, we’ll help you. The key is walk in prepared. If you can, take a trusted friend, family member, or seasoned professional (such as a divorce coach) with you. He/she can take notes and listen objectively on your behalf and give you valuable feedback after the meeting.

Use the list below to find out what facts you should know and what questions you should ask before, during and after a consultation with a divorce attorney.

Worried about the  meeting before you even get there? Don’t be. Consider these 5 facts:

  • Meeting with an attorney is simply about getting information. It does not mean you are definitely getting a divorce.
  • These meetings are confidential. He/she can’t help you unless you are really honest. Remember, it’s confidential so be open and tell him/her everything you can.
  • Some attorneys charge for a consultation and others do not. When you call to schedule your appointment, be sure to ask if there is a charge, and if so, how much, so you aren’t surprised.
  • When you make your appointment, ask what kind of documents would be good for you to bring. Many lawyers will suggest you bring copies of past tax returns (typically the last 3 years).
  • If possible, walk in knowing what your assets (what you own) and liabilities (what debts you owe) are.

It will help if you understand what will be discussed at the  meeting. In general, the attorney should touch on these 5 basic themes:

  • The divorce process itself
  • Child custody (if applicable)
  • Division of your assets
  • Support (child support and/or spousal support)
  • The attorney’s fees

Bring your questions. Here are 5 to get started, but be sure to add your own:

  • Do you have experience with_________________ (Fill in the blank with anything unique to your situation)
  • What is my worst-case scenario? Best-case scenario?
  • How will you keep me informed about developments in my case?
  • What is your retainer and hourly fee? Will I be notified when the retainer is almost gone? What other costs should I be aware of? And if I have no access to money directly, how can I pay?
  • What is the best way to communicate with you (email or phone)?

Finally, reflect on the experience afterwards and ask yourself:

  • Do you like him/her? Trust him/her? Have a good gut reaction?
  • Did you walk away understanding everything you talked about?
  • Did you feel like you were heard? That you got to say everything you wanted to?
  • Did you get a chance to ask questions?

Think of the meeting simply as research. You are there to find out information about getting a divorce, as well as to get a sense of the divorce attorney to see if you could potentially work with him or her, should you decide to. We promise, if you walk in prepared, you’ll walk out feeling not only more knowledgeable, but more confident as well.

You may also wish to speak with a certified divorce mediator to find out if you and your spouse are good candidates for mediation.  If so, the questions above are still relevant.  Bear them in mind as you seek out the best information.

At SAS, we provide women with everything we wished we’d had during our own divorces — someone who had been there, someone to turn to who wouldn’t judge us, and someone who could guide us. From making all the decisions involved in a divorce to navigating the changes that come with being single again, we provide education, support, and confidentiality. Schedule your free consultation here.