Divorce is never easy, even when you think it might be easy. It comes with emotions, expenses, and requires the capacity to endure the process. Ending your marriage and separating all the things you and your spouse acquired can be exhausting and never really feels fair. Talking with friends and family is helpful but one person’s divorce should never be compared to another’s. To manage this overwhelming situation, consult with a lawyer when divorce is imminent. Everyone’s situation is unique and your lawyer should treat yours as such.
The relationship you have with your divorce lawyer is especially important. In an initial consultation, an experienced divorce lawyer will walk through the specific facts of your situation and help you put together a plan. The plan may include when to file for divorce; how to file and how to notify your spouse; and a safety plan to protect assets. Doing a consultation with a divorce lawyer should help you feel more at ease and answer most of your initial questions. If you leave a consult with a divorce lawyer feeling more stressed than before the consult, arrange to meet with another divorce lawyer. Keep speaking to different lawyers until you feel comfortable and less stressed.
Once you retain your divorce lawyer, you will need to provide your lawyer with more information. Near the beginning of your divorce case, you will likely go through a process called ‘discovery’ to identify the debts and assets acquired during your marriage. Oftentimes, couples have created a partnership where one spouse is in charge of budgeting and paying the bills. It’s normal that one spouse may have no clue about debts (or assets). This discovery process allows for a level playing field and to make sure both spouses (and their lawyers) know what makes up the marital estate in order to help facilitate a settlement or prepare for trial.
In a settlement negotiation, your lawyer will walk through different ways to split the marital estate while keeping your goals in mind. You may have a goal to receive more liquid assets or keep more of your retirement funds. Your lawyer should be able to tell you whether your goals are realistic and if they are, craft a settlement offer that attempts to meet your goals. Settlement isn’t always possible in every divorce case but it is the hard work in settlement that will likely avoid the need to go to trial.
If you and your spouse are unable to reach a settlement agreement, your case will go to trial, handing control over the financial and custody outcomes and timing of the end result of your case to a judge. Deciding to settle means you retain more control over your case. And keeping those things in your control may be the best thing you can do when everything else may feel out of control.