Christy Kaliner | Paralegal
Separation. Divorce. Child Custody. Property Division. If those words make you cringe just reading them, it’s easy to understand why a lot of people facing them in their own relationships would rather ignore the painful truths facing them than schedule a consultation with an attorney to talk about them. Ignorance is not bliss in these situations, it’s simply ignorance. At any moment, the big elephant in the room might surprise you with the revelation that he or she has sought legal counsel and is a whole lot more prepared for this legal battle than you are.
I am a paralegal. My boss often tells our clients that we like to hope for the best while preparing for the worst. Keep that in mind: a consultation is not a commitment to hire an attorney, and it isn’t a declaration that you’ve given up on your marriage or your relationship. It is a smart choice to be informed and protect yourself. Separation, divorce, property division (also known as equitable distribution), and especially child custody are some of the most personal, painful life experiences I can imagine experiencing. Think of all the important things you seek advice about on a regular basis: taxes, financial planning, big purchases, selling your home, which company you should hire for lawn care or housekeeping, which school is best for your child(ren). Now you are potentially dissolving a relationship from someone who knows you intimately, you are probably so emotional you can barely think straight, and you might be facing a fight over the most important person/people in your life (your significant other and your child(ren)) – DO NOT go at it alone without seeking advice from a professional. I tell all my friends and family if they end up in this situation to consult an attorney about their rights and let said attorney guide them on the best direction to take. Every case is different. The advice your friends are giving you, even if it’s recollections of their own divorces, has very little to do with your own situation. Also, if you think your significant other has your best interests in mind, then I encourage you to read this blog and every other post on our website at least once a day until you are thinking a little more clearly and putting yourself first.
I understand that seeking legal advice can be unnerving (because it’s unfamiliar territory) and somewhat expensive. I cannot stress to you enough that a consultation – a couple of hours of your time with a sharp legal mind whose job is to answer every question you have about your specific situation – is one of the best decisions you can make when facing the demise of your marriage/relationship. To make the most of your time and money for the consultation, here are some helpful tips:
- Write your questions down so you don’t forget them and you stay focused. Bring paper, a pen, or even a computer so you can take notes during the consultation.
- Bring any and all documents relevant to your situation. We are going to ask about your and the opposing party’s income, recent tax returns, mortgages, bank accounts, credit cards, real estate, debts, inheritances, evidence of your allegations, and so on. It isn’t imperative that you have everything with you at the consultation, but it’s helpful. (That said, do not put off a consultation for a great length of time just so you can bring us every piece of paper. We can get the paper later.) Most importantly, if you are already involved in litigation, bring current/pending pleadings with you! We are somewhat helpless when you don’t know when your upcoming Court date is or if there even is one, if you don’t know whether there are any pending motions, if you don’t know if there are Orders in place, and so on.
- Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Some people rush through a consultation because of the cost (or because they have time constraints), which is your prerogative – but we can’t be thorough playing ‘Minute to Win It’ with your legal case.
In short, when your relationship is ending, its outcome is important to you because it will affect you – and your children, if you have any – for the rest of your lives. Your significant other is likely thinking about those same people today. Nowhere on your significant other’s list is your happiness, unless it somehow benefits him/her. Keep that in mind. On the other hand, if you choose a good law firm, we actually do care about your happiness, not just because our reputation is on the line, but because we genuinely care about our clients and their families. Domestic law isn’t a niche you get into because you want to punch a clock and leave it behind at the end of the day. We’re here to support you and fight alongside you, but you have to come talk to us first. You’ll be glad you did, and we look forward to meeting you.
If you have questions about your family law matter and you would like to learn more about the consultation process please contact us.