Law Office of Daniel J. Smith, PLLC
The Three People You Need To Talk To During Your Divorce
#1: A Lawyer
People who are thinking about getting divorced cite all sorts of different reasons for not wanting to see a lawyer: “I don’t want to create more conflict;” “It’s too expensive;” “We both agree on everything anyway.” These are all valid reasons, but there are just as many compelling reasons to hire an attorney.
Think about it this way: If you were rewiring the electrical system in your house, you’d probably hire an electrician. It’s your house, sure, but you don’t want to spend tons of time and energy learning how to do it, you want it done correctly, and you’d rather not run the risk of electrocuting yourself. The same thing applies to hiring a lawyer to handle your divorce: A lawyer knows how to take your divorce to the finish line and how to avoid potential pitfalls along the way. Especially if you have kids, hiring a lawyer lets you keep your attention on your family during this tough time, instead of on the confusing and often frustrating divorce process.
Even if you don’t think you’ll hire an attorney to handle your divorce, it’s worth it to at least sit down with an experienced family law attorney to discuss the divorce process, the potential cost, and any specific questions you have about things like child custody, property division, maintenance, and so on. You may come out of the conversation confident that you really can handle a DIY divorce; you may realize that you’d rather have someone take care of everything for you. If you do decide to hire an attorney, remember that any lawyer worth her salt will listen to your goals, your concerns, and your limitations, and tailor her representation to meet your needs.
#2: A Therapist
Divorce can introduce a level of stress and chaos into your life that may be unprecedented up until this point. You are coping with the death of a relationship that you thought would last the rest of your life. Your finances feel unmanageable thanks to a one-two punch of attorney fees and supporting a household by yourself. You’re trying your best to be a caring, loving parent to kids who are experiencing a slew of powerful emotions like anger, fear, sadness, confusion, and loss. Existing emotional issues like depression and anxiety are cranked up so high you think that you might literally shatter. Your professional life is suffering. You’re grieving the (figurative) loss of friends and family that were part of your life as a couple, but won’t be part of your life as a single person. And amid all that, the one person you thought would be by your side forever now feels like your enemy in all this.
In my practice, I suggest that all my clients in contested family law actions see a therapist or other mental health professional. (One of my colleagues, family law powerhouse Elise Buie, actually requires that her clients complete at least three sessions with a counselor.) The insight and guidance of a therapist or counselor is invaluable for three reasons: First, and most importantly, your counselor can help support you through the tough times to come. They’re a shoulder to cry on, a pillow to scream into, a sounding board for questions and concerns you have, and a calm, sane voice to talk you through moments when you feel like you’re going crazy. Second, you’ll develop strategies to manage your emotions during interactions with your ex and your kids. If you can keep conflicts to a minimum during the divorce process, you’ll be more likely to sidestep the enormous financial and emotional drain of going to court. Third, you’ll be able to plan for your new normal after the divorce is finalized. Things like co-parenting, financial independence, dating after divorce, and reentering the work force can all feel like huge, sometimes insurmountable obstacles, and it helps to have someone to keep you focused and motivated in the face of these new challenges.
#3: A Financial Planner
Turns out, divorce is expensive. I’m not just talking about your attorney fees: Finding and setting up a new household (and then keeping the lights on and the water running on one income), divvying up your assets and real estate, and paying child and/or spousal support can drain your bank account faster than you can say, “You charge how much per hour?!” A financial planner can help you see the big picture of your finances, and show you how to structure your finances so that you can live within your means, protect your credit score, and plan for upcoming life changes like college, a new job, and retirement.
Meeting with a financial planner is especially important for people whose ex-partner did the lion’s share of the bookkeeping. If you look at a check register, a pay stub, a budget, or a cashflow ledger and think, huh?, you’re not alone, but you are in for a world of hurt if you don’t figure it out, and fast. Getting a handle on your finances is one of the most important things you can do to make sure your divorce doesn’t wreak havoc on the rest of your life.
Disclaimer: The content in this blog is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Nothing herein should be construed as legal advice or opinion. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact us.
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