Keeping Your Family Strong--Even Through Divorce

Three Good Reasons To See A Divorce Attorney Even If You Aren't Yet Sure That You Want A Divorce

by Kristen Wright

Should you meet with a divorce attorney even if you think that your marriage can be saved? Yes. There are several reasons that you want to find the attorney that you feel comfortable working with before you make the final decision to be done with your marriage. Here's why.

1. You want to have an attorney on hand if you need to react quickly.

Even if you think that you're the only one who is contemplating divorce, things can turn sour very rapidly. You know that you are unhappy. The odds are good that your spouse isn't happy either. Polls indicate that six out of ten people are unhappily married and four of those six are already considering walking out.

You may not have discussed divorce with your spouse and believe that he or she doesn't want to end the marriage, but you could be mistaken. If your spouse presents you with papers and wants custody of the kids and you out of the family home, you need to have somebody already hired in order to quickly advise you on how to respond. The same goes if he or she decides to clean out the bank account and cut off access to the credit cards.

2. You don't want your spouse to "lawyer shop" and keep you from having a good attorney.

This can be a problem particularly in small towns, but even in large cities it can happen. For example, a supermodel who was divorcing her musician husband saw several different attorneys in the area in quick succession. Was she simply shopping for a good attorney? Or, was she purposefully going from one top lawyer in the field of celebrity divorces to the next, hoping that her spouse wouldn't be able to find one of comparable skill? This is known as "conflicting out" the best attorneys in the area in order to disadvantage the other spouse and it is a very underhanded thing to do.

In order to do it, all your spouse has to do is have a meeting with each attorney that he or she doesn't want you to have and tell that attorney something confidential. In some states, your spouse has to also pay a consultation fee, but not in others. Once the attorney has been told something in confidence by your spouse, he or she can't later represent you -- or even meet with you. If your spouse has the time and the money to do this, it can be an ugly situation for you. The only way to avoid it is to get an attorney of your own first.

3. Your want someone who will level with you about your situation.

You may still be married at this point because you're afraid that you'll lose custody of the kids. Your spouse might have told you once that he or she would never "let you" have custody or you might have a problem, like bipolar disorder, that you think means that the court will never allow you to have even shared custody. Or, you might believe that your spouse holds all the financial cards, and you'll be destitute. 

An attorney can level with you about your situation and let you know which of your fears are valid and which of them really aren't. If your bipolar disorder has been controlled with medication for the last decade, it might not be an issue. Since you sacrificed your own career for the sake of helping your spouse through school or to raise the children, your spouse may have to turn over a portion of his or her income to you for a while, so that you have the opportunity to finish school or find a career of your own. An attorney isn't caught up in all of the emotions that surround your marriage, including the fear that might be keeping you there. 

Meeting with a divorce lawyer doesn't mean that you have to decide to get a divorce right then. You can simply ask for advice, find out if any of your fears about the divorce are valid, and secure that attorney's availability to you should your spouse go on a campaign to try to limit your access to the better-known attorneys in town.