25 Jul Your Divorce Consultation: What You Should Know
Contested or Uncontested?
Every divorce case will either be contested or uncontested. There are a number of issues to be resolved between two people who are married and want to get divorced. Think of these issues as buckets. Generally, Custody and Child Support for Children; Marital Home; Other Homes; Personal Property; Retirement, and Alimony. If you and your spouse agree on everything relating to each of these buckets then you will have an uncontested divorce and need a legally accurate property and separation agreement. If you and your spouse do not agree on everything relating to each of the buckets then you will have a contested divorce. If you are unsure, come prepared to ask the attorney during your consultation.
When you walk into an attorney’s office for a consultation you should know what your goal is.
Your goal for your divorce case might be “I want to get whatever I am entitled to.” That is very broad, but some people do not know what they could possibly be entitled to, so they need the attorney to help them with that. The attorney will ask you questions about what you own, your assets, and debts.
Another question you will be asked is: Are you separated?
You have to have grounds (a legal basis) on which to get divorced. If you are separated from your spouse, not living in the same home, and have not resumed a romantic relationship, then you can consider yourself separated. Then you can get divorced on this basis; however, it will be a limited divorce. Think of the limited divorce as something to get the ball rolling until you are eligible for an absolute divorce—after one year of separation. An absolute divorce means that you would not be committing adultery if you have a sexual relationship with someone else. It also means that you are legally single and no longer legally bound to your ex-spouse.
You can also get divorced on grounds of adultery or cruelty of treatment. These two are some of the more common types of fault-based grounds for getting a divorce that do not require you to be separated from your spouse for one year before getting an absolute divorce. You must be able to prove that these occurred. Your attorney will help you determine if you have enough evidence to use these grounds.
What led to you (or your spouse) wanting a divorce?
Most people talk about this freely without an attorney having to ask. They have a lot to say, they are still, at least partially, upset about what happened. There are two sides to every story, but as your advocate I am most interested in what you have to tell me. If you start to remember details later on that are relevant to the issues to be resolved, then you want to tell your attorney those details. But don’t wait too long, your attorney needs to know everything before preparing for your trial.
Remember to be Honest and Open—Nothing Surprises Us
I have had many consultations for D.C. and Maryland clients, and there is generally nothing that surprises me. So, be honest and open. Tell me everything. I am bound by my ethics rules to maintain your confidentiality. If you can’t be honest with anyone, at least be honest with the one person whose job is to advocate for you and help you through this difficult time. The more information you reveal, the more you are helping me help you. Even if the information makes you look bad—your attorney will be prepared only if they know about it. Your attorney deals with challenging situations every day, so she knows what to do.