Basic Guidelines for Divorce

Here are some basic guidelines for those considering a Dissolution of Marriage:

Should I hire a divorce lawyer?

Everyone considering a separation or dissolution of marriage should spend some time consulting with an experienced family law attorney to find out what is involved and what the issues are likely to be in your case. After a consultation you will have a much better idea about whether you should retain an attorney or handle your case yourself.

How do I find a divorce lawyer to meet with?

Look for someone with experience who specializes in family law. Family law cases can be complicated. Check with your friends and other professionals such as your accountant. You want a lawyer who has a reputation for trying to settle cases but who is also ready to take the case to court if it can’t settle. You want a lawyer who is organized, will return phone calls or emails promptly and who will work with you to provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about your future.

Should I interview more than one lawyer?

Absolutely.  Your relationship with your lawyer and his or her staff becomes personal.  You should look for someone who you can trust to give you good and sensible advice.  You don’t want someone who will only try to “sugar coat” the bad news to make you feel better.  The greatest area for dissatisfaction for clients in family law cases stems from the client having unreasonable expectations about what the legal system can and cannot do with their case.  No lawyer can promise a particular result with family law litigation.  Look for a lawyer who has enough experience to understand your issues, can outline a reasonable range of results and can help you make decisions as to how to achieve a result within that range.

How much should I tell my lawyer?

You must give your lawyer accurate information.  The lawyer’s advice is only as good as the information he or she is basing the advice upon.  Your meeting with the lawyer is privileged and confidential.  The law provides for this so that you can be candid with your lawyer.  The lawyer will help shape the discussion to obtain the relevant data.  If possible, you should come to the initial meeting with a list of your assets and debts and your last tax return.

Things NOT to do:

Don’t try to hide assets or make dramatic changes in your finances or life, just as you are considering a divorce. Don’t try to spy on your spouse particularly by trying to intercept telephone calls, conversations or electronic communications. Doing this can result in you violating the law. You need your own secure electronic and telephone conversations so you and your lawyer and other professionals can communicate confidentially. You must preserve all your electronic data including hard drives, email and social media accounts.

Children and Parental Responsibilities:

Children are precious. Protecting your children even though you are going through a difficult time with your spouse should be your primary goal. Do not argue with your spouse in front of your children. Do not disparage your spouse to your children. There are a lot of talented and experienced professionals in Boulder-Denver to help you with issues related to your children. Take advantage of these early on. Think about what you want your children to be when they are grown and leaving home and try to consider how you and your spouse can work to best get them there. Think about what this divorce would look like to your children right now and think about how they would want you and your spouse to act.

Attorney Fees:

Experienced attorneys charge by the hour because they cannot predict exactly how much time the case will take.  Every case is different.  The more organized you are in providing accurate information, documents and responding to requests to communicate with your lawyer the more efficient the lawyer will be.  Look for an attorney that has a good staff and who delegates tasks to that staff.  Look for a lawyer who provides you with outlines, forms, and other organizational tools.

Summary:

While going through a dissolution of marriage is not pleasant, particularly if your spouse is not cooperating, you can control how you proceed.  At the end of the case, you should want to know that you and your lawyer handled the case with dignity and integrity and that you took every reasonable step to protect your children.