Divorce? You’ve been thinking about it. You probably have talked to friends or asked Dr. Google what this would involve for you. It is confusing enough that you decide that you need to talk to a lawyer. You ask friends for ideas, review lawyer’s web sites, read some reviews– how to choose?
Asking friends is helpful but always remember their situation is not the same as yours. Websites can be informative. They certainly give you an idea of what the firm or lawyer’s focus is. This should give you enough information to decide if this is a lawyer you want to at least talk to. So, with some trepidation you make an appointment. This is the best way for you to gauge whether this attorney “gets” you. Some attorneys will offer a complementary initial appointment. Whether a paid or complementary appointment, you should get your questions answered but not feel obligated to hire that attorney. If you have doubts about compatibility don’t be influenced by the online reviews or advertisements. This is going to be a very important relationship.
What happens at that initial meeting?
Here is where I will offer my perspective. Let’s assume you have chosen to have an initial consultation with me. What happens next?
Once you have made the appointment (which you can do here) we will contact you to see if you prefer phone, Zoom or in person. Obviously in person is preferable for making such an important choice but I am finding zoom to be pretty effective—you just have to provide your own tissues.
The first thing I usually hear is “I have never done this before”. This is true for most of my clients. Most people only do it once or it was many years ago and circumstances were different. My first objective is to make you comfortable being in this conversation. I will not have you fill out a bunch of forms. I will just let you talk. Don’t worry if it is relevant, I will get to that later. Washington is a no-fault state so you do not have to give an explanation why you are thinking of divorce. You don’t have to explain it to me either but it is my experience that people want to tell me about it. While it is not legally relevant it does help me understand what is going on for you. I can honestly say that I have occasionally told people they are not ready yet and suggest counseling. Not often, however, because if someone has gone through the trouble to make an appointment with me, they are usually ready.
As you are talking, I may occasionally interrupt as I am making mental notes. Do you have children? How long have you been married.? Do you own property? What is your financial situation? Are you employed? Is your spouse? This will help will assist me in determining the issues you are facing. Then I will address your specific concerns.
After discussing your concerns and answering your questions, we can talk about procedural issues. The process starts with filing a petition. Your spouse can choose to sign but it isn’t necessary. I will explain how we can send your spouse our “make nice letter” asking to acknowledge receipt. It is very rare to have to use a process server. I will explain all the steps necessary, such as financial disclosure, determining child support or spousal maintenance, and how I will help you maintain your privacy. I will also tell you that it is highly unlikely you will go to trial or even have a court hearing. (All court hearings are currently electronic due to the pandemic). Over 80% of my cases are solved cooperatively. The rest through a process called settlement conference.
The last question is the one everyone is shy to ask about so I usually will bring it up. “What will this cost?” This is where most people breathe a sigh of relief. I work on a flat fee. This means everything is covered from filing the petition to getting you your divorce decree. This includes as many meetings or phone calls you need. This makes it predictable and you don’t have to worry about paying for every email and phone call. The flat fee is determined by a number of factors which we will discuss.
Hope this has been helpful and relieved some of your anxiety.