Divorce is a difficult process, so it is important to know what you are getting into. Luckily, many lawyers are willing to give a free divorce consultation to someone that is thinking about breaking up their marriage. Others will offer a consultation for a small fee. There are many benefits to taking advantage of a divorce consultation before ending a marriage.
You may want to reconsider
Many happily-married couples can tell you a story about a time when their marriage was “on the rocks” and they almost got divorced. This idea is embodied in divorce laws in many states through waiting periods of various sorts that give couples an opportunity to reconcile before a final divorce can be granted.
There is actually not a lot of evidence that delaying divorce helps prevent divorce, but it still may be a good idea to think logically through the steps of a divorce with a professional before setting the wheels in motion.
Questions to ask
Perhaps the most important question to figure out is how long it will take to complete the divorce.
Every state is different, but waiting periods can prevent you from getting divorced for anywhere from a few weeks up to a year. It is important to understand these constraints because they could drastically change your plans.
In some states, like Maryland, the waiting period requires the couple to live separately for a year before a divorce can be granted. There is an exception that allows a couple to get divorced immediately if they (among other things) have an agreement to divide their property and no children.
In Texas, the waiting period is tied to the divorce petition. The court usually cannot finalize the divorce until 60 days after the petition is filed, unless there is some issue like domestic violence where the waiting period should be waived.
Bring key documents
In a divorce, your lawyer’s primary job is going to be helping you split up your assets and settle child custody issues. To do that, the lawyer is going to need to understand your situation. You should bring some basic information to the initial consultation.
Pay stubs and tax returns are good materials to give the lawyer an idea of your household income. Bank account records and mortgage statements can show your net worth. This is the basic information that your lawyer will need to help you ballpark possible property division scenarios.
Do not forget your kids. A lawyer will usually appreciate basic information like age, sex, and health care concerns.
It is important for the lawyer to know where your child is attending school, and if that has any cost. Extracurricular costs are important to understand as well. If your child has an expensive hobby that could become relevant.
If your child is older, you may want to let the lawyer know about the child’s preferences. A 16-year-old that wants to live with mom might get that chance, while a five-year old that wants to live with dad is probably going to wind up in joint custody regardless of their wishes.