If you are on the receiving end of divorce news, things may look pretty overwhelming. The legal system is obviously expensive. Legal consequences of actions in a divorce may last a lifetime. And, divorce will be hard for you and your spouse.
If you haven't been thinking and planning for a divorce, suddenly confronting the situation can be frightening and confusing. You probably will have lots of questions. What should your first step be, what should you expect from a judge and what will it all cost? Those are all reasonable questions.
You have a choice about where you get information to answer your questions. You can talk to friends, you can look on the internet or you can go see a family lawyer. Not surprisingly, my suggestion is to see a family lawyer.
Your friends may have good intentions, but they don't usually know the law. You should remember what happened in their case may not apply in yours. The internet sometimes has good information, but often people start reading articles about divorce in California, New York, Florida or some other state. Laws vary from state to state, so what is good advice in California might not make any sense here in Texas.
So, where do you find anything encouraging?
1. You have choices in attorneys. There are many attorneys in Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Texas, who are very good at handling divorces. You can choose one in your price range and you can get one with experience appropriate to your case. Some cases don't need highly experienced and expensive attorneys. Others may need an attorney with special experience or training. In addition to focusing on experience and cost, you should meet with the attorney and decide whether the personal chemistry between the two of you works well. If it doesn't, check other attorneys until you feel really comfortable.
2. You can influence how much fighting there is. Each divorce is different. Some people go looking for a lawyer who will be a shark, rake the spouse over the coals or otherwise inflict pain on the other side. I don't believe that is productive in the long run, but there are lawyers around who will happily accommodate that request. But watch the fine print -- all that battling is very expensive. Don't assume your spouse will have to pay for everything.
You can choose to spend your money on lawyers or you can keep it peaceful and have more money to divide up. It's your choice.
3. You have a choice of processes. You can possibly work out an informal agreement with your spouse, you can go into traditional litigation or you can choose Collaborative divorce.
Informal negotiations are good if there's little to discuss.
Litigation is the most common process, but relies on standard guidelines for children's issues and it usually involves costly Discovery if there are significant assets. While most cases usually settle before trial, litigation is divisive, slow and expensive.
Collaborative divorce is my preference, but it won't work for everyone. Some people just insist on fighting and going to court. Collaborative is great where there are serious issues, including custody, sharing parenting time and responsibilities and dividing complex assets. For a lot of information about Collaborative Law, check out my other blog, the Texas Collaborative Law Blog.
What should you do? Go talk with attorneys and explain your financial situation and any concerns about kids or preferences or needs on property division. Be sure to talk with an attorney who is an experienced and trained Collaborative Law attorney so you can get accurate information on that option. Good luck!