Many people facing difficult decisions have a hard time making the decision that they often know, down deep inside, that they need to make. Some people, at the beginning of a divorce or other family law issue, face that dilemma. Intellectually, they know what they need to do — get started. They also know the first step is to hire an attorney. But, for a variety of reasons, they may have a really difficult time taking that step.
The following are 10 common reasons that people will use to convince themselves, or to give permission to themselves, to delay hiring an attorney. They know that once the attorney is hired, the process will begin. It's sometimes hard to face the changes that will follow, so they take the “easy way out” and put off the decision. If you are in that limbo, check the list here to see if any apply to you as you mull over your options and decide whether to hire an attorney.
1. You have now calmed down after you had gotten very upset following a discussion/argument with your spouse. It is a good idea to make important decisions when you are calm and rational, instead of while you are in the heat of a battle. Maybe it would have been a bad idea to start a divorce. On the other hand, you can think through a decision and carefully weigh the issues, looking at the pros and cons of different courses of action. If you decide against legal action after careful thought after you have calmed down, that likely is the right decision for you.
2. It could be a situation where someone else was pushing you to get started and they are not around now. Everyone has well-meaning “advisors”, usually family and friends, who are willing to advise you and try to help you manage your life. Sometimes, without their encouragement and support, it's easy to change course and not do what you probably should be doing.
3. A very common affliction for people needing to make major decisions is procrastination. It seems like some people procrastinate more often than others, but everyone will put off difficult or momentous decisions at one time or another. Sometimes people get caught up in trying to gather all the information they can before deciding or they may come up with other reasons. Get help, if you need it, but make a decision.
4. Some aren't sure what they want to do, so they just want to think about it some more. That may be a form of procrastination, but it can be for other reasons. Leaving a marriage is an emotional decision as well as an rational decision. If a person has not reached the point of deciding that there is no hope for marriage, for example, it is very hard to take the step of hiring an attorney. This is a situation where the person may have to wait a little while and work through the emotions.
5. You can't get off work or you're sick or you have a sick child or other family member. Those are just excuses. You can figure out how to get off work. A sick person will get well or will improve to the point where you can take time away from them, or you can get someone to temporarily relieve you.
6. You don't want to be the one to file first. That is an important decision for some people. They are usually not aware of the fact that there are some advantages in court for being the one to file first. You should consult with an attorney and determine whether the advantages are important enough to you to go ahead and file.
7. You don't think you can get the money together to file. That can be a realistic consideration because attorneys can't work for free. On the other hand, different attorneys charge different retainers and hourly rates. Some may charge flat fees, although flat fees are not bargain rates or cheap — they are just predictable because the attorney sets the total fee at the outset. The attorney may look over your situation and figure out where your fees can come from. Judges in Tarrant County divorce cases are pretty good about equalizing the fees available to each party. Don't let your perceived lack of funds keep you from talking to attorneys.
8. Your spouse said s/he would try to work out things with you informally or would s/he would “change” and the problems would go away. Maybe those things will happen, and maybe not. It's still best to have an attorney working with you to protect your interests.
9. You're not sure your family will want you to do this or you don't want to look bad to them. That could happen, but your family isn't the one living with your spouse or experiencing the problems you are experiencing. Your family probably doesn't know all the nitty-gritty details and they don't have the same consequences you see.
10. You trust your spouse and believe s/he and her/his attorney won't take advantage of you. Sometimes that works out, but why risk it? Your spouse, and especially her/his attorney, will understand your desire to have someone on your side. If they act upset, chances are they were planning to take advantage of you.
The bottom line is that if you are facing legal action for a divorce or other family law matter, you should consult with an attorney right to learn about your legal rights and opportunities and to discuss possible legal strategies. It is much better to plan ahead and be prepared. I have had people come in a month, two months or six months before filing, and they leave feeling better because they understand what's going on now and what their options are. You should meet with an attorney whenever you are in a similar situation.
Hopefully, this will provide some encouragement so that people will feel strong enough to take the step that will help them in the long run.