If you’re thinking about divorce, you’re probably wondering what you should be doing to get started. It’s pretty emotional, pretty confusing, and you have a lot of decisions you make at the very beginning.
It always seems like you have to make the biggest decisions at the beginning of any new process, when you’re least able to make a solid, educated, informed decision. After all, there’s lots of information to know, especially when it comes to divorce. And it’s difficult to get information, too.
Sure, there’s lots of stuff available on the internet, but how do you know whether you can trust it? Who wrote it? Are they credible? Are they licensed in Virginia? Is it up to date? Because all of those things matter. Legal advice from a non-attorney is pretty unhelpful. Legal advice from an attorney who isn’t licensed in Virginia is pretty unhelpful, too. Divorce law is regulated by the state, so it can vary a lot from state to state. An attorney licensed in North Carolina, for example, knows very little about Virginia law, and vice versa. Legal advice from a Virginia licensed attorney that was written ten years, five years, or, in some situations, even as little as 6 months, can be totally out of date, and incapable of giving you any kind of valuable information.
So, how do you make any decisions? How do you know who to hire to be your divorce attorney? How do you know whether you’d like to move forward with a negotiated, mediated, or collaborative divorce? Would you prefer to go to court? What do you hope for as a result? Should you begin to prepare for a custody case? What happens if you want to relocate? Do you want to pursue a fault based or no fault divorce? There are a lot of questions.
First thing’s first. To determine what decisions you need to be making, you should start with the end in mind. Imagine where you want to be, and try to reverse engineer from there. What choices do you need to be making so that, on the day your final divorce decree is entered, you can give yourself the best new start possible?
Some choices you have to make yourself, and you’re going to have to do some real soul searching. No one can really make these decisions for you, but you can at least get started thinking about it now. To help, you can also attend one of our Second Saturday seminars.
Each seminar is taught by one of our licensed, experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys. They last 3 hours, and also include a segment with a trained mental health professional experienced in handling issues relating to divorce and custody. We offer them on the Second Saturday each month (hence the name) from 8:30 am until noon in two locations—one in Virginia Beach, and one in Newport News. The Virginia Beach seminar is offered at the Friends Meeting House, at 1537 Laskin Road, across from Hilltop East Shopping Center. The Newport News seminar is offered at the Hilton Garden Inn at 180 Regal Way, off of Victory Boulevard, right next to the Regal movie theater.
For those who aren’t able to attend our Saturday seminars, we also offer the seminar on the Third Tuesday of the month in Virginia Beach. It’s offered from 6:30 pm until 9:30pm at the Friends Meeting House.
They’re pretty comprehensive, too. We cover pretty much everything. We talk about fault and no fault divorce, including a detailed discussion of what each of the fault based grounds means, how you allege it, and how you prove it. We talk about when you’re separated, and how to do it while living in the same house. We cover the difference between an uncontested or contested no fault divorce, versus a fault-based contested divorce—including when you can file (do you have to wait a year, or can you file for divorce right away?), and what the process will look like. Depending on the type of divorce you pursue, the procedure can look a lot different. We talk about what it looks like if you’re litigating your divorce (like, how you can get temporary support and a prohibition against him having overnight guests during his time with the kids), how the discovery process works, and how property distribution, spousal support, child support, custody and visitation are handled. If yours is an uncontested divorce, we talk about how to negotiate a signed separation agreement—and what that means for your divorce.
We talk about lots of other things you need to know, too, like how to choose your divorce attorney, and how to save money while you work with one. (As you know, divorce can be pretty expensive.) We talk about the different types of divorce you can choose from, and how different each procedure looks. We talk about goals—even though we can’t set yours for you, we can help give you some general guidelines to help you make a good choice. We even talk to you about your options if you want to do it yourself, without hiring an attorney.
Throughout the entire seminar, you’re welcome to ask your questions to the attorney (though we do ask that you keep your questions fairly general, because it’s not a confidential forum). Since all the attorneys who teach the seminar are licensed, experienced attorneys, you can be sure that the information you’re getting is accurate, up to date, Virginia-specific, and reliable.
It’s a great way to get solid advice easily, without paying the fee to have an initial consultation with an attorney. (Unlike most personal injury attorneys, almost all reasonably experienced family law attorneys do charge fees for an initial consultation.) When you’ve just begun the process, you just want to get information, so that you’re a little more sure of yourself before you start making major decisions. And you’re really wise to feel that way! After all, when we’re angry, stressed, or overwhelmed, we don’t really make the best choices. When you add on top of that the fact that you’re trying to make decisions about a complicated process that can have a very long lasting impact on your life, it’s even more difficult. You need to be educated and informed before you make any big decisions, and it’s hard to feel like you’re being educated when you meet with an attorney and you only have thirty minutes to an hour to ask all the questions you have about your case specifically and the process generally—not to mention the questions you’d like to ask the attorney about how qualified and experienced she is. It’s a lot!
That’s why Second Saturday is such a great place to start. You can get that foundational information and start to think about how you plan to move your case forward, without having to worry about making any other decisions. You can go home and mull it over a little bit. And, if you end up leaving with more questions (or realizing after you left that there was something huge that you meant to ask but forgot), you can attend the seminar again and again—just bring back the workbook we provide you, because that’s your ticket for re-admission.
We offer our seminars as inexpensively as we can, because we know that the information is important and we want to make sure that as many women as possible are able to attend. The cost to attend the seminar is $50, but you can also pre-register ahead of time at www.monthlydivorceseminars.com for $40, if you prefer. All the money we earn is re-invested back into the program, to help keep us able to provide this information to Virginia women.
Can’t afford to attend? We know that finances are tricky for many people facing divorce. We work closely with local mental health professionals and victim advocates, and are willing to take fee waiver requests with a referral from your counselor or advocate. Just have them give us a call on your behalf, and we’ll arrange it. Unfortunately, at this time, we can’t take fee waiver requests without a referral. We do, however, get requests from therapists in private practice, counselors at the Fleet and Family Support Centers, Legal Aid, family advocacy groups, domestic violence shelters (like the Samaritan House and the YWCA) and others. If your counselor or advocate hasn’t worked with us before, they can still give us a call—we’re happy to talk to them.
If you’re a Virginia woman going through divorce, you should take the time to get as prepared as possible for what you’re about to face. The more you know, the more empowered you’ll be—and the better able you’ll be to take charge of the situation, and make specific choices that are carefully calculated to give you the type of new start you’ve imagined for yourself.
We can help you there. We’d love to see you at either our Second Saturday or Third Tuesday seminars. You can be sure that, when you leave, you’ll know more about divorce than most people—and certainly more than your husband! For more information, or to find out when the next seminar will be, please feel free to give our office a call at (757) 785-9761, or visit our website at www.monthlydivorceseminars.com.