Do I need to talk to an attorney?

Posted on Apr 11, 2015 by Katie Carter

When your marriage starts to go downhill, it’s normal to have questions.  What should I do?  Where will I go?  How will we take care of the kids and pay the bills?  Does divorce really cost as much as people say that it does?  What happens after divorce? What about the house, the retirement accounts, and the cars?  And, beyond that—what about starting over?  Finding a new place to live?  Starting over—alone?

There are a lot of questions, and even fewer answers.  Sure, you can talk to your friends and family members (surely you know a couple of people who’ve been in your shoes before), but how accurate is their advice?  Even if their situation seems similar, something that may seem small to you (like living in a different state, or being separated by a year or two in time) can make a huge difference.  Of course, big things—like the personalities of your husbands and the attorneys they hire—can also have a dramatic impact on how your divorce progresses.  All the little differences add up, and the big differences can have such a big impact as to make otherwise seemingly similar divorces completely unrecognizable by comparison.

So, you’re probably wondering, “Do I need to talk to an attorney?”  If you’re like most people, you’re kind of hoping that it’s really not necessary.  After all, attorneys cost a lot of money.  Isn’t it possible just to resolve these issues yourself, without getting lawyers involved?

Still, at the same time, you want to make sure you’re getting the best information possible.  You don’t want to sell yourself short, and you are (more than) a little worried about what’s going to happen to you after divorce.  What about health insurance?  How will you afford the mortgage or rent on your own?  Not getting information could cause you to agree to something that you might not do if you had all the facts you needed at your disposal.

As you can probably imagine, there are certain situations when you have no choice but to talk to an attorney.  In other cases, though, you may be able to get away without talking to an attorney at all—or just meeting with one briefly.  It really depends on your specific situation, your husband, and what’s at stake.

How can I get some information about divorce, just to get me started?

Before you make any big decisions (like whether to hire an attorney and, if so, whom), you’re probably in the information-gathering stage.  That’s smart!  It’s a really big decision, and you probably don’t feel comfortable making any big decisions just yet—at least, not until you’ve had a chance to look over the available options, get some up to date, Virginia-specific information about divorce, and talk things over with a close friend or family member, too.

You have certainly come to the right place!  There are lots of resources out there to help make sure you get started on the right foot when it comes to your divorce.  Here’s a quick list of some of the free or low cost resources we have available to help Virginia women.

“What Every Virginia Woman Should Know About Divorce”

If you’re just starting out, our book “What Every Virginia Woman Should Know About Divorce,” is a great place to start.  It’s available for free on our website, and you can request a copy quickly and easily if you click here.

The book, written by Charlie Hofheimer, covers all sorts of must-have divorce related information, like

  • 20 things you should be doing if you want to prove that you’re living separate under the same roof;
  • The 13 critical factors used to determine spousal support
  • 3 types of property classification recognized by Virginia courts
  • 10 factors your judge must consider in a contested custody case
  • the formula to determine your percentage share of his retirement benefits
  • 38 Financial Records you should be aware of
  • 20 steps to prepare for divorce
  • 7 stages of divorce
  • 40 age appropriate books about divorce for children

Once you fill out the form to request your free copy, you’ll immediately get an email offering you the digital download of the e-book.  That way, you can download it, print it (if you like), and start reading immediately—no wait for it to be delivered.  You’ll also be joined in an information packed e-course filled with tons of information about the divorce process in Virginia, all created for you by Virginia licensed divorce attorneys.  If you live in our immediate area, you’ll also get another email, giving you the opportunity to provide a little more information (like your mailing address) so that we can send you a hard copy of our book.

“The Woman’s guide to Selecting an Outstanding Divorce and Custody Lawyer”

Our newest book (written by yours truly) is designed to help Virginia women figure out what their next steps should be.  If you’re facing a divorce, you’re probably wondering whether you should hire an attorney and, if so (maybe that’s a big “if,” depending on your situation), who.  My book helps answer those questions, and also includes information on:

  • the questions you should be asking an attorney in an initial interview
  • how attorneys are ranked (so you can tell the good from the bad)
  • your divorce options (including do it yourself, in case you decide NOT to hire an attorney at all!)
  • 6 easy ways to save money on your attorney’s fees, and
  • what your first steps should be.

Not only that, but we’ll also provide you with a scorecard that you can take with you to your consultations. That way, you can quickly and easily compare one attorney against another, and be sure that the decision you’re making about who to hire (if you decide to hire anyone at all) is the best one for you.

Like the divorce book, we’ll send it to you in electronic format right away.  If you live in our immediate area, you’ll be prompted to provide more information so that you can receive a hard copy, delivered directly to your door in a discrete package.  You’ll also start to receive other information by email, directly from me, with more tips and tricks for what you should be thinking about during this critical time.

“Second Saturday: What Every Virginia Woman Needs to Know About Divorce”

Our low cost monthly divorce seminars help teach Virginia women what they need to know about the divorce process, without hiring an attorney first.  Each seminar is taught by one of our licensed, experienced, Virginia divorce and custody attorneys—who is also on hand to answer your questions.  During the seminar, you’ll have the opportunity to speak with the attorney, as well as a therapist experienced in handling divorce-related issues. We’ll cover all sorts of important topics, including:

  • What the grounds of divorce in Virginia are
  • The difference between fault and no fault divorce
  • How child support, custody, and visitation are determined
  • How property is divided in Virginia
  • How to determine whether you’ll receive spousal support
  • The costs associated with divorce (including how to keep them down)
  • The different types of divorce available (including do it yourself options!)

Don’t go into your divorce unprepared; get the divorce facts you need now at Second Saturday.

Okay, I’ve got enough information to get started (or at least I know where to go to get it.)  Now what?

Now that you’ve started gathering information about the divorce process, you’re ready for more information about your next steps.  You have access to free books, and you’ve gotten information about our low cost monthly divorce seminar, where you can meet and ask questions directly to a licensed Virginia divorce and custody attorney.

But what next?  Is it time to talk to an attorney?


Traditionally, talking to an attorney was the first step, because it was really the only way to get any information about how to begin to move forward.  These days (at least at our firm), there are plenty of things you can do BEFORE talking to an attorney (like requesting a free book or attending our seminar).  Because there’s so much information available to you beforehand, you can decide to speak to an attorney after you have a chance to consider your options and come up with some preliminary plans for how you’d like to proceed.

So, how do you know whether it’s time to talk to an attorney?  Here’s a list of situations where, in all likelihood, it’s time to start talking with an attorney about a plan in your unique circumstances:

  • You have decided that, whatever shape your divorce takes, you’d like an attorney protecting you every step of the way.
  • Your husband is refusing to work with you.
  • Your husband doesn’t want the divorce at all.
  • Someone committed adultery.
  • You’re worried about custody.
  • You’ve been served with a complaint.
  • A draft separation agreement was mailed to you.
  • Your marriage is abusive, and you don’t know how to leave.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, and there are plenty of other reasons why you might be ready to talk to an attorney now.  As a general rule of thumb, I think it’s safe to say that if there’s something that’s bothering you and giving you the feeling that it might be a good idea to talk to someone about it, it’s probably a good idea to talk to someone about it.  After all, advice from an attorney is always a good thing to have.

When might I not need to talk to an attorney?

 In some situations, you might not need to talk to an attorney—particularly if you and your husband are mostly in agreement about (1) the marriage not working, (2) how the property should be divided, and (3) how custody and visitation, if you have children, should be handled.

In those cases, it’s possible to negotiate or mediate your divorce on your own, possibly without the help of an attorney.  If you’d like the help of an attorney, you can certainly still talk to one.  It’s never a bad idea to talk to an attorney, but I’ve given you some guidelines here for when it’s necessary.  I’ve also let you know about some free and low cost resources that are available to you, in the event that you decide you need a little more information before you make a big decision.

Need more help?  Call us at (757) 425-5200.  We do divorce every day, so we can help you plan out your next steps.