There’s no shame in getting (divorce) help

Posted on Aug 25, 2021 by Katie Carter

I saw an ad on Facebook today for an online therapist. The tagline was “There is no shame in getting help.” I knew, of course, that the ‘help’ referenced in the ad was for a therapist, but it struck me that ‘help’ should really be more broadly applied.

Why is it that when someone suggest that we get help, we know that they mean a therapist? Why is there no legal equivalent?

People are anxious to talk to an attorney. People wonder if they even need to. I’ve been asked what we’ll tell a woman that she can’t learn online. It’s a cheeky question, for sure, but it’s because this person genuinely didn’t know the answer. She wasn’t really trying to be snarky. She was probably thinking, “If it’s going to cost an arm and a leg, is an attorney even helpful?”

Fear of the cost involved keeps a lot of people who need help from reaching out. Fear of the answers being not ones they want to hear keep even more people from even asking the questions, which just seems crazy to me.

I think, if the ad were to apply to divorce lawyers, I would change it a bit. There’s definitely no shame in getting help. But it’s bigger than that. You’re not being dramatic to ask for help, either. Asking the questions is what’s going to help you set goals, prioritize a course of action, and – yes! – ultimately save money on your case.

‘Help’ comes in a lot of shapes and sizes, and you shouldn’t be afraid to avail yourself of the opportunities for help that exist to you. There are free and low cost ways to start getting divorce-related help, too, so you don’t have to start in on day 1 with an expensive consultation with a lawyer if you’re just not ready.

Start with a free divorce book download

We have two divorce books – one military divorce and one regular divorce – and a custody book, all written by our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody lawyers.

They’re available on our website as a completely free download, and they’ll help you begin to understand the divorce process and figure out what specific questions you need answered.

Consider attending a live monthly divorce seminar

After that, consider attending a monthly divorce seminar – taught by one of our licensed and experienced family law attorneys.

There’s a nominal fee involved, but it’s an opportunity to ask your questions live and get them answered, plus learn about the divorce process in Virginia.

Then, maybe, you’re ready for an initial consultation

Family law attorneys charge for an initial consultation. That’s probably not a surprise to you. And, most of the time, we do work on retainers, and bill hourly in increments of a tenth of an hour as work is done on a case.

You’ve probably heard that separation agreement retainers start at $2,500, and that contested divorce retainers generally fall somewhere between $5,000-10,000. Retainers aren’t flat fees – yadda, yadda, yadda.

But all that is really heavy on the ‘what you’ll pay’ part and not so heavy on the ‘what you’ll get’ part. It also doesn’t really look at alternatives to traditional attorney representation.

Divorce is expensive, but then again there are lots of valuable assets at stake.

I get it – it’s expensive. But, also, the assets we’re dividing are assets you’ve spent most of your adulthood accumulating.

A single mistake – just a single one – could be a mistake that ultimately costs you tens of thousands of dollars or more. If that sounds melodramatic, it isn’t. I’ve seen it happen. Mostly it happens when women sign separation agreements without even having an attorney look it over for them.

It wouldn’t take hiring an attorney – or paying a retainer – just to have an agreement reviewed and expensive mistakes pointed out. Even if you are legally entitled to receive something, you CAN waive it in a signed agreement! Once the agreement is signed, you’re stuck.

The cost of a consult – $285, at our office – is way less than waiving something that you would have been entitled to receive if you hadn’t signed an agreement. In many cases, the consult more than covers what it’s worth, and I don’t just mean in peace of mind. Whether you choose to draft your own agreement, work with a mediator, or try to reach an agreement in some other way, knowing what you’re entitled to can prevent you from making expensive mistakes.

You also don’t have to HIRE an attorney to consult with one. We work with lots of women who try to draft their own agreements or who work with mediators to get agreements in place, and we just charge them the cost of each hour we meet with them. We review documents, provide insight, and point out mistakes. You don’t necessarily have to hire someone to have a chance to talk things over with them.

Missing out on one retirement account, cutting your spousal support award short, making a mistake with custody and visitation (like giving up an asset in exchange for custody – ahh, the worst!) or whatever can have a significant cost to you. It’s worth a conversation with an attorney to ensure that you’re on the right track, and that you’re not setting yourself up for some unintentional side effects.

There’s no shame in getting help. There’s really nothing but opportunities to make your divorce a good one – and by good, I mean one that puts you in the best possible position to move forward after the final decree is entered by the judge.

There may well be shame in NOT getting help, but there’s no shame in asking questions, in putting your needs at the forefront, or in considering the advantages and disadvantages of any course of action. You don’t have to hire a lawyer in a traditional way – by paying a retainer or going to court – to get the benefit of lawyer knowledge.

The book and the seminar are great places to start, but you should also think of the consultation as an opportunity to make solid decisions that will put you in the best position possible to be successful, whether or not you actually hire the attorney with whom you meet.

For more information, or to schedule a consultation, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.