What happens when I meet with a Va divorce lawyer?

Posted on May 27, 2022 by Katie Carter


Maybe I’m wrong – and feel free to correct me if I am – but I think that a lot of people are intimidated to talk to a lawyer. To have a real life lawyer sitting across a desk from you, listening to the details of your case, asking questions, and making judgments is sort of intimidating.

I often feel uncomfortable when I’m in a situation where I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen next or what questions might be asked of me. Without understanding the industry, too, it’s easy to not know what’s important, and to feel concerned that you’re going to waste time worrying about things that aren’t important.

In family law, too, I think that’s especially difficult because the things that you have to talk to the lawyer about – your marriage, your sex life, your finances, your children – are often hot button issues anyway. You don’t know how much personal detail is too much, but to you it’s all personal, anyway. How do you talk about your marriage falling apart, how to divide your children, how you’ll make ends meet afterwards? How do you deal with the emotions you’re feeling enough to even be prepossessed enough to remember to ask those questions in a consultation?

I never ask my prospective clients whether they’re nervous, but maybe I should. I do think that a lot of good can come from naming feelings and really acknowledging them. If I asked, I might know to be a little more careful. I’m always trying to walk a fine line between being very clear and concise but also kind and understanding. There’s a lot that goes into a marriage, and there’s a lot involved when one or both of the parties decide to end it. I’m not here to judge.

I often joke – but it’s true! – that it takes all types of people in the world, and that we see all of them in family law. Whatever’s happening to you, chances are pretty good that a regular divorce attorney in the normal course of business who has been practicing more than six months has seen a lot of crazy stuff. Maybe your case is crazy; I don’t know. But I sometimes think we sort of specialize in crazy and, anyway, it wouldn’t be the first time a case seemed nuts.

Sometimes the cases are really intense and really difficult; sometimes they’re not. I appreciate that, to you, it seems really intense and really difficult no matter what. And you’re not wrong to be nervous to end it, nervous to meet to talk about it, nervous to take the first step – whatever it is, you’re probably feeling nervous! I hope I can help you work through some of that today.

When you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s hard to begin to formulate questions. That’s why I often recommend that women start with requesting a free copy of our divorce book, or our military divorce book if they or their spouse are active duty or retired military service members, and our custody book if minor children are involved.

I also think it’s a good idea to consider attending our monthly divorce seminar. It’s not free, but once you’ve read the book and have a bit of an understanding, it’s a great way to begin to put the pieces together. Each seminar is taught live on Zoom by one of our attorneys, and there’s a feature to ask questions to the attorney in real time. So, whatever issues came up in the book, or whatever is going on in your case that you’re dying to ask about – well, you can!

I generally advise against spending too much time scouring the internet for details. What you’ll find may upset you, and, anyway, there’s a good chance it isn’t accurate. Family law in general is state-specific, so nothing that happened in another state is going to be relevant in Virginia. It often changes pretty frequently, too, so if you’re looking at something from too long ago, there’s a chance that it has evolved. I’d hesitate, too, before I listened to any non-attorneys about the law, because I often find that they misunderstand or misrepresent (though probably not intentionally) what happened, which can send you in an unnecessary and unproductive tailspin.

Get your information direct from the source – up to date, Virginia specific, and from a lawyer who practices family law exclusively in the commonwealth of Virginia.

You should also learn about how attorney’s fees work, what a retainer agreement is, how a retainer fee works, and the different types of divorce. Whether your divorce is handled in court or whether you negotiate an agreement, the final divorce process – either a trial or an uncontested divorce by affidavit – it can look really different. If you’re looking for pro bono resources, you’ll probably want to know that most family law attorneys don’t actually take on entire cases pro bono, but it’s possible that you could get some help from Legal Aid. If you’re afraid for your safety, you’ll want to know about protective orders, too. Living separate under the same roof is common, but you’ll want to make sure that you stop cohabitating – which, spoiler alert, is about a lot more than just whether the two of you still have sex. Speaking of sex, what about adultery, and other fault based grounds of divorce? Desertion? Abandonment? What if he just won’t help support you now that you’ve separated? Come to think of it, what is legal separation, anyway? Are YOU separated? How long do you have to separate before the divorce can be finalized?

There’s a lot to know, and a million little details that can take your case in as many different directions. Though I find that there are themes across different cases, there are also new details presented in almost every case which makes each its own unique landscape.

I can’t tell you, yet, exactly what to expect, but I can help point you in the right direction so that you can begin to gather details for yourself, and to get a sense of what’s important.

Maybe you’re ready to talk to a lawyer. Maybe you’re not. Either way, it’s fine! Lots of people take awhile to really decide to begin to move their case forward, but there’s no timeline – unless he’s already filed for divorce and you’ve been served.

I hope you’re more comfortable, or, at the very least, that you’ve begun to know some places where you can turn for more information. That’s what I’m here for, after all. If you’re ready to schedule an appointment, give us a call at 757-425-5200. I promise – it won’t be too scary.