Divorce Triage

Posted on Aug 7, 2015 by Katie Carter

Most people who come in to our office really just want to be told what they should do next. Their marriage isn’t going very well, and they’re afraid it’s over. Some are sad it’s over; others are just worried about what the next steps will be. They don’t really know what to expect, and they’ve heard horror stories about the divorce process.
They’re also afraid about meeting with an attorney. I can understand that. It’s a really big step, and it feels a bit like opening Pandora’s Box. Are you doing something you can’t take back later? Does it mean you’re absolutely, positively going to get a divorce? Will you find out that things are a million times worse than you thought they’d be? It’s a bit like avoiding the doctor because WebMD tells you that, based on your symptoms, you might have cancer.
The Internet is a great resource, as we all know. But it’s also a minefield, because it’s full of stuff that isn’t Virginia-specific, isn’t all that similar to your situation, and wasn’t written by credible sources with a clear, up-to-date understanding of the law. You can find out just enough to be dangerous—or to scare yourself to the point that you won’t sleep for a week.
If you’re wondering where to start, you’re not alone. In fact, that’s why so many people come in for consultations! It’s the best way to get up-to-date, Virginia-specific information that’s unique to your specific case (trust me, those little details matter!), so that you can begin to decide what your next steps should be.
It’s NOT like opening Pandora’s Box. Not at all. In fact, our attorneys are trained not to push you in any direction, but to help you sort through the information, get the facts, and figure out what you want to do. In our office, no one will pressure you to move forward with your case until you decide that you’re ready. There’s no pressure; we’re not used car salesmen!
We’ll never pressure you. That’s not why we’re there. We’re there to help make sure you get the information you need to make the decisions you need to make. Whether you decide to separate, move forward with divorce, pursue custody, request spousal support, or even reconcile—it’s up to you. You’re in the driver’s seat, and we just want to make sure that your questions get answered.

How will you help me figure out what to do?

Each divorce is different, because each couple has a different background. When you schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, you’ll meet with an attorney who will listen to your story and help figure out what the biggest issues are.
Keep in mind: you may be surprised! A lot of women come in, thinking that there’s this big issue (like, husband’s retirement), only to find out that, contrary to what their husband has been telling them (probably something along the lines of, “The law says you won’t get anything,”), they’re guaranteed their marital share of the retirement. Not only is that not an issue at all, it’s guaranteed, unless you sign away your right to receive it somehow. Issue? Not even close.
Other things that you might not suspect may turn into the bigger issues in your case. It can be hard for someone with no experience in divorce to determine what the real issues are. That’s okay; it’s not a big deal. Of course you don’t know! Again—that’s what we’re here for, so that you know someone is in your corner, helping to make sure you don’t miss anything important (or waste time worrying about something that will be quickly and easily resolved).

It’s probably a good idea to think of our initial consultations as triage—for divorce.

So, what will happen in my initial consultation?

Depending on what’s happening in your situation, your attorney will work with you to figure out what the most appropriate course of action is—whether or not you decide to hire.
An initial consultation is just a conversation. We can meet with you in person, at one of our offices, or by phone or Skype, if you don’t live in the area or prefer not to come in person for whatever reason. We have three local offices, in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Newport News.
We’ll tell you all about your options—as far as separation and divorce go, but also as far as what your other options are. Whether you just want more information, want to learn how to prepare to do things on your own, or want to hire an attorney for your contested or uncontested case, we can help arm you with the information you need to make the types of decisions you’ll need to make in the coming days, weeks, and months.

What are my options if I decide I want to hire an attorney?

If you’re thinking that you’d like to hire an attorney, that’s great. Obviously, in many cases, hiring an attorney is the best possible choice, because an attorney can help you avoid common traps and pitfalls, negotiate agreements that promote your best case scenario, and navigate carefully through a tricky web of state and local rules. The law is complicated and constantly changing, so having someone on your side who can help make sure you get everything you deserve as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Your attorney will talk to you about how the law works, how much different things typically cost, and what kind of results you can usually expect, depending on your case and the options you choose. It’s pretty easy. Based on the information you provide, your attorney will give you a custom tailored plan of action, and you can choose from the available options. Usually, though, there really aren’t a lot of choices to make; one choice in particular starts to stand out.

What about if I don’t want to hire an attorney—or I’m just not ready yet?

If you don’t want to hire an attorney at all, or just aren’t sure yet whether you’re going to go down that path in the future, there’s no need to rush. Take your time to gather information and make sure you’re as prepared as possible for whatever comes your way.
Start by attending Second Saturday, our monthly seminar on divorce. It covers all sorts of frequently asked questions, including how property is divided, how custody is handled, what is involved in an award of spousal support, how child support is calculated, when you qualify as legally separated, what the different types of divorce are, and more. It’s an interactive, one and a half hour long seminar taught by a licensed, experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorney. You’re encouraged to ask questions, take notes, and even sign up afterwards for a free attorney-created e-course on divorce in Virginia. For more information or to register to attend, click here.
You’ve got lots of options! We’re here to help you figure out what course of action will likely work best for you, so give us a call at (757) 425-5200.