If you’re on the brink of divorce, particularly if you’ve recently discovered your spouse has lied about finances, been unfaithful, has an addiction, has become physically or emotionally abusive, or you've received news that's caused you to leave your marriage abruptly, you’re likely on the hunt for a divorce lawyer. And justifiably so. No one, including you, should remain in a union where you’re badly treated.
But what about those cases where you’re pondering whether or not to leave but aren't yet sure that a divorce is what you want. Likely you begin by talking to a few close family members and friends, each of whom offers you their opinion. Stay. Go. Stick it out a little longer. You may even get the names of a few lawyers just to discuss your options. “Just,” you say.
Seeing a lawyer when feeling unsure that a divorce is your next step is commendable. A divorce, no matter how amicable, will change your life and your children’s lives forever. Your extended family, friends, and social circle will all be in flux. Your financial picture will change. In many cases, so too where you live. The changes, in other words, are extensive. Therefore, your decision to divorce shouldn’t be a rash one.
Occasionally, you may come across a divorce lawyer who’s a little too gung-ho about getting the ball rolling. That's the lawyer who’ll listen to your story and then insist divorce is the only way out for you. The lawyer who’s insistent that a divorce is imminent also tends to be the one who suggests tactics that create hostility even when there was none before. Tactics such as these can include getting injunctions, making false accusations, even having your spouse arrested.
Of course, in specific situations using any of these more drastic measures may be justified, especially in cases where there’s abuse. In many others, however, such approaches are merely ways for an attorney who's less than reputable to extend the life of the divorce process and, accordingly, his or her billable hours. None of that will be good for your bank account, emotional well-being, or that of your family. Not to mention the post-divorce relationship you have with your spouse should you continue co-parenting once your divorce is over.
A good divorce lawyer should respect the value of marriage. How else can your attorney appreciate the gravity of a divorce? A client that visits a divorce lawyer seeking to understand his or her individual situation and what life may look like if they pursue a divorce should not be encouraged in their choice either way. Instead, that divorce lawyer should facilitate the client as best as possible to make an informed decision. Why? Divorce is not always the answer, or the answer right now. After weighing his or her options, only the client will know when it is. In other words, it’s in the client’s best interest to remain in control of the process, starting with the decision to enter into it. It may mean less money for the divorce lawyer, but an ethical professional’s interests will go far beyond that.
Bottom line, if a divorce lawyer is urging you to pull the trigger and commence divorce proceedings, don’t walk to the nearest exist. Run. Chances are you didn’t enter into your marriage lightly. Barring situations of abuse, the same may hold true when you’re choosing to end it. There’s nothing wrong with thinking things through. It’s the lawyer who doesn’t allow you to that shouldn’t be given another thought.
Joshua Stern is a family law attorney and owner of the Law Offices of Joshua E. Stern. For more information about these and other divorce-related issues, visit www.JESFamilyLaw.com, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.