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Should you see an attorney before or after you ask for a divorce?

On Behalf of | Dec 27, 2022 | Family Law

Your heart and head are perfectly in alignment: You want a divorce. You just need to choose your timing carefully, so that you don’t feel (or look) like you’re entirely unfeeling and callous. You’ve decided to wait until the holiday season is over before you give your spouse the bad news.

Should you talk to an attorney before you make the big announcement? While every situation is unique, it’s usually the wisest move to get some legal guidance about your position and the mechanics of divorce before you tell your spouse.

Why people wait, and why it’s better not to do so

The pragmatic approach would always be to consult with an attorney before you seek a divorce, but a lot of people tell their spouse before they do so out of a misguided sense of loyalty. They feel guilty even telling their attorney about their plans before they tell their spouse.

In reality, however, that approach can backfire spectacularly. Here’s why:

  • You need to know about the divorce options available to you and understand how the process works in order to make educated choices about how to proceed.
  • You need to know how the courts view any issues that are important to you, such as child custody schedules, spousal support or the division of marital property. That can circumvent a lot of anxiety as you move forward.
  • You need to understand how different actions can affect your future. For example, if you agree to leave the family home, could that later affect your custody rights or the division of property? You won’t know until you discuss the details.
  • Your spouse could react very badly to your announcement. If so, that could plunge you into a very adversarial situation and make it harder for you to collect financial records and other documents you need.
  • Your spouse could use the time to try to dispose of assets or hide property that they don’t want to divide or lose in the divorce.

When you got married, you probably never pictured your spouse doing anything that would make you ever seek a divorce. By the same logic, you can really predict what they might do once they find out that you’re leaving. The wise move is to protect your future interests before you declare your intention to get a divorce.

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