During thirty-five years as a matrimonial lawyer, I’ve seen too many folks stumble over the same duet of obstacles: (1) lack of knowledge and (2) anxiety.
So where do you find the divorce advice and information that will allow you to calm down and think clearly?
Your first instinct might be to look for a lawyer. And that makes sense. But first, you need to make sure your emotions are not clouding your judgment or preventing you from absorbing information, and that you understand your own financial situation thoroughly. Other professionals—who charge less than lawyers—can help you get there.
If you’re skeptical about therapy and counseling, or if for some other reason you’ve never tried it, now’s the time. A family counselor can serve as a sounding board, offer perspective, and restore your emotional balance.
Or you can meet with a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA)or certified financial divorce practitioner (CFDP). CDFA/CFDPs can help you get a handle on your finances, prepare financial affidavits, explain things like tax deferral and retirement plans, and prepare projections of disposable income under various spousal support and child support scenarios. And they charge far less than attorneys.
Finally, see if there are any certified divorce coaches near you. During the traumatic early days of a marriage break-up, an experienced divorce coach can also provide counsel, while helping you to deal with your spouse, empathize with, and care for your kids, and learn some divorce basics including whether your case is right for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods such as mediation. And again, divorce coaches charge a whole lot less than lawyers.
These divorce professionals can also suggest sources of free, plain-language information about family law such as the websites of your state’s court system and state bar association. They might also recommend divorce books—maybe even mine, Divorce, Simply Stated (2nd ed.)!
And then… Embrace the Tiger!
Once you’re breathing freely again, are capable of making relatively unemotional judgments, can empathize with your children again and deal with your spouse, it’s time to think about ADR and to go about choosing a lawyer.