Most family law cases do not start with a big “blow out” fight or someone filing a petition with the Court. Rather, majority of cases come to our firm with the same story: “I have thought about divorce for a long time and I don’t know what to do anymore.” For many, the idea of divorce is completely overwhelming, and an emotionally tumultuous and frightening process. A good divorce attorney will be able to not only explain the legal process and options to you, but make you feel heard and help you understand. You should leave the consult with a little more certainty and knowledge.
The first step in any consult is provide the attorney with your background. Though we are not your therapists, we understand that the initial consult (and indeed the entire process) is often rife with emotions. However, at this stage, attorneys are going to explain the various options to you based on your level of interest, the facts of the case, and how the other party is going to respond. During the consult we will discuss what divorce process makes sense. The parties can file with the Court, use mediation (both in and out of Court), using the collaborative process, or different levels of settlement negotiations. A great majority of people “don’t want to go to Court”, and while this is definitely possible, it requires mutual cooperation.
In addition, attorneys should be discussing the law and practical effects of divorce. These conversations would include explaining the division of the parties’ assets (and debts), retirement accounts, financial accounts, selling or financing a home, continuing health insurance, and much more. After explaining the law, there ought to be a discussion of potential property divisions, determining client goals, and explaining “best and worst case” scenarios.
Finally, the parties should also discuss parenting plans and necessary support (both child support and alimony). Attorneys will review what the parties have been doing with their children and why versus what they want to do going forward. There will also be a discuss of income and the calculation of support, and whether deviations are possible or warranted. Alimony is available in certain scenarios in New Hampshire, but ultimately there has to be 1) need and 2) ability to pay. Spouses will do well to ask their attorneys about the changes to the alimony laws that have occurred in recent years and how that will impact their divorce.
Overall, a consult may take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on the case. During that time, you should determine whether the attorney is a good fit for your goals, and what next steps you want to take in your divorce. The attorney should give you an honest review of the situation to best set your expectations. There are cases that are really straightforward, and others that are quite complex. In either scenario, we have found many people leave the consult feeling better about the divorce process once it is explained to them. A wave of truth does well to overcome a trickle of doubt. If you are considering filing for divorce, the family law attorneys at Parnell, Michels & McKay are experienced in providing both the necessary legal advice and practical guidance
If you are interested in learning more about how communication can impact parenting plans, divorce, child support, or any other legal worries, please contact us to learn more.