10 Things to Know Before You Choose Your Divorce Process

Written by Adrian Davis, J.D.

1. Ask yourself if your relationship is reparable. This is the first and most crucial question. It is important you share the answer with your attorney. Most attorneys believe in the institution of marriage and want your relationship to succeed. If you think there is a possibility of repairing your relationship, we often have resources and marital support recommendations. I commonly refer my clients to counselors, sex therapists, and co-parenting specialists. I want to help every client achieve the best outcome for their situation, whether that outcome is reconciliation or referring them to other attorneys who offer different approaches to divorce.

2. Consider speaking with multiple attorneys. I have also covered this point on my blog, in the short video presentation titled 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Hire a Divorce Attorney. It is common for attorneys to have differing perspectives. Meeting with multiple attorneys will provide you a variety of opinions on how you should proceed. It is important to gain as much knowledge as possible before deciding which divorce process or attorney best meets your unique needs. The more active you are in your selection process, the more you will feel in control of your separation.

3. Prepare for your initial consult. During the initial consult with potential clients, we will explore the various divorce processes. Many of my clients were not aware that there were so many options to choose from. Although it is not a requirement, it is beneficial to come to your consult prepared to actively engage in determining which divorce process is right for yourself and your spouse. Researching and understanding the various options prior to our consult will directly result in a stronger chance that the process and outcome of your separation will fall in alignment with the goals you have envisioned for yourself and your family.

4. Understand your options. There are a variety of processes available to you, including divorce mediation, collaborative divorce, litigation, arbitration, and divorce consulting. In our consult, we will discuss each process in detail. At the end of our discussion, you will understand the definition of each process, understand each processes pros and cons, and the financial costs. You should feel confident that the option you hope to pursue supports your priorities.

5. Choose the divorce process that best suits your values. Understandably, most people want a financially efficient process. I believe most clients do not have to sacrifice the right process for financial efficiency. During initial consults, we will work to ensure the costs of the divorce is not prioritized over long-term and life-altering issues. For example, you may want the ability to co-parent effectively in the future, to ensure a fair division of assets, or to keep the details of your divorce confidential. I commonly find we can identify a process which achieves both a fair outcome and a process that is financially reasonable.

6. Be realistic. While there are a number of processes offered, based upon your specific situation, your options may be limited. The reality is there is no one right process for everyone and the specifics for your situation may limit the processes available to you.

7. Recognize how you are feeling. It is not effective to make decisions when you are scared, frightened, sad, or angry. When we are overwhelmed and not considering the whole situation, we can all make poor emotional choices. I often advise my clients to take time to mull over their choices. You should not select your process when you are emotionally charged.

8. Share your priorities openly with your attorney. Understand that as divorce attorneys, we will understand that your priorities may change over time. There is no need to be concerned if you feel your current priorities are not rational. It is very common to experience conflicting desires. Once you are able to identify your initial priorities, it will be much easier for you to be active in selecting the divorce process that will work well for you and your spouse. Consult with an attorney who is open to finding the best process for you, rather than one who wants you to fit into the processes they offer.

9. Remember that your situation is unique. The experiences of your friends and family may differ from yours. Although it is often helpful to consult with your support network, every situation and every divorce is unique. Every divorce requires a process tailored to your family’s needs. Relatives, coworkers, and neighbors interjecting their opinions may leave you confused about which divorce process is right for you. Understand that the separation and divorce is yours, not theirs, so think through your options without the sway of others’ opinions before deciding on a process.

10. Do not rush into actions or decisions. In most situations, there is no reason for an attorney to use fear tactics or to push you into making a decision about your divorce process or your divorce attorney. While it may be difficult to feel confident about anything at this time, choose the process and the attorney that support your goals.