Need help with divorce
February 5, 2009 9:21 AM   Subscribe

A question about lawyers, divorce, separation, timing, etc. etc... I would love a little advice, please.

It seems the marriage I am in is not working, and after counseling and years of unhappiness, I am taking the next step in order to move on. I have an appointment with a lawyer next week, but I'm a little clueless about what to expect. I'll bring important paperwork like tax returns and all that. Will he want me to file then? There are no kids, a house, and not much more. I have a place to live, but have not moved out yet. I would like to keep this civil. Can I ask the lawyer for a legal separation instead of filing for divorce right away? I would like to move out before filing for divorce, just to make things a little less uncomfortable. I have been advised to "lawyer up" first, but now that I have an appointment with one - I don't know what to do. I'm the wife... and although this will not sit well with my husband, I know that my leaving won't be completely unexpected. I don't have a lot of support yet because our mutual friends don't know, and my best friends live in another state. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I am mostly interested in the timing aspect of everything - when do I move out, when do I file, when do I tell him I'm moving out, etc. etc.... (and thanks, Mefi.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1/ Read this: amazon link
2/ If you can, use a mediator (see point #1).

Beyond that, a lot depends on your local state laws.
posted by devbrain at 9:35 AM on February 5, 2009

The details will really vary from state to state (how long you need to be separated, does legal separation exist, is there no-fault, etc).

For example, in Virginia, if you have a separation agreement, you can cut down on the waiting period before the divorce can go through.

As for the human side, when you tell him also depends on how acrimonious you think it will be. Do you feel like you need some protection (financial, property, emotional, physical) when you tell him--i.e. what might he do that you want to be prepared for?

It sucks. Good luck.
posted by Pax at 9:44 AM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not knowing the state you are in makes this difficult to answer.

General thoughts:

1. Lawyer will answer all your questions; that's the point of the meeting. Lawyers are also counselors, so he will offer you advice as to what your options are. You are expected to be confused and not know anything when you walk in.

2. There are lots of options, such as collaborative law divorce, that can resolve these things if they are uncomplicated.

3. Your first meeting does not mean you will file something that day. In fact, many people will have several meetings with an attorney and begin the process before telling the other.

No one here will be able to tell you more or offer better advice then the person you are meeting next week. That's their job and they have experience answering all these things you are worried about and considering.

Good luck.
posted by dios at 9:48 AM on February 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

Bring as much paperwork as you can, and organize it as best you can. Type up a list of topics you want to discuss (and make sure to type "ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATION" in the header.) In other words, do the upfront legwork and this will enable the lawyer to better assist you and reduce his billable hours.

All choices are yours. A good lawyer will not "want" you to do anything, but will explain your choices, and the consequences of each one. You will be making the decisions, and they will be educated decisions.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:12 AM on February 5, 2009

As a lawyer, I can give you a little non-legal advice. Be sure you know what you want. If you want to make sure it is amicable, let the lawyer know. My dad (an administrative judge) had to restrain his lawyer a bit. I'd list the three most important things to you in the divorce.

As for the legal side, let experienced counsel give you the ropes. Laws vary by state. Although I don't live there, I can give you a great referral if you live in Mass.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:23 AM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I was going through this I looked for an attorney who matched the tone I was taking with the divorce. I didn't want a bulldog. I wanted someone respectful and easy going who would bring all options back to me. I didn't want the attorney getting in a fight on my behalf.

So I would say if you want to be a bull dog, find a bull dog. If you want to keep it friendlier, find a more easy going attorney.
posted by Jandasmo at 10:36 AM on February 5, 2009

You don't need to file anything immediately. Even though you say your husband will not find this completely unexpected, there is an adjustment period. Let a few weeks go by to calm hurt feelings and then try for an agreed upon divorce (where you both agree about the disposal of assets) or a mediated divorce.

Since you own a house together you may need to go to a mediator. It's better if a third party sets out the parameters, gives the two of you your options, then you come back after a couple of weeks to make the final agreement. The house will have to be valued, either you sell it to a third party or one of you buys the other out.

Your lawyer will give you the low down for your state. Take it slow. There's a temptation to rush through anything this emotionally charged, but both you and your husband need time to process each step.

IANAL, but I deal with this as part of my professional life, and have been thru it, too. Give yourself ample time to adjust and remember things will get better.
posted by readery at 11:22 AM on February 5, 2009

Talk with a lawyer before doing anything!! In some states (IIRC), if you move out, then you have officially abandoned your spouse and you're going to get screwed in the divorce. I KNOW this is the case in my state when children are involved -- but am less sure about when they are not.

Talk to a lawyer.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:17 PM on February 5, 2009

Laws vary state by state, and country by country (in case you aren't in the USA).

Like the other people said, the lawyer you meet with will be able to address all your concerns, and can explain how things work in your state/country. Nobody can really offer more than that, because you didn't mention where you live, and there could be other issues that pertain to your situation. (like citizenship, for example)

Here is some very general non-legal advice based on what I've seen as a paralegal in a divorce law practice:
- Get to know your (and your spouse's) finances: all your bank/investment accounts, all your debt, all the bills you pay.
- Understand that once the "splitting-up" process begins, you cannot control your spouse's actions. Even if you want a low-key, amicable, collaborative/mediated divorce, you have no control over the type of divorce your spouse chooses to pursue.
- A corollary to the above: the type of divorce you end up with depends on the more difficult party.
- Meet with more than one attorney. Even just meeting with 2 will be helpful, so you can see what different styles/fits feel like.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 12:57 PM on February 5, 2009

You may be able to do your own divorce. Get bank statements, 401(k) statements, pensions, and any financial info. You may want it to be amicable, but he might become adversarial. Or not. So it's best to be prepared for the worst case. My ex- and I met with a mediator a couple times, and had another lawyer do the filing. Not too expensive, very calm.
posted by theora55 at 1:59 PM on February 5, 2009

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