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Deciding to Divorce

A major decision in your life is deciding if divorcing your spouse is a realistic option. Examine all your options before choosing to divorce.

One option for you to consider is to meet with a therapist, counselor or clergy person. Additionally, you can open lines of communication with your spouse concerning issues that are currently troubling you. Explore your current emotional and physical well being to determine that there are no other problems that are affecting your decision. Divorce should be the final solution to your marital problem.

Once You Decide to Divorce

If you decide that divorce is your realistic approach, after examining your options, consider taking the following steps before actually beginning the legal process:

1. Begin maintaining an accurate record of your personal expenses. Collect all of your bills from all of your expenditures, including food, gas, utilities, mortgage or rent payments, clothing, and any other expenses.

2. Start establishing credit in your own name with a major credit card company and/or gasoline company, if not already done.

3. Keep a confidential diary regarding your activities as well as your spouse's activities with your minor children in the event issues regarding custody of these children will be in question.

4. Begin saving money for yourself, since it might be necessary to have separate funds immediately available.

5. Start accumulating as much information as possible concerning your financial situation as well as your spouse's financial situation (mortgages, deeds, stock brokerage accounts, insurance policies, car documentation, loan applications, credit card agreements, pensions, retirement accounts, IRAs, mutual funds, wills, checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit, security boxes, real estate investments, tax returns for at least the previous five years, and all other personal and business-related financial documentation that you can obtain). Maintain the originals of all documents; if not possible, maintain copies. Retain all cancelled checks from your checking account which will be useful if you request support.

6. Take all cancelled checks and determine your monthly expenses for the last year or two. It will be helpful to your attorney at the initial consultation and throughout litigation if you use folders to organize all your income, expense, asset, and debt information.

Choosing the Right Attorney

One of the most crucial decisions you will be making is obtaining an attorney with whom you feel comfortable and who will help you to achieve your realistic goals.

How do you know the attorney you meet with is the right one for you?

1. Before the Interview: Contact the attorney and request an initial interview. Some attorneys offer a free consultation; however, for attorneys that concentrate in certain areas of law, it is customary that they charge a consultation fee. The initial investment you make to speak to an attorney is well worth your time and money. Even if you choose not to hire that attorney, you will be receiving valuable information concerning your legal problem.

2. Preparing for the Initial Interview: You should be prepared for this meeting. Prepare a series of questions for your prospective attorney to answer. During the meeting, you can also jot down notes. Do not expect all your questions to be answered immediately. Many questions might require investigation of facts and research of specific legal information. Bring financial information with you, if it is available.

3. Idealism: Be wary of an attorney who promises you everything you requested. Remember, if your legal problems involve a factual dispute, there are no guarantees.

4. Interview: Ask your attorney what areas of law he/she practices. Inquire if your attorney has handled matters similar to yours. Discuss with the attorney if he/she prefers to negotiate matters or vigorously litigate them. See if your matter will require filing a legal suit and then result in a trial. Ask your attorney if he/she has trial experience or whether your matter will be referred to another attorney if need be.

5. Fees: Discuss with your attorney his/her fees. You should feel comfortable with the attorney who represents you, and the attorney should also be familiar with current issues regarding family law such as child support guidelines, custody and parental relocation, alimony and pension issues, valuations, and tax impacts on settlement proposals.

Some methods you may use in selecting an attorney are:
1. Ask friends who have recently been through a divorce;

2. Contact your current lawyer and ask for three referrals;

3. Contact the County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service;

4. Ask organizations or unions if they have any attorneys that they can recommend;

5. Review the listing in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory for your area to see which lawyers concentrate in Marital and Family Law matters and how they are rated by other lawyers. This book is available at most courthouse and some public libraries. Many lawyers also have it in their office. Be sure to consult the current listing, since the listings and ratings change periodically. There is also on on-line version at www.laywers.com that will give the attorneys' practice areas and peer ratings for the highest-rated lawyers.

6. If you have access to the Internet, check for various other lawyer list sites. A web site specific to divorce is DivorceSource (www.divorcesource.com). You can obtain information about lawyers and mediators in your area who handle divorce cases through web sites.

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