3 Reasons It’s a Bad Idea to Wait Too Long to Talk to a Divorce Lawyer
How exactly can that happen?
1. Failure to plan will cause unnecessary worry and stress.
Divorce can be stressful enough. Pretending it’s not happening can be even worse! You have a lot of questions you need answered. Who gets what? Is there alimony or child support? How will parenting time work? Different people - with the best intentions - are telling you different things about what they think might happen. You don’t know what to believe and you really don’t know what to expect. That causes stress. How can you alleviate some of that?
Sitting down with a quality divorce lawyer and talking about what’s happening, learning about how divorces work, gathering information about the key issues in your case, and developing a plan can significantly reduce your anxiety. For better or worse, knowing what the road ahead looks like will put you more at ease and help you focus on doing the things that will increase your chances of getting the best possible result in your case.
It may feel better short-term to put this on the back burner or not to have to think about it at all. But it’s almost impossible to remove thoughts of divorce from your head completely - so even if you’re trying to forget about them, the thoughts and pressure are looming like a big black cloud over your head. And worse, the stress returns with a vengeance when you eventually have to face it.
Your divorce is happening whether you’re educated and prepared for it or not, so you you might as well get some answers and some direction, and as a considerable bonus, decrease your stress in the process.
2. You can get stuck with a terrible first court order.
If I got a nickel for every time someone calls our firm and in substance says, “I went to court recently and the judge ordered (insert terrible order). This is ridiculous, and it’s not fair! Can you help me?”
Unfortunately, the answer is usually no. Once the damage is done, it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to repair.
Many times, when a divorce is filed, a motion for temporary orders is also filed. This results in a hearing usually within a few weeks to address key issues such as financial responsibilities and parenting time if children are involved.
The first order generally serves as a precedent for the rest of the case. It can be changed by subsequent orders, but in some cases, it’s not easy to accomplish that. Judges tend to want to keep things the same unless there’s been a material change in circumstances.
Unfortunately, lack of preparation and poor presentation at the first hearing is not a good reason to change an order.
Divorce involves key financial issues such as division of assets, alimony, and child support and custody if children are involved. These are issues that can have a substantial impact on the rest of your life. “Hoping things will work out” is not a strategy. It’s avoidance. And avoidance leads to poor choices, which leads to court orders you’re stuck with for years to come or even forever.
If you go to an initial hearing unprepared, be prepared for a poor result - one you may have to live with for a long time.
3. You might be making mistakes that will haunt you in your divorce case.
When divorce is imminent, there are certain things you should be doing, and certain things you should not be doing. What are those things? It depends on your circumstances.
This is the problem with “winging it” or operating on the advice of that trusted friend who got divorced herself recently and therefore knows everything about divorce. Her case was just like yours because she was also staying at the house when they split, she also has kids, her husband earned about the same as yours, etc.
But the reality is: divorce issues are very fact-specific, so don’t rely on the advice of “experienced” laypeople. T
For example, you may be putting yourself in an unfavorable financial arrangement with your spouse. Another example is that the proposed parenting plan is not a favorable one long-term for you or the children. But you’re thinking: “Well, no big deal, if it doesn’t work out, we can change it.” And you feel like you should compromise some now so this goes amicably.
Maybe you’re making the right decision. But, maybe you’re not.
The problem with making these decisions on your own and without professional guidance is that your activity and arrangements leading up to the first divorce hearing are taken into consideration by the judge. One of the first questions a judge will ask is “What have the parties been doing?” Therefore, there’s a significant risk that your mistakes will hurt you going forward.
Ok, procrastinating is a bad idea. Then what should I do?
Waiting too long for advice on your case can cost you dearly. So as soon as you believe divorce is on the horizon, it’s time to take action.
A good place to start is to take advantage of the wealth of information on the web. Simply googling your questions will land you a substantial amount of information. However, choose your sources wisely. Be aware that anyone can put information on the web. Stick to government websites and websites of reputable family law attorneys. How do you know if they’re reputable? Read their websites, their Avvo profiles, look for client reviews. Look for indications that the attorney focuses on family law.
Research in advance puts you in a better position to ask a lawyer good questions and focus on what’s important.
After your crash course in divorce, you should seriously consider meeting with a divorce lawyer to educate yourself further and formulate a plan. The consequences of becoming involved in a divorce without a solid understanding of how it works and a plan on how to handle the key issues is a recipe for disaster.
Of course, there are divorces that are very straightforward: very few assets, no children, etc. And in those cases, there’s less urgency. But the more you have on the line in terms of assets, potential support obligations for either child support or spousal support, or parenting time, the more sense it makes to seek advice quickly.