By Catherine Stuckart
If you are faced with divorce, realize right now that you may be living with the emotional and legal consequences of that for the rest of your life. This is a highly sensitive experience, and usually not a pleasant one, especially when you have children.
Perhaps you are the one seeking to start a divorce. You may have good reasons for your decision. Your position when children and property are involved is different depending on whether you are the husband or the wife. While gender roles are blurring with the movement of women into the job market, there still exist many differences.
If you are the husband, you still may be the primary breadwinner, or, at least, earn more than your wife. You may very likely feel you do not want to support your ex with your hard-earned money. You may also want an equal share in raising your children. You could be in for some unwelcome legal results.
If you are the wife, you may be stepping into a much lower financial lifestyle. You probably want to have the primary say in how your children are nurtured, especially very young children. There, again, you may not like the final result.
If you are the one being divorced, you will also be dealing with the emotions that come from feeling rejected in a major relationship. You may feel afraid of a suddenly uncertain future. If you are the wife, know that having a lawyer to represent you may be crucial to your well-being. Even if you cannot afford a lawyer, many times, the judge will award you legal fees to be paid by your ex-husband.
If you are the husband being divorced by your wife, you, too, need legal representation. You may be more able to afford an attorney than your wife. It is still going to be a financial burden, maybe for decades to come. You could become just a visitor in your children’s lives.
In any event, you will be faced with choosing an attorney. This may be your first encounter with the legal system. First of all, it is generally advisable for each spouse to have separate representation. I have seen a divorce turn out really badly for one spouse when the couple only hire one attorney.
Your comfort level with your lawyer will become more and more important as you get deeper into the divorce proceedings. Often, you will come to hate your attorney, especially if, like 65% of the American population, you retain the first lawyer you interview. You may not understand what is going on. You may want to find another lawyer to represent you. That can be an expensive switch.
If you want to find your attorney by yourself, there are many online resources. These range from directories that give you the names and contact information for attorneys in your area to lawyer websites that go into more detail. Offline resources include recommendations by family and friends. Many people turn to Bar Associations for referrals. Just be sure to select your lawyer with the care it-and you-deserve.
Comments, questions, and suggestions for future blog topics are welcome.