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Jennifer Brandt

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Your First Meeting With A Divorce Lawyer

Posted: 04/ 2/2012 11:50 am

I'm told that anticipating the first meeting with a prospective divorce lawyer ranks up there among the worst moments during a time filled with worst moments. Let me dispel some of your most common concerns.

First, please know that when you walk into my office, I realize that I am likely the first lawyer you have ever hired -- at least for such a personal matter. All those lawyer jokes and ugly stereotypes will probably run through your head along with some distress over the intimate details you are about to share with me. There's no need to be nervous. Nothing you are going to tell me will shock me. Admittedly, in close to 20 years of practice, people often tell me I could write a book, but that is not what we are here for. And, most important, what we discuss is confidential and I am not here to judge you.

I will focus on the issues at hand and walk you through the process. You will likely be focused on the emotions. The justice you want is akin to revenge -- you want your spouse to suffer, so your hurt feelings can be healed. Or you are overridden with guilt. You will pay anything to feel better -- to make up for what you did or didn't do during those years of marriage. My job, I will explain, is to make sure that you walk away with your fair share and to make sure you are satisfied. I will help you use the law and court system to your full advantage. I know how to make sure that happens.

At the first meeting, it's quite possible that you will not be ready to go through with this at all. You could just be gathering information -- which is really fine. You don't need to apologize. Divorce is a major decision, and I want you to be sure before you take the next step. You might not be happy about ending your marriage, but you at least need to be confident that is the right direction for you.

Moving on to the kids. They will be devastated, you will say. I can relate to your protectiveness and anger for I am a parent, too. I will tell you that the reality is that your kids will survive. They are probably more resilient than you. I know you want your kids to side with you. It is a natural reaction. But think about it from their perspective. The spouse you despise is their mom or dad. And for the most part, kids love and need both parents. They don't want to take sides. They want to have healthy, enriching, and emotionally secure relationships with both Mom and Dad. I will tell you how to minimize their involvement.

Next, you will probably want to test me to make sure that I am prepared to handle your case. Am I up to the challenge of dealing with your spouse, who is the most conniving, controlling, angry, manipulative, abusive (you name it) person in the world? You will tell me that I have never met anyone like him or her. I am not dismissing your concerns when I tell you that I am sure I can handle this person no matter how abhorrent his or her behavior. Unlike you, I do not have an emotionally charged history with your spouse. Thus, what he or she says or does cannot affect me. I have my job to do, and I will do it regardless of your spouse's personality or tactics.

Despite it all, you will begin to trust me. I will explain to you that we need to be on the same team. I mean it when I tell you that you have to be transparent with me or we cannot work together. You will start to open up and tell me about your own faults in the relationship. Maybe you feel you are to blame. I will not think any less of you.

I hope you will take the opportunity to ask me any question -- even those you may think are silly. I won't scoff at you. I want you to understand the process and make informed decisions. I am your advocate and the provider of advice and guidance, but you are the ultimate decision-maker. After all, it is your life and future that is at issue.

That's it. Not so bad, is it? I tell everyone who asks to do the following: Pick a lawyer who is a specialist in family law, who you can trust and in whom you can confide. Pick a lawyer whose personality makes you comfortable. You and your lawyer must be able to work as a team.

Getting a divorce is never a fun experience, but picking the right lawyer will help you cope with the process while getting a fair and equitable result.