When and Why Should I Consult a Divorce Attorney?

Moriarty & Associates on When and Why to Consult a Divorce AttorneyFor many people, planning a wedding consists of months of complicated choices about colors, and flowers, and it includes complex seating charts to ensure that your cousins who don’t speak are seated across the room from each other.

Ending that marriage requires more difficult decisions, many of which will directly impact the next few years of your life. Whether you’ve been married for one year or 30 years, chances are that you’ve become financially linked with your spouse in a number of ways. Dividing up your assets and debts could be a complicated process, and you should not shy away from consulting with a professional.

Becoming a two-household family is stressful, both emotionally and financially. Before making a major step toward legal separation or divorce, many people reach out to an attorney for a consultation to find out how the process works as well as what to expect. Just like meeting with your financial planner before making big decisions for your retirement or a major purchase, meeting with an attorney before you file for divorce or move into a separate household can help you make better informed decisions.

Many attorneys offer free consultations to discuss the divorce or separation process and explain any local regulations and rules. For example, in Snohomish County, the Court files an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order when an action for divorce or legal separation is filed. That order restrains the parties from engaging in large expenditures and from changing any insurance policies on the other party, such as medical or car insurance. Knowing these things ahead of filing can contribute to your planning process.

You most likely thought about getting married long before it happened. You thought about incomes, where you and your spouse would live, and what your monthly budget would be. The same considerations are a very real necessity when a household is being divided. Gathering information—whether you might be required to pay or be eligible to receive spousal maintenance (alimony), what a parenting plan looks like, or how debts and assets are divided—is a smart and proactive way to begin the process of divorce.

It is perfectly acceptable to tell an attorney that you simply want to find out about the process and that you are not ready to file. About 10% of my initial consultations are people whose marriage might be ending, and they want to know what that might look for them in terms of child custody and financial matters. Many of those clients wait months or even years before actually moving forward with the divorce. Generally, I find that those clients feel more calm and comfortable with the process because they have informed themselves ahead of time. And while divorce is very rarely enjoyable, even a basic understanding of what to expect can dramatically decrease the stress that an unfamiliar situation presents.


Attorney Jennifer R. Langbehn graduated Cum Laude from Seattle University School of Law in 2005. Jennifer specializes in all aspects of family law, including divorce, mediation, and custody, as well as adoptions, juvenile law, and personal injuries. Learn more.

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