Getting Divorced? What Are You Going to Do?

Once you have decided to seek a divorce, choosing your lawyer will be the most important decision of your divorce process. Give this selection of your legal alter ego the attention it deserves by preparing for it. You don’t buy a car or even take a trip to the grocery store without first thinking about what you need. Rate the needs of your case and yourself before looking for a lawyer to meet them. You’ll do a better job of picking a lawyer if you have identified the traits that you are looking for.

Do you already know who is the "best" in town? Are you sure that he or she is available, and that you can afford their fees? Although your answers may be "yes," you will still benefit from a workup of your specific needs and concerns. By letting your attorney know what concerns you the most, he or she will get right to the heart of the matter. You’ll have answers and a plan much sooner than if you walk in without any preparation.

The following material will guide you in your development of a list of all your needs, with specific suggestions to help you make the evaluation. You’ll examine your circumstances and determine the degree of your own need in each potential problem category. Once you rate the expected difficulties and specific concerns in each category, you’ll have a preliminary evaluation of your own case.

A sample Case Evaluation is at the end of this chapter. There are fewer notes in the sample than one would expect to see after a complete review of a real life situation. Use this format to prepare your own Case Evaluation on letter size sheets of paper, or modify it to suit your own style. By leaving a wide left-hand margin for your conclusions, you’ll find highlights easily. I find that using the right-hand two-thirds of the page for notes, and also leaving a blank space before starting the next category to add notes later, seems to work well.

You’ve probably started your evaluation already, at least subconsciously. What are you the worried about right now? Will you lose the house? Who will get the children? How will you pay the bills? Write these concerns down, now, in the first category of your Case Evaluation. Committing these concerns to paper will free you to think more clearly about the following categories; you won’t be trying to remember to enter your existing concern in the right category. Keep your Case Evaluation in front of you to make notes and evaluations as we review each category and determine your primary needs.