Understand the Personal Objectives Involved in Your Divorce

Now, let’s address your wish list. Don’t limit yourself to simply a favorable resolution of your initial list of worries and concerns. Think affirmatively and positively about goals that you believe you have any chance of achieving. When in doubt, add it to the listóyouíll never get what you donít ask for. This is a time to realistically address all your prospects. No one’s going to read your mind, nor should you expect your attorney to get everything for you.

It’s important to discuss these goals with an attorney before you hire the attorney. Find out if he or she is willing to pursue specific items on your list. For example, you may want to get the house and have your spouse keep the business. You may want to share joint custody of the children, or you may think joint custody stinks and want sole custody. Your greatest concern may be security for your retirement. You may feel strongly that certain property is your separate property. You may be right! Certain assets might be important to you for personal reasons.

You’ll use this list first to size up prospective attorneys based upon their answers. You are likely to be encouraged by some responses and disappointed with the substance of others. Itís much better to hear at the outset a frank and reasoned explanation of why some of your objectives are unrealistic than to launch an expensive legal proceeding with little or no chance of eventual success.

This list is also your initial plan of strategy. When you list your goals, note in the margin whether or not your spouse is likely to fight you for them.

Review your list of needs, concerns and goals. Restate the points as specifically as possible. Reorganize them, if you see the hint of certain patterns, for discussion with your prospective attorney to see how he or she responds.

Now, add to your list your concerns about things that you don’t understand. This could be the timing and procedure of the divorce action. Pension plans, social security provisions or responsibility for expenses while you’re separated from your spouse are also common and important worries.

To this point, we have proceeded as if you were the only one involved. Your spouse will probably add issues that will increase the litigation expense. For example, Gabe had told my client Fran that she never would get a penny of "his" retirement after thirty-plus years of marriage. If your spouse is going to fight about something, add it to your list so that you can inform your prospective attorney.