It’s not surprising that professionals who charge $200 - $750 an hour induce a state of wariness in their potential clients. Add to that the idea that every phone call or e-mail starts the meter ticking, the retainer dwindling, and you can understand why divorcing couples might balk at the thought of even hiring an attorney at all.
First note – attorneys are indispensable in a divorce proceeding. Even if you and your spouse agree on how to separate your assets, debts, and co-parenting you need to be sure your divorce agreement accomplishes those goals. As Knoxville attorney Natalie LeVasseur explains, “You and your spouse are moving from point A to B, and it’s great that you both agree on what point B should look like, but now you need an experienced attorney to make sure your divorce agreement gets you to point B.”
The legal system is not user friendly and you will need a good attorney to help you navigate the system – BUT there are certainly steps you can take to reduce the amount of time your attorney needs to spend on your case.
2. If you have children register and take one of the approved Parenting Classes. A provider list is available on the “For Parents” page of DivorceBetterKnoxville.com
3. Print out Tennessee’s standard Parenting Plan form and start thinking about the items included in that document. If possible discuss your ideas with your spouse or submit proposals to each other. A link to this form is also on the “For Parents” page.
Obviously the parenting plan will stir up strong emotions. The more time you each have to let the reality of your future divided family sink in, the greater liklihood you can come together to make the decisions necessary for finalizing the divorce. Getting yourself to a point where you can face those hard decisions will reduce the amount of time spent discussing possible scenarios with your attorney or engaging in battle over small details in a parenting plan.
4. Proceed toward divorce in a manner that will reduce conflict from the beginning, not create it. Any additional rifts that grow between you and your spouse will increase the billable hours your attorney must spend dealing with that conflict.
Let me explain what I’m getting at.
Any online search for divorce advice will bring you to websites with checklists about first steps you can take. Most direct women to open a separate bank account and squirrel money away, copy all financial records and bills, even have mail sent to a new P.O. box in a different town. These advice pages assure you its ok to undertake such sneaky tactics because your spouse is most certainly doing the same thing. But how would you feel if one day your spouse said not only, “Honey, I want a divorce” but also, “oh, and I’ve moved money to a separate secret account, provided copies of all our financial records to my attorney, and signed a lease on an apartment. You have a lot of catching up to do so get cracking”?
Clearly every Knoxville divorce is unique and there may be situations (abusive relationships for example) where you need to be more cautious with your divorce prep activities. You also don’t want your attempts at openness and honesty to be hurtful. At any point in time, couples may be at different places emotionally. While you may be blazing through your internet research and willing to share what you learn, your spouse may still be reeling from the fact that you are even thinking about divorce. So while honesty and transparency can reduce conflict, just be sensitive to whether your spouse is at a point where he or she can be receptive to sharing information.
The fact is many couples do arrive at a place where they agree divorce is inevitable. Your behavior in the early stages of this process can help you get there and reduce conflict along the way. And despite the alarmist attitude of many divorce websites, not every couple has to handle their personal journey with distrust and suspicion. There truly can be a better way.