Firstly, I want to wish you all a Healthy and Happy New Year! With the New Year often come resolutions – to be healthier, to be happier, to work less, to work more, and so on.
The resolution to be happier may include that you’ve reached an awareness that your marriage is not working and that you, or both you and your spouse, are unhappy. You don’t know what to do, you are stressed out, anxious, not even sure you want to separate, worried that there’s lots that you may lose and lots at stake, including the security and well-being of your children and including what will happen to your assets, especially your home.
Your friends – and perhaps your therapist if you have one – may have suggested that you see a lawyer. You are very worried about doing this as you feel that taking this step will mean that you have made the final decision to end your marriage and that there’s no turning back. This may feel like you would be “putting the nail on the coffin!”
In fact, an initial meeting with a lawyer is a positive step, and here’s why:
- The lawyer (he or she; I will use she) will ask you your objectives, and where you feel you are at on the continuum of decision making – undecided, ambivalent or decided.
- She will review with you in detail the facts of your situation. Your meeting will be strictly confidential. In fact, your spouse will never know about it if you don’t wish to tell him or her.
- She will tell you that you have many options, called “process options,” should you decide to separate. They include using mediation, arbitration, traditional negotiation, collaborative practice or court. See “The Six Process Options” on my website and also my article: “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
- The lawyer will work with you to help you decide which process option would be best for you and your children.
- She will discuss with you various possible strategies moving forward, for example, the different ways your spouse can be presented with your decision. She will help you choose the optimal way for you and your family.
- The lawyer will provide you with legal advice – based on your objectives, the facts and your situation – regarding child custody and support, spousal support and what would happen to your assets. This will include of course a discussion regarding your matrimonial home, and how that would be dealt with at law.
- Conclusion: You will leave your lawyer’s office holding the most important asset you need at this point: Knowledge! Equipped with this new information, you will find yourself in a far better position than before your visit. You will be able to reflect in a calmer manner and decide on what your next steps will be, whether to remain in the marriage but with a better knowledge of your/ your spouse’s respective rights and obligations should you separate, or whether to start preparing the steps to leave your marriage.
I’ve seen clients leave our initial consultation with their heads held higher and often smiling. This is because they are now more focused and have a much better understanding of their situation and where to go, or not go, from here.
In fact, it often seems that clients leave the first meeting a head taller! This is because, to use the wise old adage: Knowledge is Power! I’ve met with people who’ve called me a few days later ready to start the process to separate, people who have kept my card and called me a year or even five years later, and people I don’t hear from again.
So, in conclusion dear readers, for those of you or your friends who are in this situation, I urge you to take the positive step of meeting with a lawyer.
Next article: Meeting with the lawyer: How do you decide who you will meet with? Stay tuned…!
Until next time!
Anne Freed holds a BA (Honours Sociology), JD (Juris Doctor, Law Degree), Master of Laws Degree (LL.M.) in Alternative Dispute Resolution, Advanced Training in Mediation, Arbitration and Collaborative Practice, Certification in Collaborative Practice
© Anne E. Freed, January 2018