Welcome – finally – to spring, or shall we say summer!
“Does having a first meeting with a divorce lawyer mean that your marriage is over ?” I will discuss today’s topic using the following hypothetical scenario:
The client – Joan – has delayed coming in to see the divorce lawyer – Liz Smith for – for precisely this reason. Joan is not ready yet to end the marriage. Also, Joan thinks she will have to retain Liz for the whole case if she decides to proceed. Both assumptions are incorrect, for the following reasons:
- The purpose of the initial consultation is to provide information to Joan about her various process options should she decide to separate. They include mediation, traditional negotiation, collaborative law or Court. Also, Joan will discuss her situation with Liz, and from that, Liz will advise Joan of her and her spouse’s respective rights and obligations should they separate, and also about child custody matters.
- The second purpose is for Joan to get a feel as to whether Liz could be the right lawyer for her, should Joan decide to proceed with a separation. ANSWER: There is no obligation for Joan to hire Liz after this meeting. However, the meeting does provide Joan with a good opportunity to see if Liz could be the right lawyer for her.
- Also, a concern that many people have which holds them back from setting up a first meeting is: “Will my spouse find out about this meeting?” ANSWER: NO. The initial consultation and all communications between Joan and Liz, are strictly confidential and will be so forever whether or not Joan sees Liz again. Therefore, Joan’s spouse Jim will never know about this meeting, unless of course Joan wants to tell him.
So the answer, Dear Readers, is a resounding No! The initial consultation does not mean the marriage is over! In fact, for many people, it’s a positive experience.
Of course, the decision to schedule the first meeting with a lawyer is a difficult one, and takes immense courage in the face of the stressful situation they are in.
However, I’m pleased to say that almost always in my 37 years of practice, I have found that once a person takes this initial step, her/his demeanour changes in the course of our meeting, from sad, fearful and as if under a dark cloud, to more confident and as if the cloud has lifted and the sun’s come out!
In our scenario, Joan leaves the meeting in a far better place than she was at the start. She now has the information she needs to be able to decide whether to stay in the marriage or leave, or she can keep her new information in her back pocket to take out perhaps at a later date. To use the old adage: “Knowledge is Power!”
In addition, as Joan has a good feeling about Liz, she has taken care of a key matter when one separates: the decision as to whom her lawyer will be.
Next topic: how does one choose the lawyer or mediator to see for the initial consultation? Stay tuned!
Please feel free to pass this article on to friends or colleagues who may be considering but fearful of taking this step.
And finally, just a gentle note that referrals for my family law or mediation services are much appreciated!
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, June, 2018