Going through a divorce can be a persons single most difficult life experience. While the psychological and emotional aspects are devastating, the financial implications can be equally as traumatic. And for those who seek to address lifes challenges head on and gain the finality necessary to move forward, the process of divorcing can seem excruciatingly drawn out. The team that supports you during your divorce is extremely important in determining the outcome financially, and your ability to move forward emotionally.
For a divorce involving children or meaningful assets, everyone has some form of support by design or by default. By default I mean a cadre of well-intended friends and family, often an attorney known for many years, as well as a longtime CPA, and often a therapist. However, only rarely, perhaps through good intuition or by luck, is the team as robust as it should be. Based on many years of working with clients going through divorce, I believe that the single most important decision is the assembling a well-reasoned team of professionals, appropriate to your unique situation. With a thoughtfully selected team in place, you are more likely to survive this awful process intact, both financially and emotionally.
In addition to retaining an experienced matrimonial attorney, you should consider working with a financial advisor, who also is experienced with matrimonial matters; one with whom you likely will continue working after the final decree. Also, many find working with a therapist who is experienced with separating and divorcing individuals to be a highly desirable addition to the team.
Selecting an attorney who specializes in family law requires substantial legwork. Speaking with divorced friends is a good start, but just that, a start. I advise clients to interview at least three experienced attorneys, and not to make a selection until after youve given yourself some time to think through the interviews, then have a second interview with the leading candidate before committing. As the divorce process will take months or years, personal chemistry is crucial and obviously a requirement, but there are other important considerations as well. You should consider if the attorney typically handles matters of similar complexity to yours, as well as his or her ability to communicate to you the divorce process. You also should have an upfront discussion on the firms professional fee structure. There are many excellent articles and checklists online as to how to select and how to interview prospective attorneys.
As you go through the divorce process you will require support with current and future financial decisions. You will need to revisit your financial history to get a handle on your lifestyle expenses for court filings. You also will need financial assistance evaluating various settlement proposals and perhaps expert witness testimony; and, often you will need assistance structuring your financial life going forward. Again, I cannot overemphasize the importance of a deep reservoir of relevant experience for all members of your team.
With a team in place that is appropriate to your unique circumstances, the awful process of divorce can be somewhat less awful.