Step 4

BUILD YOUR TEAM

MEDIATORS

Hiring a mediator trained in domestic and family law is highly recommended.  Although many mediators are proficient in helping couples communicate effectively, communication without substantive progress toward resolving divorce-specific issues is not a good use of your time and money.  An experienced divorce mediator can help spouses come up with creative solutions to common divorce roadblocks because they have dealt with them (or something very similar) before.

It is alway a good idea to talk to a few mediators before you decide on who you will work with on your divorce.  Both parties must be comfortable with the mediator.  If one spouse feels pressured or pushed into hiring someone a feeling of resentment can hinder the mediation process.

LAWYERS

Lawyers are advocates and most take that responsibility very seriously.  They are trained to advocate for their client’s best interests.  It is up to the client, however, to communicate effectively their priorities.  Is working toward compromise important?  Is litigating your goal? Is reducing friction and acrimony for the benefit of your children a high priority?  As a client you must communicate your goals to your lawyer.  You and your lawyer should be able to work together to balance your goals for divorce and your lawyer’s professional advice about realistic outcomes and strategy.

Any lawyer hired by either spouse should understand and support their client’s commitment to a mediated or negotiated divorce.  They should also be responsive, professional, and cost-sensitive.

The ethics rules which Georgia lawyers must follow prohibit one lawyer from representing both parties to a divorce.  A good lawyer will follow this rule and will also be unwilling to communicate about the divorce with the non-client spouse.

There are good reasons for this.  The most important consideration for both the lawyer and the client spouse is the creation and protection of the attorney-client relationship and the privilege that comes with it.  An attorney-client relationship can be established under a variety of circumstances and a good lawyer will be scrupulous about eliminating any chance that the non-client spouse believes that he or she is that lawyer’s client.

Anything that the client spouse tells his or her lawyer is subject to the attorney-client privilege.  This generally means that the lawyer is prohibited from disclosing to anyone the information provided by the client.  Contact with the non-client spouse increases the chance that an attorney could disclose confidential information, even accidentally.

In certain cases, one spouse hiring a lawyer can work fine.  The spouses can come to an agreement and one spouse can tell their lawyer what that agreement is and the lawyer will write that agreement up.  Sometimes that lawyer will tell their client that some part of the proposed agreement is not workable or not advisable for one party or the other.  The client spouse can relay this information to the non-client spouse and they can agree on changes.  Ultimately, the lawyer involved can draft all of the court documents necessary to file an uncontested divorce and can see the process through to the end.

However, it often makes sense for both spouses to hire their own lawyer.  This helps parties feel more secure that the agreement they reach is fair for both parties.  Lawyers can be hired at any time during the process.  This could mean that both spouses hire lawyers who provide legal advice and then go with them to mediate the unresolved issues. Or their lawyers could simply communicate the parties’ positions and proposed solutions throughout settlement negotiations until a final settlement of all issues could be reached.  Or if the spouses decide to mediate without attorneys one spouse can hire an attorney to draft the settlement agreement and the other spouse can have their attorney review the agreement and provide legal advice before signing. 

You should hire a lawyer who specializes in family law.  There is no sense in hiring a lawyer who isn’t knowledgeable about the subject matter of your case.

You should interview several lawyers to find out as much as you can about their approach to divorce cases.  If you are committed to staying out of court, you should try to determine how receptive they are to having a client who does not want to litigate their divorce.  Be wary of attorneys that want you to sign a retainer agreement and file immediately.  You should not feel pressured into filing your divorce.    

Any lawyer you hire should be available when you call and able to explain in a very straightforward way what is happening with your case.

You should hire a lawyer who will put your interests before their own.  Finding a lawyer who will support your commitment to a civil divorce may require interviewing several lawyers. Hiring the same lawyer who represented your friend or co-worker in their contentious, year-long divorce may not be a good idea.  Any lawyer should be willing to provide realistic, honest advice about the cost of alternatives – is compromising on a few of your positions more expensive than the possible cost of going to court and potentially fighting over those issues (and, possibly, the issues you thought were already resolved)?

FINANCIAL ADVISORS

Seeking out a financial advisor to review your financial situation before, during or after a divorce is an excellent step toward controlling your economic future.  Getting advice from an independent advisor – someone who has not previously worked with you or your spouse – can provide you with new information and perspectives on your financial situation.

Alternatively, there are financial experts who will meet with both spouses together before divorce and who can provide valuable information about the financial realities of divorce or separation.  A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst is a finance professional focused on helping during divorce and separation.  They can offer information and advice to both spouses about a wide variety of issues – dividing assets, refinancing a joint mortgage, the effect of alimony payments on cash flow, or the tax implications of owning a particular marital asset.  

A financial advisor, unlike a lawyer, is not an advocate for one spouse but can communicate a single message to both spouses about their financial circumstances. The spouses can then make decisions based on the same set of facts in a non-adversarial environment. These decisions can then be communicated to their lawyers and added to their settlement agreement.

COUNSELORS

Divorce involves many issues which are neither legal or financial and it is important to have team members who can speak to those issues, too.  A good counselor can help before, during and after a divorce to support a couples’ decision to divorce amicably and peaceably. That can set the tone for their relationship going forward.

Family therapists, child specialists, psychiatrists or licensed clinical social workers can provide valuable support for an adult, child or family at any stage of the divorce or separation process.  A counselor can help couples talk to their children about plans to divorce or separate and can help spouses successfully co-parent during and after divorce or separation.

A counselor can work with parents to craft a healthy, workable parenting plan. Often a counselor helps parents stay focused on what is best for their children and avoid disagreements about issues which are not directly related to successful co-parenting.  

Divorce can profoundly change family relationships, friendships and working relationships.  Discussing these changes and the emotional impact they have with a counselor who is committed to helping you make good decisions and healthy adjustments can be an excellent decision.

Be Clear About Your Goals With The Nay-Sayers

There are going to be people who want to be on your team but who should not be team members.  Who are these people?  They are your friends who encourage you “take them to court” and “keep them from seeing the kids.” They are lawyers who will not tell you honestly that you are not likely to end up with 90% of the marital assets and that 50% is closer to the mark, but who will take your family’s money to “fight for” your 90%. They are your family members who ostracize your spouse and make family interaction and communication more difficult and emotionally charged than it has to be.

These people are certainly your supporters in some fashion, but they are not supporting your vision for your divorce and life after divorce. A civilized, amicable divorce sets the tone for your family relationships after the divorce.  Achieving any worthwhile goal will take work – seeking like-minded supporters and advisors, making realistic compromises for the ultimate benefit of your children or financial security, or working with a counselor. The result of this work can be a more functional family, happier children, and a more secure financial future.

6 Steps to A Modern Divorce

Ready to move on to the next step? need to look back?

Choose your process

Compare the different options available to resolve your divorce and decide which one is right for you.

Choose your process

Mediation • Negotiated Divorce • Litigation
GO TO STEP 3

Work toward resolution

Successful negotiation with your spouse, with or without the help of a mediator or lawyer, is based on knowledge and reasonable expectations.

Work toward resolution

Learn strategies for reaching a fair settlement.
GO TO STEP 5

Need legal help?

We’ve got you covered. Visit A Modern Divorce by Taylor & Weber LLC for options to help you mediate issues, draft a parenting plan or settlement agreement, file your documents with the court, or simply provide legal advice.