I get a lot of people who have decided to separate from their spouse that ask me, “Barb, when is the right time to come and see a lawyer?” My answer is usually, you know what time is right better than I ever would.
I am not trying to be difficult when I say this. But the truth is, you know your situation better than I do. If you feel like you are ready to start coming to an agreement, then that is the right time to come and see a lawyer. I may have expertise in the law and conflict resolution, but you are the expert of your circumstance.
I strongly believe that you should always go to see a lawyer before you come to any agreement, even if you are thinking that you will be able to sit down at the kitchen table and come to an agreement between you and your spouse. That is because lawyers are the ones that are experts in the law and collaborative family lawyers are experts in conflict resolution.
As I mentioned in my first video, everyone should get independent legal advice from a lawyer before coming to an agreement. Speaking with a lawyer can help you to understand your rights, responsibilities and entitlements in your separation.
An important thing to remember is that once you come and see a lawyer, you still direct the terms of that relationship. You don’t have to retain the lawyer on an ongoing basis, you chose what works best for you.
For your first meeting ask for a consultation, and during that consultation you should be interviewing the lawyer in the same way that they are interviewing you to see if they would be a good fit for you. I have said this before, but I will say it again, shop around for a lawyer. You don’t have to go with the first one that you see, and sometimes that first one isn’t a good fit.
Usually a consultation with me involves us talking about the general process of getting a separation, and me giving general legal information. For some of you who have seen my first Facebook Live video and think that you know what approach that will work for you we can talk about more specific information. I do not give advice without all of the information, so I usually ask for you to bring along some financial documents and any other relevant documents relating to your separation so that I can get a better idea of what we are looking at. Only then will I give you specific legal advice.
The bottom line is that you get to decide the role that the lawyer plays. Are they just advising, or are they negotiating, or are they drafting an agreement, are they accompanying you to court, or a combination of the above? You are the boss.
And even if you are just looking for a lawyer to give you advice, it is up to you to do with that advice as you will. You can chose not to follow the advice of your lawyer if you wish. The lawyer may get you to sign a document saying that you are going against their advice, but that is completely your prerogative.
So, instead of asking me when you should see a lawyer, you should ask yourself what will work for you, and choose a lawyer that will make that happen.
For more information about the options for the general process of getting a separation, please check out my videos found on Fall River Law’s Facebook Page.
- Barb MacLellan, Fall River Law