Episode 54 – New Year, New Me: How to Prepare if You’re Considering Divorce in 2024

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A 2024 sign dangling in front of New Year’s lights and confetti. | New Direction Family Law

Ex-It Strategy
Podcast Episode 54

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Elizabeth Stephenson and Jen Bordeaux

Elizabeth: Hi everyone. It’s Elizabeth Stephenson with New Direction Family Law, and I’m here on our podcast and coming up on the Christmas season holiday season. And what are we talking about today, Jen? 

Jen: Well, I’m Jen Bordeaux, the Director of Public Relations, and since it is the season of giving, quickly turning into the new year where we all set resolutions that we never do.

Elizabeth: That we never follow, everyone.

Jen: We thought we would talk about a situation that we see very often where you know, our office, depending on if it’s custody or not, will quiet down a little bit during the holiday season. And because people will like, you know what, I’m just gonna get through the holidays, right? And then in the new year, I’m gonna finally do this. I’m gonna lose a different kind of dead weight outta my life and I’m gonna initiate a separation. And you know, and I say to folks when they ask me about if there’s advantages to waiting till after the new year, and I’m like, well really, there’s no specific time to do this, but if you do wanna wait till after the holidays, you know, obviously we understand. But it doesn’t mean it’s not a good time to have a consultation and find out how you can plan, because there is some preparation and planning that you can do to help. You know, navigate the situation once it does start. So that’s what we wanted to talk about today. So for folks out there that are considering a separation, right, on their resolution for 2024 whether it happens on January 2nd or halfway through the year or whatever the case may be you’re a little more equipped with some things to think about to help you make that plan.

Elizabeth: Right. So consultations, you know, give you, sort of, give you, I asked for your story, I give you some legal advice, but you, we hope you leave with, I think you, I love this, what you say, a little toolbox. You know, with some equipment in there that I’m not leaving today. I am not, not even leaving in January, maybe June before I get out of there. But I know what I gotta do and I know what I shouldn’t do. And so that’s the point of a consultation and sitting down. And if you’re thinking about it, let’s think through it and make a plan. Let’s don’t just jump in and do it. 

Jen: And I think too, sometimes folks come see us and then they never end up separating.

Elizabeth: Correct. 

Jen: But I know, I know I’ve said multiple times in different facets that uncertainty breeds fear. There is this misnomer sometimes, especially, gosh, God bless the kids, they get put in the middle of like, well, if you leave me, I’m gonna keep the kids from you. And or, you know, you’re not gonna be able to survive on your own, or I’m, you know, whatever. So there’s this fear complex that keeps people in unhealthy or in, toxic relationships or unhappy relationships. 

Elizabeth: Right. 

Jen: We had a therapist on how to tell your spouse you want a divorce. And I love that she said sometimes you’re just done. You don’t need to, nobody has to necessarily do anything to really piss you off or cheat on you, or whatever the case may be. You’re just different. You’ve changed and done, you know? And that’s okay too. And so I think coming in to find out those answers to learn, you know, can they really keep the kids from you if you decide to leave or whatever the case may be, gives you that confidence to say, okay, you know what? I’m gonna give it another good old college try. And if it doesn’t work out, I know what this looks like. And if it does, cool. I still got some education behind that.

Elizabeth: I mean that we always say, and I think our philosophy is just come for consultation, doesn’t mean that you’re gonna get divorced doesn’t even mean you’re gonna separateIt. It doesn’t have to end up like that. And I tell people all the time, even as we’re drafting through a separation agreement, you know, this doesn’t preclude you from reconciling. They may have some issues to do with your property and how we separate it, but it doesn’t mean that six months down the road, this person’s done the work you’ve asked them to do. And you go, Mm-Hmm. Well, damn, I’m not sure I wanna do this. You don’t have to. Mm-Hmm. You know, but if it doesn’t work out that way, then at least you’re protected and you know what you need to do. 

Jen: Yeah, absolutely. 

Joe: So do you guys ever see couples come in and do consults together? 

Jen: They can’t.

Elizabeth: It’s unethical for us to do that.

Jen: We get that question, not necessarily a lot in doing them together to see what it would look like. It’s more so, well, we’re amicable about this, so we just wanna come in and I’m like, sorry, we can’t do that. 

Joe: Which is a bummer, because they’d probably be the easiest ones to work with, wouldn’t they?

Elizabeth: I mean, our job is to, I mean, if you hire an attorney and we advocate for your interests, I don’t, you know?

Jen: It’s unethical because you can’t legally advise both parties.

Elizabeth: Right. 

Joe: If you’re, if you’re that amicable, maybe you should consider staying together.

Elizabeth: Well, there are all sorts of, that’s true. I mean, you could do collaborative law, you could go to some, there’s some mediators that will mediate with folks who aren’t represented by an attorney. So there are ways to do it. It’s just that we cannot do it. 

Jen: Yeah. And, and sometimes there is a misconception, myself included, until I learned and you went through the divorce, the collaborative divorce training as to what that actually looks like. It is a more collaborative approach, but each party still has to have their own attorney. And they both have to be trained in the collaborative divorce process, so there’s no court involved in that aspect. But that being said, if court—

Elizabeth: Well you’re still represented by an attorney, so who’s still advocating for your rights. We’re just trying to get everybody to compromise and come together. 

Jen: And that can still happen outside of the quote unquote collaborative divorce process. And that’s what we try to educate people on too, is that just because you’re coming in to meet with an attorney, the other side gets an attorney, doesn’t mean it has to be super contentious. You can still negotiate and collaborate in that way to get things together. And most of the time, once people learn that, they’re like, oh, okay, yeah, that makes sense. Because the flip side to that is as we oftentimes see too, whenever things blow up and maybe something does go to court, if you’ve done the collaborative law process. The collaborative law attorney you worked with cannot represent you in court. You gotta start all over. 

Elizabeth: So there, I mean, you gotta really think about this, am I, is this the proper case to go to collaborative law? You know, probably going with the narcissist is not your best idea to do collaborative law. But you know, a lot of people, I meet people all the time say, Hey, we did it. You know, it was great. And that’s fine. It’s sort of like we used to, sometimes we just grow apart. I ask people all the time in initial consultation, gimme, you know, I need a little backstory and how we got here today. And 90% of the time it’s, there’s no, there’s nothing. We just, we grew apart. We got married. I mean, I’m not the same person I was 20 years ago. Mm-Hmm. You know? And so if your partner isn’t growing along with you, it doesn’t have to be cheating. It doesn’t have to be domestic violence. It’s just sometimes this is not who I want to be with. 

Jen: You know what, I was speaking with someone at a conference recently and they said, you know, we were talking to somebody about marriages and like the history of marriage and it, when it first came to be about, and at that time our life expectancy was so much shorter so marriages were only really meant in their procreation age. For like 10 years. Because then people got married and they died. And I was like, so really if you get married like three times, like you’re just still by that we coordinated it. So, you know, but yeah, I think we do, we have this societally, we’ve had this misconception that in getting married, that we do expect that, well, they’ve changed. They weren’t the same person that I married. 

Elizabeth: Well, no, shit, you wanna be, so you gotta figure out a way to work through that. But if you can’t, then yeah, absolutely. If your kids, I mean you gotta move on. You gotta do what’s right for you. And I don’t mean that in a selfish way. 

Jen: So in helping prepare for that you should be thinking about that step one – consultation. Like we mentioned, we can’t speak to all practices by any means, but we, we really aim for our consultations to listen to what your goals are, what’s going on, and provide legal advice and help you develop a plan or a strategy for moving forward.

Elizabeth: Right. 

Jen: Maybe even a couple of different options, just depending, right. And I mean, obviously you can, you can speak more to that and how the flow of that goes, and I’m sure it varies from person to person when they come in a little bit in their scenario, but you know, is there court action? But if you’re coming in just to find out, that’s not gonna be the case yet. 

Elizabeth: So, yeah, I mean, I really do after introductions and all that, I really do say, you tell me, tell me about your marriage. Tell me about you. Let me find out how we got here. You know? And a lot of times, oh, you don’t wanna hear that and here’s this cliff note version. It’s like, no, I really do wanna hear about that! Because if you don’t, if you don’t share everything with me, I can’t give you good legal advice. I can’t help you make a plan if you don’t. I know it’s horrible and it’s embarrassing to come and sit in an office with someone you don’t know and talk about how, you know, he raped me the night before or how he beat me up and I didn’t go to the hospital. I completely get that. But if you leave that part of your story out, my advice would not be right. My advice would not be you might wanna go to see, Interact, we might wanna think about getting the DVPO. Let’s start getting your bag ready. Let’s get you in a safe place. If I don’t hear any of that, I will see there’s no problem. If you got a job, all you’re gonna do is lose being able to come back in the house. You know, there may be some no kids. Go ahead and leave. That would not be my advice to you if you did not feel comfortable enough with me to share with me what was really going on. 

Jen: And I think, ’cause we get sometimes in, when someone calls in to find out about the process of getting started or scheduling a consultation, you know, sometimes they’re like, oh. You know, I’m sorry. I know that one. They apologize for getting emotional. 

Elizabeth: I know, I know. 

Jen: And I’m always just like, listen, this is tough stuff there. I, this is what we are here for. There is absolutely no need to apologize for very natural reactions to what you’re going through. And then secondly, it might be, well, this is gonna sound really crazy. And I joke sometimes, I’m like, try me. But seriously, we are not there to judge. And we have heard some unbelievable stories and we just, we think we can’t be surprised. We’re surprised again, but. We’re not there to judge you. We’re there to learn. Right. 

Elizabeth: Always say it’s no judgment zone, you know? And emotions, a lot of people, I’m very much of, I’m very stoic if I’m in an emotional situation. Because if I let it go, it’s like, oh, oh my god. Yeah. And some people are like that and that’s absolutely fine. You gotta do what works for you. But, when you come in for an initial consultation, it really is talking about your story and then the next question is, in the best of all worlds, if you do separate what, what would your goals be? You know, so you gotta find out where you came from and then you gotta look at where you wanna go. And then my job in the initial consultation is to figure out how I can go from point A to point B as best we can. I can’t guarantee that you’ll get there. I can tell you the things you need to do that will give you a better possibility of meeting those goals that you wanna meet. 

Jen: Absolutely. So in coming, you know, again, if we’re talking about the whole separation process, when I look at family law, I think of the four four main horsemen. The main pillars of family law, being the property piece, equitable distribution, child custody, child support, and then spousal support. So if somebody’s coming in where all of that is potentially present we’ll break these down into those four. Looking at custody you know, joint custody, or maybe not joint custody, but the folks in the situation going forward, what should people think about if we’re looking at separation when considering the children involved?

Elizabeth: I mean, it sort of depends on where you are in the relationship and what the caretaking abilities are, how involved every parent is. I mean, I tell potential clients a lot of times you need to figure out. Everybody says, well, what is a custody schedule? You know, I say there are lots of different ones, but this is your family and your children. You need to sit down quietly. Think about it. What do you think is best for your children? Here’s some examples of some custody schedules. Think about your kid. You know, do they have ADHD or there’s some mental health problems? Health problems? All of those things need to come into consideration, but holidays are important to you. What are you in a year round or are you in a traditional school? 

Jen: Yep. 

Elizabeth: You know, and just because I will tell you courts nowadays,  just because if you are a stay at home mom and your kids are not babies. You’re not gonna be automatically granted primary custody. Courts believe that both parents have a right, and I do too, unless there’s something else going on. Have a right to parent their children. So they’re gonna give that other parent an opportunity to parent because maybe they haven’t been given the opportunity. Because you have been the stay-at-home primary. And that’s been your role. So it doesn’t mean that they’d be bad at it. And so I always tell people, you know, you may want primary custody. Let’s, you know, you have to dig into that a little better. But at the end of the day, you want that other parent to be a good parent. And if a potential client says that, if I don’t get that vibe from them, that that gives a big red flag. For me, this is not about what’s in the best interest of my children. It’s about winning. You know, or putting pressure on somebody to get something by using my children.

Jen: And that’s just not appropriate. Or there’s the, and full disclosure, I’m not a parent. I have four children, but no human ones. But they, I think it becomes a control issue as well. If they have been the primary parent, then they realize if they separate, there’s gonna be times they’re not with the kids. And then it leads into wanting to control what that time looks like when they’re not together and. That kind of stuff. 

Elizabeth: Trust issues. I mean, I separated when mine was two and, and we did 50-50 and I would sob, you know. But, and it hurts, it hurts. And you’re just gonna have to go. And then, but then you’ve gotta find, oh, I have all this time for me. You can do some personal growth and your kids are gonna be okay. 

Jen: And they’re gonna be, quite honestly, ’cause I mean, being a child of divorce, seeing how independent my mom was able to be. You know and to, to take that. And your kids are gonna absorb that too, you know?

Elizabeth: Right. But it’s hard. I mean if being a mom has been your role. It’s hard. And it’s gonna take some time. 

Jen: Yeah. You know, and I agree with that wholeheartedly. So on the other side of that, what if you aren’t, you haven’t been the stay at home parent and now you are worried about the custody aspect and that you’re not gonna be able to get custody of your children? What do you do, how do you start to plan for that? If you’re not the primary or you haven’t been the primary caretaker or stay-at-home parent, then you’re thinking about separating. You have those fears of not being able to see your kids. 

Elizabeth: Right. And you  haven’t done it. I mean, a lot of people do it performatively, which I hate. You know, they’ll, they’ll, they’ll put on their best foot forward ’cause they know they’re going to court or we’re here. And then after that, man, I don’t really care. You know, but it may be I, you know, start being more involved. Start going to extracurriculars. Call the teacher. Have a parent teacher meeting, you know? Tell your spouse that you want, you want to do bath time or you wanna do this and not because it makes you look good, or you’re gonna be doing it in court. Make sure you’re doing it for the right reason and that you will be able to continue this if you separate, because now you’ve had somebody keeping your kids a hundred percent of the time, with you 50% of the time. And you need to make sure that you’re prepared for that. Go take a parenting class for God’s sake. 

Jen: You know, or you know, if you, if one parent’s been the one that’s kind of like kept up with the school calendar, like get involved, find out what that calendar looks like, what all the events are, because you should, you can sign in.

Elizabeth: You can sign in on that online portal just as easily as they can. You can get into Duke MyChart. So don’t, it’s not the other parent’s job to keep you informed. Yeah. You’ve gotta put some effort into it too. 

Jen: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So, so just kind of like recapping at custody. So just start thinking about what a custody schedule would look like. Taking into all the different variables, where if you’re gonna be the one leaving, where are you gonna move to? Right. You know, if you are gonna be the one leaving. Looking at custody, how does that affect child support? 

Elizabeth: We go by guidelines. So if you were W2 and you’re not self-employed, you know, and you don’t have, I think it’s $200,000, I can’t remember, 20, $40,000 a month, they’re off the worksheet. We’re gonna plug in your income, the other spouse’s income, how many children you have, who pays for health insurance, and what is work-related daycare, and it will spread out a number. And so there were. Basically primary is what? Schedule A, you get to schedule B if you have more than 123 overnight. So, some people can be very calculating about how they want that schedule to be. “Because I wanna get to a hundred twenty three, a hundred twenty four overnight so I don’t have to pay as much child support.” And sometimes as badly as I hate to admit it, there are people who determine their custody based on how much child support they will pay. Not that they want their children that much. But not in every case, but yeah. I mean, it’s just human nature. Yeah. And it is moms and dads. It’s not either or.

Jen: And then flip it while we’re on the money train here, then looking at spousal support. Do or do, are spousal support and child support the same thing? 

Elizabeth: No, because child support is to support your children. But part of it is based on if your mortgage is at $2,000 and you have three kids, that means we’re gonna divide that four times. A portion of the mortgage has to be attributed to your child support. So you’re not just going to buy clothes for your children is not what child support is about. It’s about providing them a home that they’ve been accustomed to, plus their extracurriculars, plus their clip, blah, blah, blah. All of that alimony is for the dependent spouse’s support only. So based on what’s your net income, what are your expenses, what’s your shortfall? We’re gonna look to the other person to make that up. That’s what alimony’s about. 

Jen: And is there ever a situation, ’cause I think people, I dunno if they come in especially, oh man, especially if there’s been cheating involved. Oh, I’m gonna, you know, take him or her for everything they’re worth and they’re gonna be supporting me for the rest of my life and blah, blah, blah. What if the money’s not there? What do you know? 

Elizabeth: Yeah. I mean, the court can, I mean, if you show alimony and you’re supporting and they’re dependent, you’re gonna pay alimony. But the court can only award you alimony if you have the ability to pay it. So you may need the $3,000 a month shortfall you have. He only has $1500 left over after he pays his reasonable expenses and his child support. So that you’re only gonna get 1500. Court expects you to go get a job. I mean, my case, um, stay at home mom. Seven children, homeschooling, still three of ’em. The other four, living at home, going to school, got income imputed to her because the Judge said, you know, you need to go get a job. You need to get some income coming in and impute income to her. So the rule is alimony is not forever. Alimony really nowadays is to get you back on your feet and it’s not really about fault, it’s about finances.

Jen: So taking all these, obviously finances is a big thing to get consideration of whenever you’re looking at separating. So what are some of, in, this kind of segues nicely into the fourth pillar, fourth main pillar of family law, which is the distribution of property. And you’re looking at what all. I think there’s misnomers and like, well, this bank account was open during the marriage, but only my name is on it. So what is considered that joint property?

Elizabeth: Joint property is there’s, I mean, there’s some nuances, but if it was acquired during the marriage, it is marital property and there is, there’s things that are separate property like and if you got an inheritance, if, if your spouse gives you a gift of a diamond necklace, that’s a gift to you. That’s not property. So there are certain caveats that you get out of there, but if you earned it. If I got a million dollars in my retirement, I worked my ass off. You didn’t, you didn’t get a penny of this, you’re gonna give her half of that. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it works. And people hate that. But property, unless there’s small businesses involved and some, you know, stock options and things, that’s, we’re gonna cut it down in the middle. You’re gonna get 50% and you’re gonna get 50%. Let’s don’t fight over it. Let’s still go to court and do that. Let’s figure out a way that we can make this work.

Jen: Yeah. So in looking, if somebody is, is considering this or. Because we get asked this pretty frequently too. They’re coming into a consultation. They’re asking about the financial side of it. At that point, do they need to bring financial documents for the attorney to look at during the consultation? 

Elizabeth: It really, I, I don’t know about other attorneys. I don’t even know about other attorneys in our firm, but for me, no. You need to come in. I’m gonna ask you. Do you own or rent? What do you think is the, gimme an estimate of the value of your house. Go and look at, get a Zillow. You don’t have to get an appraisal. Know what your mortgage is. So I can figure out how much equity is in there for you, but I don’t necessarily need to know the value of your car. I’d like to know what’s in your, what’s in your retirement accounts, mutual fund. That would be helpful to know, just to gimme an idea of the size of your estate. Which can help me quote a fee to you or tell you how involved and complicated this might be. So do I need, how much is in your bank? Not really. Yeah. You know, how much does it take to run your household a month? Yeah. You know, sort of thing. Just generalizations is, but if, once we get into it and we’re retained, then, then we’re gonna ask you for a bazillion documents. Yeah. 

Jen: I tell people when they ask that question, and that’s a little outside the scope of the consultation. You know, this is getting a general picture of what’s going on to advise you on what needs to happen next. And then like you said, once you become a client, then it’s like, all right, let’s see all these documents. 

Elizabeth: And a lot of times a consultation is good because it then lets the person know, oh, I don’t, I don’t know the answer to that. Well, go snooping around. Yeah. You know? 

Jen: Yeah. That was gonna be my next question ’cause we get that a lot. That was a question on, you know, one of our other teaser episodes that’ll be coming out about bad advice from Facebook. But what if you don’t know what the financial pay? But you know if, if somebody’s coming in, like I just cannot stay in this marriage any longer, but I have no idea exactly what his income is or what retirement accounts he has in preparing for separating, what advice would you give to somebody there?

Elizabeth: A lot of times we don’t get mail at home anymore, you know? Yeah. Everybody’s online, so you may, you won’t get bank statements, you may not know. You cannot, if you know the password, if you’ve been given the password to a phone or a PC or a computer, um, and it’s up, or you know, you pull up a bank and you know the password, go in there and get it, that’s fine, but you cannot like mess around and put in 5,000 fingerprint things or, and try to hack the computer. Don’t do that because we can, we can find out that information. You can separate without not knowing all of that. We can figure that out down the road.

Joe: I was just thinking, my wife, sometimes when she needs it in my phone, she just holds it to my face. So you just, that’s what you do at night. Right? Just sneak in while they’re sleeping. 

Elizabeth: Yeah, but there’s nothing wrong with looking, going in the closet, searching, you know, going through the mirror, the jewelry, whatever. There’s nothing wrong with that. Get a PI, you know, whatever you need to do. You can take the computer, take it to a, you know, a digital person and they can make a digital forensic copy. You know what I mean? But they can make a copy of the hard drive and they can figure it out. Yeah. They don’t, I mean, there are all sorts of ways to find stuff these days.

Jen: Yeah. What about, ’cause we get that, you know, in preparing for folks that, again, in unhealthy situations or maybe they just are done, they run out. But stay at home parents, they don’t necessarily have all the access to the finances. Right. We know that legal fees are a thing, you know, we gotta keep the lights on and feed ourselves as well. So what, ’cause I know it’s happened time and time again. You know what, how can people prepare that way if they don’t feel like they have the finances to even start with an initial consultation? I know we’ve had folks when they call in from that aspect, we’ll say you know, we have had other parties pay on behalf. Or if they want, obviously you can pay in cash. There’s not a credit card transaction. We are, we’ve tried to be very mindful of how things show up on, on credit card statements. We’re not gonna reveal what that is just in case. But so from the consultation standpoint, that’s generally a lesser dollar amount than the initial retainer. So what do you have, or how can people prepare in those scenarios for the initial consultation? 

Elizabeth: I mean. You know about when you go to the grocery store, it’s that way. $20, you know, I mean that $300, you know, may take you three months to get if it’s not a domestic violence situation.

Jen: When there’s safety concerns, there’s always caveats there, right? 

Elizabeth: You know, you’ve been married, this guy for 10 years, you have four kids waiting. Three months ain’t gonna kill you. Let’s you know, take your time and do that. And I don’t know if you guys do this when you talk to ’em and in between there. Here’s what we suggest you do, you know, to, so that you have the information that will help us in the consultation. As far as the initial retainer. If you’re working, you got a 401k, you can take a loan against it. Go open a credit card that he doesn’t know. I know this sounds crazy ’cause you’re just, you’re in debt, but at the end of the day, may be the only way you can do it. Can you borrow from parents? You know, can you get a credit card? There are some claims that you can ask the other party to pay your attorney’s fees. It’s not guaranteed. You know, but again, as we’ve talked about. This is your life. This is your children, this is your, this is your estate. This is how you’re gonna move forward. And so hold out. I really, truly believe you get what you pay for, you know, and we are very seasoned. What do we have 90 years of experience, all these legal minds, right? And everybody asks, how much does it cost? Like, I can’t tell you because I don’t, it depends on how cooperative the other party is and the trajectory is something.

Jen: I mean, I know we said it till we’re blue in the face, but the trajectory, somebody gets a new boo and all hell breaks loose.

Elizabeth: Oh my God, oh my God. It’s just, you know, something’s gonna blow up and I, and we’re there and we’ll take, we’re used to, we’re there to take the anger and the frustration and we get it. You’re not gonna hurt our feelings, but we can’t control this other person or their attorney, you don’t wanna live with them. We can’t control them. So it is a fluid process. If you’re going, I want this and I want it done, it’s not gonna happen. That will not happen. Yep. That, that won’t happen. 

Jen: So, you know, coming in with, obviously your questions, you don’t know what you don’t know, so you’re gonna come in with, you know, questions.

Elizabeth: I love the people that come in with a list of questions.  We’ll explain what happens. You call, you want to talk to an attorney. I’m getting separated. What I need, what, what’s the next step?

Jen: What county do you live in? What county? Okay, perfect. Yeah, so we, we get preliminary, we call it qualifying information to make sure one, that it’s family law. That it’s in a county that we practice in. 

Elizabeth: And, we have a dedicated team for this, that answers the phone. This is what they do.

Jen: Yep. Absolutely. We are just very aware that when someone’s going through this in their life, whether it’s solely custody or never married before, whether it’s the whole kit and caboodle of divorce, whatever it is, it’s stressful. And we wanna be there to get the preliminary questions answered so that you can get to the attorney to get the meat and the potatoes.

Elizabeth: And I wanna be very clear when you come to a consultation with us. You meet with an attorney. There is not a marketing person, there’s not a sales person that’s, you’re meeting with an attorney who’s gonna be able, you’re gonna leave there with good, solid legal advice. 

Jen: Absolutely. So we get the qualifying information. We move forward with scheduling. We get the question a lot. How do you decide which attorney I’m meeting with? Very commonly, it depends. Obviously if you are referred to a specific attorney that we are gonna do everything we can, right? To honor that. Sometimes there’s calendaring conflicts. If there’s an attorney that’s super busy with current trials, right. Meditations, things like that. And so we do offer other attorneys, all of our attorneys exclusively practice family law. There’s a county issue that comes into play. Not all of our attorneys practice in all of the same counties. We all practice or you guys all practice in Wake County. So we take all the different variables and what the issues are as well. And the complexity of it. Obviously we’re gonna look at our founding partner as well as our other senior attorneys and partners. And so we take all those into consideration. And then you can schedule phone, Zoom, or in the office. Which, you know, surprisingly, even though we’ve moved back to a lot of in-person stuff, a lot of people still use Zoom a lot. Right. Which, I mean, I get it for scheduling purposes.

Elizabeth: You don’t have to drive somewhere, drag, pay for parking, take your time. All of that. So we don’t care, you know, we just wanna meet with you.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. Plus your phone tracks you everywhere. If you’re trying to go meet and not have your spouse know

Jen: Find my iPhone. And then from there, you know, depending upon the platform of your consultation, you get an immediate and assuming we have your permission to text you ’cause I feel like most people prefer texting these days. And especially those initiating or those very, the early stages of getting everything scheduled. It can be extremely helpful, but you get a quick text message to say, “Hey, be sure to check your email. Thanks for scheduling with us.” There’s important information in that email. There’s a confirmation email confirming your appointment date and time. If it’s in the office, there’s a picture of our building. There’s driving directions, parking options. As well as a link to click on to complete our electronic intake questionnaire, which is gonna be more in depth information for the attorney to review and prep for the consultation. Because some of those questions, you know, it’s about income or types of schools, right? And things like that, like why is that important information for you guys to know? 

Elizabeth: Yeah, because as we talked about previously, it has to do with custody, it has to do with alimony, it has to do with child support. We’re not just being nosy. We promise, we really do need that information. 

Jen: Yeah, absolutely. And then it goes from there. You get an email from the attorney saying, this is what you can expect during the consultation. If there is any court, if there, if it is actively in court to bring those documents. Maybe you’re preparing, there’s been a court order in place for a while and you’re preparing to possibly modify it. You know, good to have that, or same kind of principles and applying to, to prepare for things. And then there’s always the part there. If otherwise, there’s nothing else you need to do to make the consultation successful. I always tell folks, I do advise that they write down questions that they currently have. Make note on your phone, whatever the case may be, because as you’re speaking with the attorney, you’re likely gonna have more and we don’t wanna miss the ones that you already know that you have. 

Elizabeth: Sure. 

Jen: And then, ’cause I always tell them, the attorney’s gonna have lots of questions for you too. So you’re gonna be giving and receiving a lot of information. A lot of folks will ask too, in preparing or thinking about coming in for a consultation, can I bring my best friend or my mom or whoever with me? I will always say that it’s really up to them, the person individually and that the attorney will talk to them about what, how that affects confidentiality. So can you, what do you usually tell folks if they bring a third party in with them for the consultation?

Elizabeth: Yeah, I’m always happy. I think it’s always better if you have somebody else sitting there, but it does, you know, an attorney-client relationship based on confidentiality means there’s no one else in the room that’s listening to what you and I are talking about. If there’s another person in the room, then there is no confidentiality. So if you’re in a, I’ve never had this happen. I’m sure it has, think of some people that it has. You could be called to the stand and ask what we talked about. So you could find out my strategy, you know, strategy, all of that. But I’ve never had that happen. So it’s up to the person, you know, if that, if they’re okay with that. I never say do it, don’t do it. You know, it’s their choice to do it. 

Jen: From a support perspective, I completely get it right. 

Elizabeth: So I will say there is a case, and there’s some case law that you and I talk about you though, go and talk to your best friend. There’s some question about that too. Is that confidentiality? Could that person be called to the stand and be asked about what you talked about? More than likely they could. 

Jen: You know, be careful who you’re gossiping with. 

Elizabeth: That’s what I would say. I mean, you don’t want that person, oh, did you know what? See, that doesn’t, you don’t want that happening. 

Jen: And correct me if I’m wrong, but North Carolina’s a one party state. So somebody could record something. 

Elizabeth: That’s absolutely true. 

Jen: So be careful to be, so there’s a lot to consider. And I know it seems very overwhelming and this, this was not the purpose of this for sure. It’s a lot of information, but I think it is, if you have no idea where to even start and, but you’re, you’ve got this time now along with all the hustle bustle of the season. Gift under the tree and if you’re out there shopping, then maybe stash away a little bit of money you might need as mentioned. And there’s no specific timeframe. You know, we always just have this renewed sense in the new year. We set goals as businesses and talk about plans and what we wanna do. So it’s no different in our personal lives. So it’s a lot that you can prepare for. 

Elizabeth: But you know, but I will say if you, let’s say that you can’t afford to come see us or you can’t get away or whatever. Go to our website. We have how many blogs we have. We have videos. Videos. Oh my God. 

Jen: Our website has 147 pages on it. I just recently learned and counting. We have our own YouTube channel. 

Elizabeth: We got this podcast. Listen to this. Yeah, you can find out a great deal of information so that you don’t make a bad mistake before you’re able to get in and see us. And you don’t have to go on Facebook and ask for legal advice. 

Jen: Yeah, stay tuned for that episode. But there is a page on our website too, the “Know before you go” for the consultation to help recap some of this stuff. Try to be on time.

Elizabeth: Yeah, we appreciate that.

Jen: But we understand that things happen. I mean, the podcast, there’s been so many people that have called in, they’re like, oh, I can’t really, financially, I’m not ready to move forward with a consultation or with retainer, you know, attorney’s fees. And I’m like, go listen to our podcast there. Nothing’s gonna be able to speak directly to your situation. But it’s a good starting point. Information we’ve got like 50 episodes by the time this one’s up there, 56 I think, episodes or so. So lots of information out there for sure. And yeah, YouTube channels with more content coming up and everything.

Elizabeth: So Happy holidays. 

Jen: Yeah, happy holidays. Merry Christmas. Happy Kwanzaa!

Both: And ain’t that some shit!

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