It was my cousin from South Dakota. We sometimes go for a month or two without talking, so I felt a wave of concern. He was in town on business and we met at a downtown coffee shop. After catching up on family news, he explained.
“I’ve not been happy in my marriage for years. I’ve been in counseling but things aren’t getting better. I was hoping you could help.”
A few sips of coffee later, Jerry bravely said he was clear that his marriage was over; he knew he needed to move forward.
“Linda won’t want the divorce, I’m afraid she’ll try to talk me out of it,” he said. I just haven’t had the courage to tell her how miserable I’ve been. My counselor suggested couples counseling, but I don’t want to mislead Linda into thinking I want to save the marriage.”
We talked about the benefits of counseling even if he felt no hope for reconciliation. “A therapist’s office can be a safe place for you and Linda to talk about your intentions regarding a separation and for how you want to approach the divorce. You two have been together for over 20 years. It would be a shame to separate after an angry argument rather than after some respectful sharing of feelings about what you both need.”
“Any other advice?”
“Yes,” I replied without hesitation. “See a lawyer. Now. Divorce can be an overwhelming process. You don’t want to do everything at once. Start by finding a lawyer who is right for you and develop a plan for financing the divorce. This will take some time.”
Over the next few days we exchanged more texts.
What do you think of Lawyer A?
No, not her; you want a lawyer whose primary practice is divorce. How about Attorney B?
No, her uncle used that law firm for many years. It’s a small town.
Try to get a recommendation from someone who knows the attorney’s work.
Am I going to have to pay for the initial consultation?
Yes, if it is one of the better lawyers in the field, you are likely to be charged their hourly rate.
I know it does. You’re doing great taking one step at a time.
Okay, I’ve made an appointment with a guy everyone says is the best.
Through a cup of coffee and a dozen texts, I was reminded of the complexity of taking the first small steps in the divorce process. There are countless unknowns and obstacles.
Jerry was smart and courageous. He took the first step. He said the words, “I could use some advice.”