Why You Shouldn’t Panic if Your Spouse Talks to a Lawyer

Imagine you're divorcing, and you hear your spouse has contacted a lawyer. You feel livid, shocked, and upset. Your mind jumps to the worst-case scenario: They've hired a pitbull. They're going to try to take everything!

If you've felt this way at any point in your divorce process, listen up: Seeking legal help is not a reason to panic. If your soon-to-be ex has legal questions, they should seek counsel. So should you, even if you just want a 30-minute gut check with a legal coach.

Divorce is the unbinding of the most complicated financial and emotional contract either of you has likely ever entered. Having (correct) information and feeling informed and empowered is not just smart, it's also a helpful way to de-escalate conflict and focus on what actually matters rather than getting caught up in the small stuff.

Everyone needs a plan

Do you have an exit strategy for your divorce? Your ex should, too. Have you thought about what you want when it comes to the personal property you shared? Your ex should, too. Do you have a plan for what happens next, post-divorce? Your ex should, too. (See where I'm going here?)

It doesn't have to be brutal

A huge reason why we started Hello Divorce is that the current legal system is set up to pit spouses against each other. Because you're required to file a lawsuit to separate, in many cases, the matter quickly escalates to X versus Y. The process is set up to create conflict. But it doesn't have to be that way – not if we don't let it. The system won't change overnight, but we can change how we approach this broken system: with honesty, respect, and transparency.


What to do if your spouse contacts a lawyer

Here are three things you can do right now if you've learned that your spouse contacted a lawyer.

1. Reach out to your spouse

This can be hard. But if you're at the beginning of a divorce and have just learned that your spouse contacted a lawyer, it's the perfect opportunity to suggest trying mediation first. Let your spouse know you understand they have questions about the mediation process and that you do, too. Discuss the fact that a mediator is far more affordable than both of you hiring attorneys. Further, the mediator will be able to answer your legal questions as they help you through the paperwork.

Read: A Beginner's Guide to Divorce Mediation

2. Book your own interview calls with lawyers

Having more information is always a good thing. And just because you have a preliminary call or meeting with a lawyer doesn't mean you have to hire them. Two or three pre-calls with lawyers will help you get a sense of how it might be to work with a lawyer on your divorce. It'll also give you a sense of the fees involved. Perhaps most importantly, these calls can help you understand what you want (and what you don't want) in a lawyer should you and your spouse decide to work through attorneys to complete your divorce.

3. Read up on the divorce process

While you wait to learn whether your ex is going to hire an attorney (or while you're deciding whether to hire one yourself), dive into some divorce literature to get a good understanding of how the process works. If you're in California, Colorado, Texas, New York, or Utah, Hello Divorce offers free, easy-to-read breakdowns of the divorce process. (And, ahem, it's free.) The more you know about the system, the more comfortable you'll be as your divorce works through it.

Suggested: Divorce Process Flowchart

Founder, CEO & Certified Family Law Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Insights, Legal Insights
After over a decade of experience as a Certified Family Law Specialist, Mediator and law firm owner, Erin was fed up with the inefficient and adversarial “divorce corp” industry and set out to transform how consumers navigate divorce - starting with the legal process. By automating the court bureaucracy and integrating expert support along the way, Hello Divorce levels the playing field between spouses so that they can sort things out fairly and avoid missteps. Her access to justice work has been recognized by the legal industry and beyond, with awards and recognition from the likes of Women Founders Network, TechCrunch, Vice, Forbes, American Bar Association and the Pro Bono Leadership award from Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Erin lives in California with her husband and two children, and is famously terrible at board games.