What Do I Need to Do First?

Veteran Divorce Lawyer, Leigh Sellers, serves as your guide through the foreign world of Splitsville – an alien place with its own rules, its own expectations, and even its own language. You won’t find it on Google Maps, and your GPS won’t work here. So if you’re feeling lost, you’re in the right place. With decades of experience serving clients in North Carolina (Charlotte, Monroe, Waxhaw, Concord, Gastonia, Weddington) and South Carolina (Fort Mill, Rock Hill, Indian Land, Lancaster), Leigh Sellers is the attorney with the answers you seek. This podcast tackles some of the trickiest topics in the family law field, including separation, how to get a divorce, alimony, child custody, child support, adultery, division of property, and more.

To find out more or to schedule a consultation, call (704) 412-9101 or e-mail info@touchstonefamilylaw.com.

Welcome to Splitsville — your off-ramp to getting on with your life.

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Hello there. Going through a divorce? Considering one? Sorry to hear that, but here you are. Welcome to Splitsville. You’ll find Splitsville to be a pretty unique place. A new world really, with its own rules, its own expectations and in many ways, its own language. But don’t worry, you have a knowledgeable guide along the way, a family law attorney with three decades of experience under her belt.

And now, here she is. Your host and guide, Leigh Sellers.

Hi everyone. Thanks for tuning into the first episode of my podcast. It’s called Welcome to Splitsville and I will serve as your guide as we explore the strange new world of separation or divorce. In this first episode, I’ll be answering the question that most people approaching Splitsville have, “What do I need to do first?” So let’s dive in.

So what do you do? You have absolutely had it. You know without a shadow of a doubt that you cannot spend another five minutes married to this person. Let alone, the rest of your life. As you sit in front of that church or Justice of the Peace and Promised, and as that comes crashing down on you, there’s a lot of uncertainty and people just instantly don’t know what to do. This was not something they planned for. This wasn’t something that they got a lot of advice on when they chose to get married.

So the first thing I tell people to do is you really need to find out who your most trusted person is. Who are you going to tell? Who are you going to share this epiphany with? And you need to be very careful about that, so that’s the person that you would trust with the deepest secret in your life. That’s the person where you tell where the body’s buried. That’s the person you know will never sell you out and never, ever repeat something you tell them.

That’s the person you go talk to when you have figured this out. If you have the ability to control your emotions enough, to regulate that and not just be exploding at some party or at some bar, in the middle of a fight, you really do want to be careful who you talk this situation through with. So once you’ve gathered your trusted confidante, the next thing you want to do is you really need to find an attorney. You need to talk to an experienced family law domestic attorney and go through the facts of your particular situation, and get some advice on what you need to do, when you need to do it and how you need to do it.

That’s where that trusted confidante can come in very handy. So let’s assume that you’re still living with your spouse when you reach this realization that you don’t want to be. Well, looking for divorce attorneys online or by a cell phone on a family plan, can kind of tip the other side off. Maybe a little sooner than you want to. Especially with all of the algorithms that we all see on the news today that are going through the Facebook and other search engines that trap what your searches are then will sort of regulate and popup ads to you for the things that you’ve expressed an interested in.

So if all of a sudden there’s a lot of Facebook ads for divorce attorneys, somebody might be paying attention. So it’s really important that you have that trusted confidante, perhaps to have them ask around for some personal referrals. Use their computer or their cell phone or go to their house to have these conversations and not be talking where you could easily be overheard by somebody in your house that would repeat it because you want to make sure that you’re prepared when you decide to let your spouse know that the marriage is over.

My advice to people when they’re saying, “Well what type of attorney should I get? Where should I look?” Is that you just want to find the most experienced family law practitioner that you can, that you can afford to have a consultation with. Go in and talk to them and ask them, “How do I tell my spouse in this particular situation? How do I need to prepare? What do I need to know? What do you suggest I do?”

These are all very important questions and the answer is going to vary dramatically from family to family. There are situations where you really want to let the person know at the last possible moment. There could be domestic violence issues. There could be lots of reasons why you really need to be somewhat secretive up until the last moment. There are other situations where the best course of action is going to be upfront, honest, have a very frank discussion. That’s really going to depend.

That first step of talking to an attorney is just critically important in the process. And then one of the things that is also advisable at this time, when you’ve reached this realization is you really want to start being very reflective about where you think you want to go. A lot of people spend a lot of time and can talk endlessly about what they hate about their marriage, what they hate about their spouse and they are definitely invested in getting out of something. They are done with a particular life.

But when they come in to meet with me, they have not given any thought as to where they want to go, where they want their life to head. What they want to actually achieve. And that’s always one of my first questions. I can spend a lot of time listening about the history of the situation and why somebody has made the decision that they want to end the marriage. But North Carolina is a no-fault state. Your basis for divorce will be your personal basis for divorce, but it’s not something that a court of law is going to address. The only thing that they look to when somebody seeks a divorce is have they lived apart for 12 consecutive months before filing their request for divorce, without reconciliation.

And that’s really it. So while the personal reasons that you have in reaching a decision to break up with a spouse are very important to you as an individual, they don’t have quite the legal significance. So one thing I really need to know is, okay, if not this, then what? What is it that you want to achieve? Where is it that you want to go? What is it that you need for me to be able to accomplish for you?

So understanding what your goals are in this situation is going to help me help you. It’s going to very much define the advice that I give you as to how to handle yourself as you advise your spouse and as you advise your friends and families, or how you tell your children. So, do take some time before you rush into the attorney’s office to reflect and consider where it is that you’re headed after this. But the best advice that I can give anybody who’s reached this realization is just to stay calm. You can treat it as a very emotional moment because it is emotional for everyone that comes to this decision, but this is not the type of thing that you discuss in the heat of the moment.

It’s also not the type of thing you discuss with alcohol involved or anything that’s going to impair your ability to be as clear and rational as possible, in the context of a very emotional discussion. But you really do want to take the time to prepare. I always ask people sometimes when they’re questioning how much time it’s going to take for the divorce and how fast things are going to go and when can they get results? They have a lot of deadline questions.

And I sometimes ask them, go back to the beginning and think about all the time and planning and preparation that you put into a wedding, if you did. And for the clients that didn’t elope, many of them are talking about six months or a year of just detailed planning for basically a party. So you should expect that you’re going to put twice that much effort into untangling a marriage and all of the things that are related. So prepare for some work. Prepare for some tears. Prepare for some anger. But most of all, just prepare.

So there you have it, the first neighborhood of Splitsville explored. There’s still so much to learn here, so I hope you’ll tune into the next episode. While Splitsville isn’t a fun place to be, thankfully it’s full of helpful people, valuable resources and sound advice, if you know where to look. I hope you’ll join me again. See you next time.

The insights and presented in Welcome to Splitsville are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Nor does tuning into this podcast constitute an attorney/client relationship of any kind. If you’re ready for compassionate and reliable legal guidance on your journey, contact Leigh Sellers and her team at touchstonefamilylaw.com.