Why should a person hire an attorney that specializes in divorce?
The old adage “Jack of all trades, master of none” is particularly true when it comes to areas of the law. Family law is emotionally fraught and affects every area of your life. A year from now, the attorney will be on to her next case, while you are dealing with the outcomes and parameters within your home and family forever. Attorneys who choose to work in this area as opposed to just dabbling are more creative, better prepared, and can serve as a referral source to many other professionals who can assist you in moving forward with your life.
How can a potential client be best prepared for their first meeting with you?
Don’t do anything rash or reactionary. Make sure you have copies of important documents such as pay stubs and credit reports for both spouses, tax returns, bank statements, etc. If you have received any court papers filed by your spouse or his/her attorney, make sure you note when you received them and bring them with you to my office. Also, spend some time thinking about what your goals are and what is most important to you in moving forward.
What type of questions should a client ask a potential attorney?
Ask the attorney about her experience with the judge assigned to your case, or the judges in your county/area. Ask for a general timeline and explanation of the divorce process. Ask if she sees any potential issues or roadblocks for you in accomplishing your stated goals. A good attorney will be able to make the process understandable and will be realistic about some of the issues she sees right away so that you can address them.
What type of questions do you ask your potential client during the first meeting?
This depends upon the specific situation. A general understanding of the relationship history and each party’s financial situation, together and separately, is always reviewed. Where children are involved, I will need to get a sense of how parenting functions are currently being handled and how the children are doing. If any court papers have already been filed, I will walk through those with the potential client to check for disagreements as to the facts.
What do you see as being the most common fight of high-conflict couples?
Money is almost always one of the “hot button” issues, followed closely by over-involvement of extended family members and co-parenting issues.
What advice would you give clients in order to get a divorce with the least possible conflict and pain for all of those involved?
If you have children, do NOT start dating until your divorce is fully finalized. Adding another person to the mix creates additional hurt and distractions during a period of time you really need to focus on your children and yourself. Also, be very careful with your use of social media, as pictures and statements are being used as evidence in court more and more often. Recognize that your spouse is going to be a trigger/stressor for a while and do all you can to maintain business-like communication. No one is better off financially for the first six to eighteen months after a divorce, so do all you can to be frugal in preparation for a pared-down lifestyle at first. Finally, make certain to take care of yourself and your physical and emotional health during this stressful time.
What advice would you give a woman who states she has a physically abusive spouse?
Your safety is the first and most important priority. Have an exit plan and a safety plan available if your spouse reacts violently. Even with a protection order, you will need to have a step-by-step safety plan. There are organizations in our area to help you get out of an unsafe situation. The most important thing, however, is not to take your children and leave the state without court permission as this will negatively affect your custody claim, regardless of what he has done.
How do you help a client determine what she should fight for and what she should let go of?
What will matter in ten days, ten months, ten years? The things that will matter the longest are the ones worth pursuing.
What is your view on mediation? Do you recommend it and can you explain what it is?
Mediation is where a third party helps you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse to determine what your most important goals are and how to compromise so each party gives and gets consideration for what is important to them. Mediation can be a wonderful alternative to expensive and exhausting litigation. The best part of mediation is that you have input into the orders that will govern your life rather than a judge, who is not familiar with your family beyond what is on paper, deciding how you will live from here on out.
What is the best divorce advice you have to offer women who are just beginning this journey?
We’ve all been reminded to “put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others,” and this holds true for the end of a marriage as well. Build a team of formal supports (professionals such as your divorce attorney, financial advisor, religious leaders, therapist, life coach, personal trainer, etc.) and informal supports (your family, friends, coworkers, etc.) around you while your life is changing. Rather than focusing on revenge, failure, or self-pity, consider this as an opportunity to re-evaluate your life and improve your situation for you and your family!
Vanessa J. Gorden
1327 H Street, Suite 101, Lincoln, NE 68508
Your Website: www.gordenlaw.com
Years in Practice: 8 (Since 2005)
Is there anything else that you would like potential clients to know about you?
I graduated in the top 10% of my law school class and have primarily focused my law practice on representing individuals in navigating the legal system and family relationships since that time.