Family Law

Using a Divorce Coach or Consulting Attorney

By Kristina Otterstrom, Attorney

If you thought wedding planning was a lot of work, try getting a divorce. The whole process can be exhausting, stressful and heartbreaking—all at the same time. But the details in the divorce process really matter. How you and your spouse decide to divide up assets, debts, and childcare will impact you for many years to come.

A divorce coach can take away a lot of the stress associated with divorce. Much like hiring a planner to handle the major details of a wedding, a divorce coach will help you through the emotional or psychological challenges in a divorce. If you’re trying to figure out if a divorce coach is right for you, read on to learn more.

What Is a Divorce Coach?

A divorce coach is different from an attorney and different from a therapist. A divorce coach won’t offer you legal advice and isn’t a substitute for hiring a traditional divorce attorney in your case. Instead, the best way to describe a divorce coach’s role is “mentor.”

Many spouses aren’t prepared for the emotional toll that divorce takes on them. While some people turn to a network of family and friends, others try to turn to their attorney for lifestyle and interpersonal advice. That’s not a typical attorney’s role. Your divorce attorney’s job is to understand the law and to protect your interests from a business perspective. Many attorneys aren’t able provide you with advice for handling your spouse’s belligerence or to talk through your fears about going to court or asking for what you need. This is where a divorce coach can help.

Divorce coaches assist clients in making and reaching divorce goals. Moreover, a divorce coach can “coach” you through the challenges you’ll face in a divorce and advise you how to handle a difficult spouse or minimize stress. Essentially, a divorce coach will support you in the divorce process. Coaches won’t tell you how to handle your legal affairs, but they will help you organize your goals and map out how you’ll get through a divorce.

Do I Need a Divorce Coach?

So you’ve already hired an attorney and now you’re wondering if you need a divorce coach. Divorce coaches usually work with attorneys to help clients sift through what’s important to them in a divorce. Typically, a divorce coach's hourly rate will be lower than a divorce attorney's hourly rate. So you can save money by sorting through issues and setting goals with a divorce coach (more on this below). Together, you and your coach can present your divorce goals to your attorney.

Even if you haven't yet hired an attorney, an experienced divorce coach can alleviate some of the financial and emotional pressures of divorce from the get-go.

Can I Use a Divorce Coach Instead of an Attorney?

If you don't believe you need any legal advice at all, theoretically you can represent yourself in court on all the legal aspects of your case and rely on your divorce coach for non-legal issues. However, this is not typically recommended. It's important to get at least some legal advice about you and your spouse's proposed settlement agreement, to make sure your rights are protected.

Since a divorce coach cannot review agreements, you might want to hire a "consulting attorney" instead of a traditional attorney that handles your case from start to finish. A consulting attorney will only look at specific aspects of your case, as directed by you.

For example, many couples hire a consulting attorney to help them work through self-help divorce forms. A consulting attorney can explain the purposes of each form and help spouses understand the financial impact of issues like child support and debt division. Another area where consulting attorneys can be helpful is divorce mediation. Consulting attorneys can assist you in reaching a settlement in mediation and understanding its long-term impact.

Many retired family law attorneys or attorneys who’ve changed career paths become consulting attorneys. They will be familiar with the law and can give you limited advice. However, a consulting attorney can’t advise you the same way that a traditional attorney can.

How Much Do Divorce Coaches and Consulting Attorneys Cost?

In a survey we took of our readers who had recently been through a divorce, the average amount spent on a consulting attorney was $2,000, at an average hourly rate of $160 to $200 per hour. And according to the College for Divorce Coaching in Florida, the average cost of a divorce coach is $100 to $150 per hour, although this can vary based on location.

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