The most common mistake I have seen couples make during divorce might surprise you. It’s something that is done unknowingly. It’s done with good intentions. It’s something our culture has taught us to do.

So what is it? It’s choosing an attorney before choosing a process. When confronted with the reality of separation or divorce, your first step may be to ask friends, co-workers or family members for the names of good family law attorneys. Seeking a referral from a trusted acquaintance seems to make sense given the extremely personal nature of this legal event. It certainly is preferable to doing a Google search.

It’s important to realize, however, that, in addition to having varying degrees of competence, different attorneys use diverse methods of conflict resolution. A well-intentioned family member or friend may recommend a litigation attorney who is most comfortable in a courtroom. If you think you will need a judge’s help in reaching a fair resolution, you should look for a lawyer with this particular skill set. On the other hand, if you are more concerned about the impact your separation will have on your children, and prefer to maintain more privacy and control during the process, Collaborative practice may be a better process option for you and your family. If that’s the case, you and your spouse or partner should look for attorneys who specialize in the Collaborative process.

Separation and divorce are among life’s most challenging events. Choosing the right process first, then attorneys, is the safest way to proceed.