Anyone who is going through or has gone through a divorce can tell you how important it is that you have a very good attorney. But what not many people will tell you is that regardless of how good an attorney you have your results will suffer if you and your attorney cannot work together effectively. Having practiced family law for nearly 20 years I have a few ideas of what it takes to effectively work with your divorce lawyer. Here are my five favorite tips to help your divorce lawyer do a good job on your case.
Tip #1 – Don’t Hide Things from Your Lawyer
Lying and hiding things from your attorney is absolutely not in your best interest. Not only will it damage the relationship with your lawyer, it is likely to cause great damage to your case. Whatever the facts are a good lawyer can help you to do damage control and deal with the situation in the best way possible. What no lawyer can effectively deal with is being blindsided at the courthouse by damaging evidence that you had hoped would stay hidden.
Tip #2 – Have Realistic Goals
While no attorney can promise you a specific result in your case, a good attorney can usually give a reasonable range of likely outcomes. If your goals are well outside this range then it will make it nearly impossible for your lawyer to settle your case. Pay careful attention if your lawyer tells you that your objectives are unrealistic and that you are very unlikely to achieve them via settlement or at the courthouse. Sometimes it is necessary to adapt one’s goals to a more reasonable level in order to get the best possible result.
Tip #3 – Keep Relevant Documents and Information Organized
This tip is important throughout the case but particularly important during the discovery phase of your case. A common frustration of divorce lawyers occurs when they ask clients to compile information and records for them and the client either delays or outright refuses to do the work necessary to get them. Again, while it may seem unreasonable that you are required to do so much work on your divorce case, if you want an outstanding result you need to give your lawyer what they need.
Tip #4 – Don’t Get Derailed by Your Emotions
It very frequently happens in divorce cases that a client becomes their own worst enemy. I have had clients call their spouses and leave horribly profane voicemails, send similarly nasty emails, give away personal property that belonged to their spouse, and perform a variety of other childish gestures that were intended to anger their spouse. Of course, the result of these actions was to provide the other side with very helpful evidence to show the judge just how unreasonable my client was. Don’t fall into this trap. Keep your emotions in check and avoid taking any action that would make you look bad to an objective outside observer.
Tip #5 – Be Open to Your Lawyer’s Advice
This tip buttresses Tip #2’s advice to “have realistic goals.” Clients often have a belief that if they just got the case in front of a judge then the injustice of the situation would be obvious and the judge would spare no effort in an extremely harsh punishment of the other spouse. The reality is often quite different. While the facts of every case are unique it is imperative that you have a good lawyer and listen to that lawyer’s input about your case.
Hopefully these five tips can help you more successfully navigate the divorce landscape and avoid making some of the all too common errors made by parties in divorce cases.