In my over two decades as a divorce attorney I have seen clients handle their divorces extraordinarily well and I’ve also seen clients make some big mistakes in how they handled their divorce. Here are my five best tips on how to help your divorce lawyer do a good job on your case.
Tip #1: Keep Your Emotions in Check
This is by far the most common and biggest mistake that I see. I’m certain it is also the hardest one to control. It is natural for your emotions to get out of control when you’re going through a divorce. This is especially true if you don’t want the divorce and didn’t see it coming. So while I sympathize with anyone going through a divorce and understand completely why they might go somewhat temporarily insane, it is imperative that you avoid letting out-of-control emotions derail your case. An example of the kind of thing I’m referring to would be to call your spouse and leave a nasty profanity-filled voicemail. You can count on this being shown to their lawyer and ultimately used as evidence of your temper and instability. Don’t fall into this trap.
Tip #2: Don’t Hide Relevant Information from Your Lawyer
Either through embarrassment or the hope that whatever they want to hide will stay hidden, clients all too frequently avoid sharing anything negative or incriminating with their attorney. This is a huge mistake. While almost any bad facts can be dealt with by your attorney, what is most damaging is for the lawyer to find out these same facts at trial. At that point the lawyer cannot effectively deal with it. If your attorney knows these facts earlier in the case then they can deal with them to limit the damage and also they will include this knowledge in their assessment of the case and it very well could alter their advice on settlement.
Tip #3: Stay Organized
Not everyone is naturally organized but it is crucial that you handle your case in an organized fashion. For example, your attorney will likely ask you for records and other information during the course of the trial and you may even have to answer discovery requests. You should view this as you would a work project and get the needed materials together as quickly as possible and in a way that will not create additional unnecessary work for the lawyer. In all likelihood you will be paying your attorney by the hour, so any additional work you create will only cost you more money.
Tip #4: Have Realistic Goals for Your Case
It is very common for divorce clients to have unrealistic goals that are frequently driven by out-of-control emotions (see above). Examples of unrealistic goals might include a workaholic dad who insists on pursuing primary custody even though he has been a completely uninvolved parent previously or a wife seeking maximum spousal support when her income is roughly the same as the husband’s. Such overly aggressive goals are likely to backfire and make the party appear unreasonable to the judge. It is much better to follow your attorney’s advice and attempt to settle the case on a reasonable basis. That brings me to my fifth and final tip…
Tip #5: Get a Good Lawyer and Follow Their Advice
Clients often insist that they want their “day in court.” While it is necessary to try certain cases, instead of being the cathartic experience that many clients envision, it is stressful, time consuming and extraordinarily expensive. Often the client is disappointed that the judge’s ruling is not as punitive as they had hoped for. A reasonable settlement is always in the client’s best interest. A good divorce attorney will be able to guide you towards what a “good” settlement is based on what a likely trial outcome might be. Listen to your lawyer’s advice on settlement and take advantage of the wealth of experience that they have.
Divorce is a challenging experience to go through under the best of circumstances. But if you follow these tips you will have a much improved experience and will also be likelier to obtain a better outcome.
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