Tips to Work Effectively With Your Divorce Attorney
October 22, 2020
BY: Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O'Cathain & O'Cathain
By Megan E. Hodes, Esq.
Divorce is a difficult process which can be emotionally draining and exhausting for all parties involved. While the divorce process may feel like it consumes your life from the very beginning, there are practical ways that can assist you to work with your attorney to streamline the process as much as possible and make the process feel less overwhelming. In order to ensure that you can resolve your matter as expeditiously as possible follow these seven tips on how to effectively work with your attorney during your divorce.
#1: Read and reread correspondence from your attorney: When you see an email from your attorney that appears lengthy, it can be intimidating and daunting, but sometimes lengthy correspondence from your attorney contains vital information and legal advice that it is important to your case. Even if you discuss the same information with your attorney over the phone, it is in your best interest to actually read all correspondence from your attorney as well. It is often difficult for litigants to retain all of the information about the law that they are given, which is why if legal advice is written, it is easier for litigants to reread the correspondence at a time that they are able to understand and emotionally process the information.
#2: Provide your schedule: Although the divorce process can feel like an all-consuming venture, attorneys understand that you have your own life and responsibilities. We acknowledge that you may have children to care for or an occupation that takes a majority of your time. We also acknowledge that you have holidays, vacation time, and travel plans. It is best to let your attorney know about your schedule, your feelings and your time-table. If you have a huge project at work, upcoming travel plans, business trip for work, your children’s spring break, or really anything that means you cannot concentrate on your divorce, try to make sure your attorney knows that. Sometimes litigants have other ongoing problems in their lives and simply cannot emotionally handle what is occurring in their divorce. If you advise your attorney you will not be available – physically or mentally -for a certain time, your attorney will be respectful. However, if you do not let them know, then they may continue to ask you questions regarding your position, how you want to proceed or follow up on documents they have been seeking. To make sure you and your attorney are on the same page, just make sure your attorney knows when you will not be available.
#3 Be Responsive: During your divorce, if you and your attorney are working to expeditiously resolve your manner, and it is not one of the times you are unavailable discussed above, then try to be as responsive as possible when your attorney or their firm contacts you. In being responsive, it is less about an immediate response and more about providing a complete answer. Often immediate responses do not directly answer the attorney’s question and means the attorney will need to ask more questions to obtain the necessary information. Answering your attorney as completely as possible means that your attorney will not have to continually re-ask and follow up on the same question. This will make the communication between you and your attorney more efficient, which also means less costly.
#4 Be Transparent: While you should be answering your attorney’s questions as completely as possible, you should also make sure you are providing them with all of the pertinent information – the good, the bad and the ugly. Your attorney can only properly advise you of how you should proceed if the attorney knows ALL the facts – even if you believe some information is unfavorable or embarrassing. In order to properly protect you and your interest, the attorney needs to know the potential issues that could arise. Attorneys know how to represent you even if you have had some unflattering past transgressions. Therefore, it is best to be candid and straightforward with your attorney. Your attorney will not think any less of you, but if something you hide from your attorney becomes an issue later, it could cause a strain on your attorney-client relationship.
#5 Keep Your Attorney Informed: During the divorce process, and often during post-judgment litigation (i.e. you are already divorced), there are usually ongoing problems festering between the parties. The problems can sometimes be resolved through a quick letter or a quick conversation between attorneys, but if there is an ongoing problem that needs Court intervention, then it is better if your attorney is already aware of the ongoing issues. If Court intervention is necessary and your attorney is already aware of the issues, then you and your attorney will not need to spend extra time and energy playing “catch-up” on the events that occurred over the past few weeks, months or even years.
#6 Keeping Logs: Regardless of the issues in your case, it is always a good idea to keep a log of what is occurring between you and your spouse or former spouse. While it is suggested to keep your attorney informed of what is going on (see #5), it is easier for you than your attorney to keep a log of events and to compile documentation, such as text messages or emails, that demonstrate what transpired and is outlined in your log. It is your daily life. No one can monitor it as well as you can – especially as the events are occurring. A log of events is often seen in cases where there are parenting time issues such as missed parenting time, interference with parenting time, late pick-ups or drop-offs, missed extracurricular activities, etc. If you keep a log of these events, that log can be used to demonstrate the problems that keep occurring and how often the problems occur. These logs are often utilized as critical exhibits in motions. For financial issues, if there are arguments or conflicts with payment of regular expenses, it is good to keep track of when those incidents occur. (i.e. On March 10th he removed money from the savings account without notifying me. On April 8th she refused to allow me to use our joint account to pay the mortgage.) As previously stated, you should be keeping your attorney aware of these problems as they are occurring to strategize on the best way to handle the issues, but if you have a log of events that log can be helpful to your attorney who is advocating on your behalf.
#7: Listening/Reading Legal Advice: In conjunction with Tip #1 above regarding reading and rereading correspondence that you receive from your attorney, it is important to acknowledge and understand that the advice your attorney provides to you is just that: advice. Your attorney works for you and is there to provide you with insight into the law and how your case could be resolved. The best way for you and your attorney to make strategic decisions about your case is for you to understand their explanations about the current law. When an attorney tells you what the law is and how it could affect your case, try to understand that the attorney did not make the law and may not even agree with how the law is applied. When explaining the law, the attorney is not making personal judgments about you, your marriage or your children, but advising you of your options under the current law. Accept that your attorney is looking out for your best interest and sometimes that means providing you with information that you may not want to hear. Just remember the attorney is there to guide you through this process and to be your advocate.
If you are looking for a matrimonial attorney to advise you on how to proceed with your divorce or post-judgment issues, contact us today to set up a consultation.