Forward Thinking Family Law Since 1994

What is Appropriate Behavior by Your Attorney?

People who are seeking a divorce lawyer are often fearful and anxious.  The tendency is to seek a powerful lawyer who will protect you.  That's fine.  However, a wise consumer will dig deeper.  Find out how your attorney will protect you.  Do their tactics make you proud to be associated with them or do they make you feel uncomfortable, or more angry or more anxious?

There are attorneys who feel it necessary to bully, berate, misrepresent facts or obstruct the process.  I recently sat in court and heard four consecutive arguments complaining about the opposing attorney.  This dragged on for four hours, during which my client and I sat waiting for our turn to address the judge.  The reoccurring thought that ran through my brain was why would clients pay someone to behave in the ways that were being complained of?

The answer is that our clients are under enormous stress and they don't realize that such behavior, which looks like you are being represented by a tough lawyer, is really slowing down the process for them getting to the end of their case.  They are literally paying their lawyer to fight with the other lawyer instead of having the two (or more) lawyers use their analytical powers to help settle the case.  Unfortunately, my client was collateral damage to their lawyers showing their power by fighting with each other.

Really tough lawyers have the ability to be objective about their client's problems while appreciating why a fair outcome is important to the client.  In other words, they keep sight of their client's emotions while balancing their desires with what the law will allow.  While being empathetic, they are honest with their clients about the likelihood that they will receive what the client is asking the lawyer to obtain for them.  When clients insist that it's the principle that matters, the lawyer reminds them that they may not be able to afford upholding that principle.

In all  cases, but most particularly in divorce cases, it is important to keep the "big picture" in mind.  There may be a divorce, but there will always be a family.  It is just configured differently.  Upholding that "principle" may come at the cost of destroying your family.  I recently discouraged my client, the husband/father, from telling his two young sons about their mother having strayed from the marriage bed.  He felt it was his Christian obligation to inform his sons that their mother was no longer acting like a good Christian.  In this words, "They need to know exactly what kind of a person their mother has become."  He had lost sight of the some other Christian principles in his anger and sense of betrayal and evidently wanted his sons to share in his misery over having lost his wife.  It took a lot of work to bring him around to remembering that his sons needed their mother.  They should not lose their mother because their parents' marriage had not worked.  My experience and knowledge of what happens when one parent attempts to turn the children against the other parent required me to be very firm with him in keeping the children out of the dispute between him and his wife.  This was important because had he been successful in turning the boys, not only would they be severely damaged, he would pay for this behavior in heavy economic terms.  She would retaliate by wanting more of his business and their assets.  The case would probably end up in trial, which would have cost them considerably more than their settlement cost.

It is important for the client to keep their eyes on the goals for their family.  If they want a relatively low-conflict, business-like arrangement with their former spouse and a warm relationship with their children, then they need to make sure that their attorney acts consistently.  When the client loses sight of those goals during particularly difficult periods, it is essential that they work with a lawyer who is tough enough not to lose that vision.

If your goal is a common sense, harmonious conclusion to your marriage and life beyond, then be certain you select a lawyer who shares that vision - all the time.