Now that you have retained a divorce lawyer and likely paid her or him a large amount of money – you may have questions: What is your role in your own case? How will you and your lawyer communicate? How will you and your lawyer work together effectively? Too often, the relationship between a divorce client and his or her divorce lawyer becomes a struggle. Here are three rules that will help make you and your divorce lawyer avoid unrealistic expectations and develop effective lawyer – client communications as you go through the divorce process together.
1. Don’t Have Unrealistic Expectations. What are unrealistic expectations?
a. An unrealistic expectation is expecting your lawyer to talk to you every day or several times a day. Unless there is a significant event in progress which requires decisions to be made you do not need to speak to your divorce lawyer every day. Lawyer – client communications should be frequent enough to deal with significant issues and events and upcoming deadlines;
b. An unrealistic expectation is expecting your lawyer or the lawyer’s staff to talk to you for free. Remember that every phone call you make and every email you send to your lawyer or your lawyer’s paralegal that the lawyer/paralegal reads and answers takes time. You will pay for that time;
c. Expecting your lawyer to be nasty or unpleasant toward your spouse or your spouse’s lawyer because you are angry with your spouse is an unrealistic expectation. A nasty attitude toward opposing lawyers is not a sign your lawyer is being loyal to you, or is tougher. A bad attitude by a lawyer is unprofessional and a sign of fear or weakness. It makes your case more difficult to resolve. The more difficult it is to resolve your case the more costly;
d. Expecting your divorce lawyer to be available to you day, night, weekends, vacations and holidays is an unrealistic expectation. Your divorce lawyer should be available during regular business hours and at times specifically designated by your lawyer to work with you. Everything that happens is not an emergency. Your divorce lawyer has a life and a family too. If you are afraid of an emergency developing while your divorce lawyer is unavailable, make arrangements with the lawyer beforehand how the emergency will be handled and by whom. Establishing meaningful guidelines with respect to lawyer – client communications will avoid unrealistic expectations and result in an effective partnership between you and your divorce lawyer.
2. Avoid Unrealistic Expectations About Communicating with Your Divorce Lawyer.
Talk to your divorce lawyer about what are realistic and unrealistic expectations with respect to the frequency of lawyer – client communications. Generally, your divorce lawyer should talk to you regarding upcoming significant events in your case; significant events will include upcoming court hearings which require preparation on your part, completion of required affidavits, discovery responses, motions and pleadings, upcoming mediations and more. In addition, the divorce lawyer should initially talk to you about your legal position and the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Your legal position may improve or weaken as the case develops and new or different information becomes available or a court ruling potentially affects the outcome. You should also anticipate that you will also be talking to your divorce lawyer’s paralegals and legal assistants who are trained to prepare affidavits, inventory documents and prepare for trial. Your divorce lawyer must always inform you of any settlement offers or discussions from the opposing side and you will discuss any counteroffers before your divorce lawyer makes them. Don’t let yourself be a victim of unrealistic expectations regarding lawyer – client communication.
3. Do What Your Divorce Lawyer Asks You To Do.
You and your divorce lawyer should operate as a team. Your divorce lawyer is an experienced professional and understands the divorce process and what is necessary to obtain the best results possible. If your divorce lawyer asks you for information – provide it in a timely manner; if your divorce lawyer tells you to stop self-destructive behavior (such as calling your estranged spouse’s new girlfriend or boyfriend, withholding the children or not paying support) – then stop the behavior and don’t try to justify it.