Most clients have the same fears and questions.
Clients also hold beliefs about the legal process in a divorce or about
the behavior of the people involved that are not accurate . . . we call these myths.
Here are the most common questions that clients ask, followed by other favorites and
Am I Going to Win?
Win what? It has often been said
that no one wins in a divorce case. We will attempt to raise all issues structured to your case to your
advantage, and make sure you “lose” as little as possible. However, if your intent is to
punish your spouse or to win by way of an all-out, no-holds-barred victory, your goal is probably
unattainable. We recommend that you retain another law firm if this is the case.
How Long Will It Take?
It is difficult at the outset of
a lawsuit to foresee how long it will take to complete. We are better able to give you an
estimated time range later when we understand more clearly what is at
issue. The time involved is primarily based on four factors:
a) The number and complexity of the
b) The intensity of feelings
between the parties and whether there is an inclination to settle;
c) The attitude and tenacity of
your spouse; and
d) The tenacity and desire for
litigation of the lawyer of your spouse.
By far, the factor that makes lawsuits last longer
is the intensity of the feelings between the parties and how much they
want to fight.
Will It Cost?
It is difficult to make a realistic estimate of the
total fee even when we know what issues are contested, the intensity of
the parties’ feelings, and the complexity of the issues. If the
parties want to settle, make compromises, and end the matter quickly,
they can do so. If the parties do not trust each other, want complete
discovery of all assets and
liabilities, and argue many issues to the bitter end, no matter what the
issue is, the process becomes very
long, drawn out, and expensive. Going to trial is almost always more expensive than settling
I Need a Really Tough Attorney; Are You Tough
Some people feel that to be a “fighter,”
an attorney must (1) be uncooperative with opposing counsel in such
matters as disclosing information, disclosing documents, and arranging for convenient
dates for meetings, depositions, etc; and (2) never consider or advise compromise or
negotiation with opposing counsel.
This notion is sadly misguided; the time to
“fight” may be in TOUGH NEGOTIATIONS or in court. Being uncooperative with opposing
counsel greatly increases attorney’s fees with all legal steps done
the hard way such as preparation of special documents, appearances in court,
etc. The information and documents are ultimately subject to disclosure under the
law. Therefore, an uncooperative attitude serves no useful purpose. At times it
seems you are always on the defensive. At different stages of the case, the roles reverse.
Don’t worry, it evens out throughout the course of the case.
What If My Attorney Is Friendly with My Spouse’s
Attorneys in a particular area are likely to have
many cases against each other over the years. They are also likely to
attend the same professional events and may work on committees together.
Because they deal with each other day in and day out, a camaraderie may
develop. Your attorney and your spouse’s attorney may exchange pleasantries, share a joke, or
even have lunch together. This does not mean the attorneys are being disloyal to
their clients. Remember, your attorney is professionally committed to achieve the best
result for you given the facts and law applicable to your case. This does not mean that he or she must dislike
the other side, or be hostile, rude or mean to the other side. Such behavior frequently
harms, rather than helps, your case.
If the Other Side Suggested It, It Must Be Bad
It is unfortunately common to believe that just
because the other side suggested some-thing they have an ulterior motive. Also, some parties believe that
they should automatically
do the opposite of what the other side wants. Let your attorney guide you
responding to requests from the other side. However, a request,
suggestion, or offer from the
other side is not per se “bad.” Most attorneys are not out to
“get, trick, or ruin” the opposing counsel or client. Therefore, we do not
advise a “knee jerk” negative response to any request from the other side.
SHOULD DEAL WITH YOUR SPOUSE DURING THE DIVORCE
Divorce tends to bring out the worst in people.
Self-interest apparently justifies deceptions and outright lies that would be intolerable to nice people
in ordinary times. Self-protection requires a new set of guidelines for dealing with your
If love is gone, substitute politeness.
Be skeptical. Half of what is said is meant to
deceive you. The other half is self-deception.
Breast your cards. Don’t let your spouse know
how much you know.
Walk away from arguments or conflict.
Expect your spouse to resent
your lawyer and to attempt to undermine his or her influence.
Don’t enter into private negotiations without
your lawyer’s knowledge and advice.
Don’t make agreements or sign anything without
talking to your lawyer first.
When in doubt, believe your lawyer, not your spouse.
Use your lawyers as hired insulators. Learn to say,
“Talk to your lawyer and have him or her talk to mine.”
Don’t rub in your legal victories. Losers try
to even up.
Please obtain a post office box until the conclusion
of the case so that your mail will not be intercepted by your spouse.
Do not, under any circumstances,
keep any files in connection with your case at your marital residence or any
location where your spouse could seize and obtain them, thus learning your entire
case and strategy.
Do not, under any circumstances, enter into any Agreements of Sale
on your real estate, or the acquisition of new real estate, without first
conferring with your attorney. Such an action or activity on your part
could find you in a “squeeze play,” without a place to live
and without funds to make the purchase, if your settlement has not been
consummated by that time.
Do not presume that your counsel
receives copies of any correspondence, legal pleadings, or notices that
you may receive in the mail or by judicial process. Upon receiving any
such documents, contact your attorney immediately and send your counsel
copies of any such documents.
Do not be intimidated by your
spouse if an ultimatum or deadline is given you to accept or reject an
offer or proposition. One does not negotiate “under the gun”
as to time. That offer or a better offer, we frequently find, may always
be available or, failing same, the court will direct the appropriate fair
settlement award to you.