What qualities do the best divorce lawyers have?
It goes without saying that when separating from your spouse, you want a lawyer who is a strong advocate for your position. You want someone who is going to be in your corner and who is going to stand up for you.
We stand up for their clients and advocate for them strongly and with conviction.
Yet, when you are looking for a divorce lawyer, you want someone who is a lot more than a strong advocate.
1. The Best Divorce Lawyers Say it Like it Is:
The best divorce lawyers don’t just tell their clients what their clients want to hear. They give them a real analysis of the likelihood about whether or not their case is going to be successful.
Time and again when we go to the courthouse, we see cases where it seems clear that if the legal advisor was straight-forward with the litigant, they would not have pursued the case. Putting it bluntly, their case was a dead loser and they were before the court with that dead loser of a case. Some examples we have seen are:
A lawyer who is worth their salt will tell their clients that their case is not going to be successful even if that is not what their client is going to want to hear. Good lawyers have to be the bearers of bad news sometimes.
2. The Best Divorce Lawyers Give Guidance:
The best divorce lawyers don't just blindly follow their client’s instructions, but gives them guidance.
An example? Let’s look at “Joe”. Joe had moved to a new neighborhood and because the new neighborhood was farther away from the children’s school than where he lived with them before, he wanted them to change schools. This is despite the fact that the children still remained living primarily with the Mom and that the Mom had not moved anywhere.
This father wanted the courts to change the school the children had already been going to.
Although he was not happy to hear it, we told him that his application, based on the facts as he told us, was not reasonable. As his lawyers, taking a stand for him included pointing this out.
The thing is if he took this totally unreasonable position, it would take away from his credibility before the court. There were other things that he was asking for that were very reasonable. Asking his kids to change schools only to convenience him, was not only going to fail, but it also removed his credibility from the reasonable position he was taking with respect to other factors like his parenting time.
3. The Best Divorce Lawyers Never Forget That Their Client is Part of a Family:
As lawyers, long after we have dealt with one family matter and have gone on to deal with other clients, we leave a client who gets on to the next part of their life without us. That part of their life includes the same family members that they just went to court against. The best divorce lawyers never forget this fact.
Especially in cases where children are involved, the relationship will continue long after the lawyers have moved on.
Another example: Let’s look at “Sue”. Sue’s lawyer seemed to have totally forgotten that the opposing party was not just a litigant in legal proceedings, but also the father to her children. Those children are going to have a relationship with their father throughout their childhood and for the rest of their lives regardless of the outcome of a court battle. These parents, no matter what, will still have some kind of relationship with one another.
Sue and her lawyer seemed to be “grasping at straws” in order to show that the other party was not fit to parent. What straws were they grasping at? They claimed the father was unfit because at one point he took anti-depressants and had some therapy due to his sadness around his separation. Their position is ridiculous.
Attempts to demonize the other parent for the benefit of the court will not only fail (we are very sure about this), it will do nothing to assist these parties in moving forward in parenting their young children.
When representing a party, we have to remember that people are not perfect and that the courts do not expect people to be perfect. This is especially the case during the process of separation, and in relation to the ongoing job of being a parent.
Trying to pick someone apart because they sought help 1 ½ years ago is not reasonable.
Although the parties may never agree as to the exact parenting schedule for their children, it would be way better to at least try to come to some kind of agreement rather than going forward with an expensive trial that these parents cannot afford. Less time and money needs to be spent on attempts to tear down the other parent, and more energy put in working together.
4. The Best Divorce Lawyers Focus on the Goal of Resolution or Finality:
“Focus on the goal!” That is what my first lawyer mentor taught me. Although I heard this over and over again from him to the point of it being ad nauseum, I am now glad for his lesson (Thanks Ted!).
In family law matters, it is important to remember that each and every action in our client’s matter must bring the parties closer to an agreement or order. If that agreement or order does not relate to an issue in that specific proceeding (such as a parenting plan, dividing assets, dividing debt, or support) then we don’t do that action it in that particular case.
For example, if the parties are not arguing about assets, then keep assets out of the dispute. If the parties are not arguing about money, then keep money out of it.
Here is an example of where things can go wrong if you don’t focus on the goal. We have a friend (not our firm’s client) who spent a lot of time and money to make an application to the court to have an expert talk to his children.
This can be a really good idea. Yet, his application failed. Why?
Because he was not clear about what he wanted the expert to ask the children. He also had no idea what he wanted to do with the potential information. It seems like his lawyer did not either.
So, the court could not figure out why the Dad wanted to have the children interviewed by a psychologist and the Dad could not clearly say why he wanted them interviewed and what he wanted them asked. The best divorce lawyers get clear communication from their clients about what they want.
If the Dad was clear, he could have said that he wanted the expert to ask the children about the parenting arrangement. Did they want more time with their Dad or were they happy with the way things were? Were the children exposed to the ongoing hostility that the Mom generated towards the Dad?
If he was clear in what he was asking, the Dad could have then used the information obtained for his own application to increase his parenting time if that is what the kids wanted. Maybe it would be good for the Mom to hear how her hatred of the father impacted the well-being of their children.
Even though it may sound simple, people often get bogged down in the court process and forget to focus on the goal.
The best divorce lawyers always focus on the goal and never forget it.
This article was written by Val Hemminger, lawyer, mediator and owner of Hemminger Law Group.