By Kate Kovats
When you’re ending your marriage, you need to focus on your relationship … with your divorce lawyer.
The way you work with your attorney to split from your spouse as well as handle any post-divorce issues – child custody, for example – will determine how successful you are in getting to and enjoying a happier chapter in your life. Here are four recommendations for ensuring a strong working relationship with your divorce lawyer.
If you think your attorney – or worse, opposing counsel or your ex – won’t find out about those eye-brow raising emails with coworkers, the texts that cast you in a poor light, or even the at-home drug test you took, you are wrong. Assume the other side will find out everything, because they usually do. And always tell your lawyer everything – the whole truth. When you aren’t upfront and honest with your lawyer, you risk your case. You have to empower your lawyer to make as strong a case as possible, and that won’t happen if they are blind-sided in court. You also risk your lawyer divorcing you, because not only do you lose credibility in court when you lie, but so do lawyers who have a tendency toward clients with a loose grasp on the truth.
Whether it’s your own attorney’s advice, a proposal from the other side, or just a simple email update, it’s best to not have an immediate knee-jerk reaction of “No, I’m not doing that,” or “Are they out of their minds? Heck no.” Give yourself 24 hours to cool down before responding. And if opposing counsel imposes some sort of “deadline,” let your lawyer advise how seriously to take it, because most things can wait, even if in divorce it doesn’t always feel like it. This cooling off period will save you money because you won’t be calling on and then calling off your legal counsel. Often times, after a day or so, clients say to their lawyer, “You know, disregard that last email.” Why not just take that time to start?
Don’t mistake your divorce lawyer for your therapist, financial advisor, accountant, or parenting coach. When you’re getting divorced, you need a team. It’s not just you and your attorney in it; it’s all of these people and more. Let the various professionals do the roles they are trained to do. For instance, your divorce lawyer isn’t the best one to advise on your financial needs and circumstances; that would be your financial planner. Likewise, you will get more bang for your buck talking to your therapist about coping techniques and talking case strategy with your attorney.
Try not to go into great details about your case with friends and family members. They are on your aforementioned divorce team, but more for emotional support. They don’t need to know the fine points of your settlement or custody agreements. When a friend “helpfully” informs you that so-and-so got more money or paid less money or whatever, it is not actually helpful. The fact is they don’t have to be OK with the details; you do. It’s important to remember that every case, every family, every separating couple is different.
If you want a good relationship with your divorce attorney – one that yields the best results in your divorce – it all comes down to telling the truth, taking a breath once in a while, building a team and setting boundaries with friends and family. It’s worth it, and you can do it.