Building trust and communicating with your attorney
The attorney-client relationship is built on trust. Without it, your attorney cannot effectively advocate on your behalf. As you begin working with your attorney, consider the following suggestions in mind.
Honesty with your attorney is the best policy
Divorce is one of the hardest things people go through. It can be embarrassing to talk about with someone you just met. Luckily, your attorney understands what you are going through and understands that you will explore topics that very sensitive and personal. Your attorney has likely heard it all before. You should not be embarrassed to tell your attorney everything about your marriage—the good, the bad, the ugly. Not only are attorneys bound by confidentiality, which means they cannot and will not share the sensitive details of your life with anyone outside of the law firm, but because they have seen it all, they understand that relationships are complicated and they won’t judge you regardless of what has happened.
Sharing the whole story with your lawyer will help them effectively advocate on your behalf. You may even be surprised on how good it feels to tell your story to someone who will never judge you and who will always be on your side. You may also find that things that really worry you are not actually that detrimental for your case, which will give you some peace of mind. The worst thing for an attorney is being surprised by something and catching them off-guard. The more time your attorney has to explain a bad fact, the better. You shouldn’t withhold anything from your attorney. Sometimes it can be detrimental to your case.
Questions, Questions Questions.
For most people, their divorce attorney is the first attorney they have ever hired. You may be unfamiliar with the process. Don’t be surprised when every friend, neighbor, coworker, and family member will offer their advice based on their experiences with divorce. The thing to take away from this is that these people love and care about you. However, most people who give you advice don’t actually know or understand the law and the advice people give can be harmful. A lot of what people “know” about divorce is based on what they have heard from other people.
If you have received advice from a friend, co-worker, or family member, check in with your attorney. Your attorney will be direct and help you wade through the advice. You will be surprised to find that a lot of the advice you are receiving is not advice you should be following. Your friends and family mean well, but they lack the experience to properly advise you.
Get your ducks in a row
Some people are naturally on top of things. However, most people are a little disorganized, especially when they are going through a divorce. During the divorce process, there is a time where documents are typically exchanged. This is typically when your evidence is given to the other side. Start the process of gathering your documents early to avoid the stress of pushing up against a deadline. Get copies of your tax returns, bank statements, retirement account statements, any life insurance policies, deeds, car titles, etc. A complete list of the documents you will need can be found in later chapters.
Some clients complain that since their spouse is already has access to their documents, it is a waste of time for them to gather them. However, gathering the documents is more about showing the Court the evidence that supports your case. More importantly, your attorney will need these documents early on so he or she can start developing your case. Most importantly, if you fail to disclose key documents, even if your spouse has access to them, you will not be able to use them and that could be devastating to your case. The process can be tedious, but it is one of the most critical pieces of your case. Getting organized early on will save you time, stress, and money.
How to limit legal costs
Most businesses sell something tangible. Something you can hold in your hands. Attorneys are different. For attorneys, the resource they are selling is their expertise and time. If they are talking or responding to you, they cannot also work on someone else’s case. You can save a lot of money by understanding that attorneys bill for their time not necessarily for value you receive. If you have a call with your attorney, write out an agenda with all of your questions before the call. Getting organized before the call will streamline the call and ensure your questions are answered and thereby maximizing your time with your attorney.
Your lawyer is not your therapist
Another thing to consider is finding someone to talk to about your feelings, preferably a friend or relative (because they are free), but a therapist will work as well. Contrary to popular belief, attorneys do care about their clients and are concerned about their emotional wellbeing, but there are cheaper shoulders to cry on and although it’s not all about the money, an attorney’s resource (time) is very limited, which is why they bill for their time. Finding a friend or family member that you can talk to when things get emotional will help you go through the stages of grief without breaking the bank. Even a therapist will usually be cheaper than your attorney.
The other problem is that when your case ends, your relationship with your attorney usually ends (hopefully). Obviously, there are times when your attorney will help you through emotional things, but he or she shouldn’t be the only person you are talking to about your feelings. A friend, co-worker, family member, pastor or even a therapist can help you process what you are going through. Grief is a process and you need people to lean on. More importantly, you need people who will be there after your case is over.
Working with an attorney is definitely the way to go if you are getting divorced, but it is not usually a one-sided relationship. Being open and honest is critical. Helping them by asking questions and getting them the documents they need will help make your working relationship positive. Understanding that your attorney is not the best person to meet your emotional needs will save you money. In the end, your experience working with your attorney is dependent both of you working together.