In the spirit of New Years resolutions, I thought I would give my top 10 resolutions on how to be a good divorce client.
- Give me the information I am asking for in a timely manner. I realize your time is valuable. I realize that it takes a significant amount of time to compile the documents and answer the discovery questions that I am requesting you to. I realize that the court ordered forms are heinous. However I am not asking you for information for the sake of doing so. I need that information; whether the financial or otherwise. And typically I need that information at a specific time in order to comply with a court mandated deadline. I can only represent you well if you give me the tools to do so.
- Don’t keep secrets from me. Trust me. Please. I am not going to judge you. However it is not in your best interest that I find out about the skeletons in your closet from the other side. Understanding the problems in your situation at the very beginning will only help me help you, do damage control if necessary, and plan a course of action to help you meet your reasonable goals.
- Listen to me. I know that you are not always going to like what I have to say to you. But I have many years of experience and I have dealt with many situations like yours. While I can never predict exactly what is going to happen in any given case, I can certainly let you know a likely outcome of your matter. Also, when I tell you that you should or should not do something, it is for your own best interests.
- If you don’t like what I say to you, get a second opinion. Like any good relationship, ours is based on trust and respect. I fully understand that this is the rest of your life that you are dealing with and it is a monumental time in your life. If you do not have confidence in what I say, you will have difficulty moving forward.
- Don’t make unreasonable requests of my time. I understand that you need me to be there for you. If you have an emergency, I am prepared to drop everything for you. I will call you from the beach on vacation if necessary. However when you call me 14 times in one day to make sure that I received some paperwork that you sent in the mail, this is not reasonable. I give you my promise: I will call you back as soon as I can. Feel free, of course, to send me an email about this type of thing
- Don’t take out your frustrations on my Legal Assistant. My legal assistant works very hard and does a phenomenal job for me. He or she will try to help you when you call but what you are asking may be something that they can’t answer or cannot do. Also, my legal assistant has no control over the fact that I am not sitting at my desk able to take your call. More often than not a judge does.
- Help me manage your expectations. There are certain unchangeable rules in life. We get older. What comes up must come down. And in the vast majority of cases, two households simply cannot live on the price of one. And both parties deserve to move on. So don’t get angry at me when your soon to be ex-spouse has net income of $10,000 a month and I tell you that you’re not going to get support of $11,000 a month that you think you need to meet your budget. Conversely, don’t get angry at me when I tell you you’re going to have to support your soon-to-be former spouse of 20 years who has never worked since high school while you have built a successful business during the marriage.
- Think before you act. While it might be tempting to go out and cancel all your spouse’s credit cards, this is typically not a good idea. And don’t go on a Caribbean vacation while taking the position that you can’t afford the mortgage on the house that your spouse and children are living in. Absent very compelling circumstances I can assure you things like this are really good ways to get a judge very angry at you. If there is an ongoing problem, talk to me and let’s figure out the best way to handle it in order to protect your interests.
- Remember that I don’t write the laws. I merely argue as to how they are applied. Many times, my client believes a law that applies to their cases unfair. Many times I agree with them. However, we live in a democracy, and until such time as either the legislature acts or the courts interpret something differently, we have to do the best we can. So don’t blow up at me when I tell you that the retirement account in your name alone that was built up during the marriage is subject to equitable distribution.
- Don’t badmouth your spouse in front of your children. They love you both. They don’t see the faults of your spouse that you do. We like to say that children are resilient, and they are. But you need to keep in mind that their world is crumbling for reasons that they have absolutely no control of and this is terrifying to them. They did nothing wrong. The one thing that children do need to know is that both parents love them and will care for them. When you have children and get divorced, your relationship with your spouse doesn’t end. It just changes.
Happy New Year!