This post is by guest author Scott Morgan, a divorce attorney in Houston who is board certified in family law and has represented divorce clients for nearly twenty years. Here are his tips on how to have an effective relationship with your divorce lawyer.
Your divorce is likely to be the most significant legal event of your life so it is important that you work effectively with your divorce lawyer. It is not enough to simply hire someone good and then expect them to magically achieve an excellent outcome all on their own. You must work on your case with your attorney as a partner. Here are some tips on exactly how to do that.
Choose an Attorney that is Right for You
You want to find someone who listens to you when you talk, who understands your goals, has experience, and has your best interests at heart. Do not share an attorney with your spouse. Beyond that, think of what style is going to fit your personality. Some people feel compelled to hire a Rambo litigator while the reality is that they are very uncomfortable working with this kind of personality. You will be working closely with your lawyer so choose someone that you will be able to work effectively with based on your own personality.
Know Your Objectives
It is important that you understand in broad terms what you want from the divorce process. Is it crucial to you that you keep the house? Do you feel it is absolutely in your children's best interest that you have primary custody? Do you want to minimize your long-term financial obligations to your soon to be ex? You must first have some idea of what is most important to you before you can hope to achieve an outcome that satisfies you.
Be Honest With Your Attorney
Your attorney will ask you for information about your finances, your personal relationships, your spouse and your children. Your attorney is going to ask you some questions that may make you very uncomfortable. No matter how awkward it makes you feel you need to be completely honest. The lawyer can't properly advise you unless they know all the facts they are dealing with so make sure you aren't sending them off to fight for you, only to learn that they have half of the story.
Have Reasonable Expectations about Communications
Your attorney has a lot of clients, not just you. Understand that they will not necessarily be available to you immediately when you call and email. Most divorce attorneys spend a lot of time in meetings and court and ending up returning calls and answering emails in batches. If your issue is urgent you should contact the attorney's paralegal (they are usually much more available) and discuss the situation with them, determining when your attorney will be able to speak with you. Arranging for a scheduled phone conference is often a helpful way to avoid perpetual phone tag and extensive email back and forth. The most important thing to understand is that due to the nature of litigation practice you will not always be able to contact your attorney immediately and will need to have a certain amount of patience.
Do Not Expect Your Attorney to Be Unprofessional
It is counterproductive for your attorney to treat your spouse (or their attorney) with disrespect or anger. In fact, attorneys with bad attitudes can get poor reputations in the legal community and you will find your case taking longer and consequently becoming more expensive. Just remember that your attorney is on your side but he or she doesn't need to be offensive in order to be effective.
It cannot be overstated how important it is to your case to follow your attorney's instructions. Return paperwork by the deadline and if necessary, stop behavior when they tell you to do so. It may be hard to stay on task, but know that there is probably a very good reason they are asking you to do these things.
About the Author
Scott Morgan has practiced family law in Texas since 1994. He is the founder of the Morgan Law Firm which has offices in Austin and Houston.