There are Five Things your divorce lawyer may not be telling you about your case (at least five – maybe more). Ready for the cold, hard truth about what’s really going on in your divorce?
- You’re being too emotional, and this is strictly business. One thing your divorce lawyer isn’t likely telling you about your divorce is that emotion is irrelevant in a courtroom. If you want your day in court, don’t go to court. In going to court, you will testify on “direct examination” for about 30 minutes, maybe 2 hours. During that time, any emotional information you convey will likely be ignored, or even stricken from the record. Your emotions don’t matter. This isn’t the place to work out your feelings. You want to show the judge pictures of your children, but the judge may be more interested in what’s for lunch. My grandmother used to tell her children, “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for any of you, and I wouldn’t have paid a dime for you either.” That old-school sentiment about children can lend a little insight into how a person will feel about children who are not theirs.
- We’re going to court, so I don’t have time to care about your emotional needs. Divorce is an industry and it’s an enormous process to take a divorce case to trial. I have heard it said by other professionals that, “the standard attorney client relationship creates a conflict of interest when you go to trial.” This is because the lawyers benefit from conflict at a time when you most crave finality and peace. The less peace you have, the more money your lawyer stands to make. Your lawyer may have the best of intentions, but they still have a job to do. Caring about how you feel is not one of those jobs. Rather, they need to be sure they have covered all their bases.
- Your case has taken on a life of its own and I have little to no control over the case now that we’ve involved the court. When you hired your divorce lawyer, there were two cooks in the kitchen, you and the lawyer. If roles were assigned carefully, there was really only one cook. Then the other side lawyered up. Then you involved a judge. It’s impossible for any cook to keep a close eye on the other cooks. No one has any control over how the situation will turn out. Your divorce lawyer has a reputation to protect – theirs. If you want your lawyer to actually think about what you need, and to maintain close control over the process, consider collaborative law.
- I secretly suspect the trial judge dislikes me and that may reflect on you. Judges are assigned randomly when a case is filed. You are allowed one change of judge for any reason whatsoever. The other side is allowed that change of judge too. You are then riding out your case with the judge who makes any rulings on the merits. And the judge may not like your lawyer. A person who worked for several judges said this: “They talk about lawyers all day long. They all have opinions. There are some lawyers that when they see them coming, they cringe.” A judicial assistant once told me about another lawyer, “Oh, we all know what to do when we see her coming.” I can’t even tell you what I have heard judges say. Is your lawyer one of those lawyers? You’ll never know, and they may not even know.
- I want to offer collaborative law, but I haven’t been trained to use it / I don’t really know how to explain it to my clients /I’m scared I won’t make enough money if we take that route. I know when a divorce attorney has no clue what collaborative law is. It’s when I see this statement written by another lawyer: “This case isn’t appropriate for collaborative law.” The message I receive: “I don’t understand the statement, and I won’t respond.” (About 85% of cases are appropriate.) Another common response: “Collaborative law will not be used in this case.” (Because the lawyer has no idea how to use it or believes there is no money in the process.) If you are being told that collaborative law won’t work in your case, have you asked whether the person has been a part of a collaborative team? A great question is this: “Have you completed the collaborative law training?” There are 1000 lawyers in this city who are capable enough to take your case to trial. There are about 30 lawyers in Phoenix and Scottsdale who are beyond capable enough to make your case a successful collaborative law case. Seven can be found at www.bestlegalchoices.com.
I don’t take restaurant recommendations from people who haven’t eaten at the restaurant. And, for example, I don’t put a lot of stock in sushi recommendations from people who have never tried sushi. If you have met with me, I describe collaborative law much as I describe the ingredients of sushi. People walk in my office and they say, “we want to stay out of court. We want to be amicable. We don’t get along, but we don’t want to give all our money to lawyers. But we know we need lawyers.” And my response is, “you want to use collaborative law.” Clients didn’t know there was a term for what they wanted. I compare it to sushi because there are specific elements, like rice, seaweed, wasabi, raw fish, and cucumber or avocado. Take any of those elements out of the sushi and you don’t have the same experience. Sushi is healthful and typically associated with higher-end dining experiences, but surprisingly affordable and not associated with the terrible feeling of having over-consumed.
Collaborative law is similar in that any element removed would result in a less than fully satisfying experience, but you don’t feel destroyed after you have gone through the collaborative divorce process. The demand for collaborative law exists, and there are a number of amazing divorce lawyers who are taking on their first or second collaborative law case without any training, in the hopes of transitioning because like me, those lawyers have seen the destruction that court can do to a family.
What these five sentiments have in common is that if you use collaborative law, they disappear:
- If I am your collaborative divorce lawyer, you aren’t being too emotional. Collaborative process is designed to address the needs of people who are involved in a divorce.
- I have time to talk with you about your needs, because we are not going to court. This is possibly the hardest time of your life, but you’re fortunately sheltered from the uncertainty of litigation while you endure it. I care not only that you want to keep the house, but I care why. Your schedule matters. Your fears matter. I’m not busy preparing myself and protecting my own reputation during the rigors of litigation. In fact, I can’t even make a mistake. It’s your divorce, and we can focus on you.
- I have total control over your case as your lawyer, and you have control over your case too. There is no judge involved in your case. The schedules of both “sides” and their attorneys govern the process. You will know at the first collaborative law meeting the date you can expect to finalize your divorce.
- It does not matter if your assigned judge likes me, or you, because they will almost never make decisions about the day to day process of your case. The judge will interact with us to the extent that they will sign the papers I prepare and submit to the court. The judge’s role will be limited, at best.
- I’ve been trained, and I know that collaborative law cases are less emotionally and financially expensive for my divorcing clients. I also recognize there are a lot of people out there like you who would hire a lawyer. But people fear writing the equivalent of a blank check to an attorney. People can afford $10,000 for a divorce, but they can’t always afford $50,000 to go to court. People do not want to spend money on a $50,000 case for an outcome they may find repugnant.
Collaborative law isn’t perfect, but it’s the best system we have available for about 85% of divorce cases. Imagine living your life peacefully, even through some pain, during your divorce. Imagine being productive at work. Imagine not hating the other side’s lawyer. Imagine eating a delicious lunch with your entire collaborative team, instead rushing off for a 15 minute sandwich during a rigorous trial. Imagine feeling good about your lawyer, and feeling like someone actually heard you. You are imagining collaborative law.
Call me at 480-999-0800 to talk about your future collaborative case.