So we’ve talked so far about the difference between a petition for dissolution or legal separation just a little, but we’ll cover that more later. We’ve also talked a little bit about the response and the default proceedings that can ensure.
Let’s say that you’re actually involved in a case. Maybe you’ve not yet hired an attorney. You got served, you didn’t have the money to hire an attorney, but you’ve since maybe talked to family, friends, or taken out a loan. This can be one of the most proceedings of your entire life, and so I would always recommend to anyone that if you can afford counsel or locate some legal advice, it would be so important to you to be able to secure that advice at this most important stage of your life and your children’s lives and family’s lives.
And so to hire an attorney, what do you look for? This is a difficult question to ask of an attorney, although I’ll try to give you some traits that you might want look for. Some of the terms I see are things like “bulldog” or “shark.” If you want to spend a lot of money, a bulldog or a shark can be a good investment of your money, potentially. They may secure rights for you or obligations for the other person that you may not be able to obtain without hiring that type of an attorney.
However, in the vast majority of my cases, I do see a lot of opportunity for there to be a non-bulldog or a non-shark on the other side, meaning that the attorneys can actually be cooperative or even collaborative lawyers and we can try to negotiate out of court a number of potential options for our clients.
So I always look for, first of all, the opportunity for a collaborative case. Because I find that in the history of my cases, my clients have traditionally consistently spent a lot less money on the collaborative process than they ever spend if they go to court.
Just to give you a ballpark idea, a case that can cost maybe $5,000 in collaborative process could cost upwards of $50,000 in litigation. That’s because often complex issues can become more and more exacerbated one the people start taking opposing positions. And once a bomb gets thrown, a bigger bomb gets returned, and so on; you get the idea. This is how a small battle escalates into a war, which is what litigation can become.
So in hiring an attorney, you do want to look for someone who communicates really quickly with you, very responsively. Attorneys – we are very busy, we’re extremely busy. But we do have the obligation to communicate with our clients and communicate quickly.
You also want to someone to make sure that you sign a legal agreement with them outlining the terms and scope of representation. Another trait to look for is someone who can find time to meet with you, find time to sit down and talk with you.
One thing that I do for my clients in addition to that – I’ve written a book. I provide that to my clients free of charge, but I also provide them with a tailored-to-their-case eight-page letter telling them all of the steps of their case, what they should expect as they embark upon their divorce, legal separation, or child custody proceedings. So those are some things to look for in an attorney. And next we’ll cover different types of hearings that you can expect.