What is one of the biggest challenges of a Divorce lawyer?
First, read Donald Baranski’s answer to this question (which provided below); it’s excellent, and any divorce client would be wise to heed his warnings.
I will only add this as my own take on the subject: one of the biggest challenges I face as a divorce lawyer is: trying to convince the clients (no matter how intelligent and attentive they may be) that what they believe the law governing divorce and the court system are and how they function (or what they should be and how they should function) is not actually what the law governing divorce and the court system are and how they function.
Almost all clients believe that how they think the law works is exactly and inerrantly the way the law works. Rarely are clients correct. Almost all clients believe that what is important to them is important to the judge hearing the case. Judges do not care (in some instances are not permitted to care) about individual litigants and their subjective personal concerns nearly as much as these individual litigants would like to believe.
If and when a client comes to learn and understand the workings of the law and legal system (some clients either refuse to learn/understand or honestly cannot understand, and it’s tragic when that happens), the client comes to see that quite often the client’s opinions of what is fair and equitable do not square with the law itself.
This is the main reason (but by no means the only reason) that people who believe divorce law can’t be that hard to and that they can represent themselves effectively in divorce court usually fail miserably and unnecessarily.
Donald Baranski, Attorney and Counselor at Law
#1. Divorce is extremely emotional
The biggest challenge to the divorce attorney is to deal with the emotions involved. The divorce client is going through one of the most dramatic and life changing events they will ever experience. I tell all divorce clients to do three things: First, talk to their physician about situational depression and whether they need anti-depressants. Second, if they do not already have a therapist, to get one at least through the time of the divorce proceedings which is six months to one year. Third, be social. Get out and socialize and realize that they are still attractive to others. Divorce clients are known to constantly change their mind due to the emotions and stress involved.
Divorce clients are not thinking in a logical, or rational fashion. They are losing their spouse and their children, and often their family pets too.
#2. Not thinking long term.
Divorce clients are not thinking long term. As a divorce attorney, I am concerned with the child custody and parenting time issues until the youngest child reaches 18 years old. Additionally, the divorce client is not appreciating that the property division, the debt allocation, and whether or not they receive spousal support will affect them for the rest of their lives.
#3. Divulging strategy and tactics to their spouse.
One of the biggest challenges to a divorce attorney is to make sure their client does not discuss and divulge strategy and tactics that the attorney and client have developed. I now literally draw a map of a military base and explain to the client that when they go home and tell their spouse everything I have just told them, that would be like telling the enemy who is attacking your military base, “oh, you do not want to enter the military base from the east because we have a machine gunner there. Oh, you don’t want to enter from the west because we have guard dogs. Oh, you don’t want to enter from the north because we have land mines everywhere. But, if you come in from the south, you can just waltz right in and have whatever you want.” Clients in an effort to save money and avoid legal costs will tell their spouse everything, which is very unwise when the interests of the spouse are adverse.
#4. Taking action without consulting the divorce attorney
Another big challenge is the divorce client going off and doing things without consulting the divorce attorney which may seriously affect their case. For example, moving out of the marital home without the children into a new residence over 100 miles away with a romantic partner. Definitely bad idea to do those three things when attempting to obtain custody of children. Another example, canceling the medical insurance from their employer on their spouse and their children. Another example, signing legally binding documents with their spouse and after the fact coming to the divorce attorney for their opinion.
#5. Consulting with the divorce attorney and ignoring the advice.
Clients will be advised of taking or not taking a particular action, and decide that they know better and ignore the advice and do as they please. See #4 for examples of what clients are told not to do, they do it anyway. Often the advice given is due to the attorney’s experience with the Friend of the Court or judge assigned to the case.
#6. Clients not appreciating the complexity of divorce law
In order to work on a divorce with children. the divorce attorney has to have mastered many areas of law for property division and debt allocation. The divorce attorney must understand real estate law, bankruptcy law, personal property law, debt collections, pensions, medical insurance, life insurance, worker’s compensation insurance, unemployment insurance, probate law on deceased estates and trusts, tax law, child care laws, child support, child custody, alimony, personal protection orders and criminal law.
#7. Not wanting to pay the attorney.
Clients will pick and choose as to what they think is important. This goes back to #2, not thinking long term. For example, a divorce judgment may have the division of a pension, but an additional document to divide the pension must be drafted, and the client does not want to pay the additional attorney fees to have this done. Then, 15 to 20 years later, their ex-spouse is retiring and they are in a panic because they never did the proper paperwork to divide the pension at the time of the divorce judgment. Another example is when the parent does not want to pursue child custody, and then five years later, they seek child custody and they find how it is 5 times more difficult to move to change custody than if they had done this in the original divorce.
Not getting paid at all. This is in addition the client not wanting particular service to being with. This is when the client specifically agreed to every single action undertaken on their behalf which they agreed was worthwhile, and still do not want to pay their bill. Divorce clients are well known for not paying their attorney fees. Usually, the clients that are the most demanding are the same clients least likely to pay their attorney fees. Once the divorce judgment is entered, client’s stop paying on their bill.
#8. 24/7 Availability
Clients in divorce cases have issues arise after 5 p.m., on the weekends and holidays. This makes sense because the exchange of children take places when people are not at their work place. The divorce attorney is expected to be on call 24/7, and often the divorce attorney is on the telephone with a police officer who was called to the client’s home, or the client’s spouse’s home.
#9. Social Media and text messages.
Divorce clients will post messages to their spouse, to their children, or even the public at large regarding their divorce and custody battles. Divorce clients do not realize that posting statements on social media is the same thing as placing an advertisement in the local newspaper. Everything that is stated will be read by someone who can use those statements in a court of law. Divorce clients will state incriminating statements on social media. Everything from their use of drugs, to their motives to seek child custody is only for the child support, to stating that they are doing action “x”, just to harm the spouse or the children. Divorce clients will text to their spouse that they are cancelling the medical insurance, the cell phone plan, or the car insurance, that they have cleaned out the joint bank account.
#10. No control on the amount of money spent or duration of a divorce case
The divorce attorney has no control on how long the divorce case lasts. The divorce attorney cannot compel the client, or the other spouse to be reasonable. The divorce case can be extremely expensive if one or both sides decide to argue trivial matters. For example, which spouse has the possession of the Christmas tree decorations, or whether Johnny and Mary come home from grandma’s Christmas dinner at 8:00 p.m. or 8:15 p.m. For time spent in attorney fees, the both spouses could buy brand new Christmas decorations. It is trivial to argue regarding 15 minutes one way or another on the returning time for the children, this is not going to ruin anyone’s day.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277