Tag: divorce lawyers

Is there anything that can surprise a judge during a divorce proceeding?

Is there anything that can surprise a judge during a contested divorce proceeding?  

Of course.  

We’ve all read about cases where all of the circumstantial evidence indicated the defendant is guilty, only to be surprised in the eleventh hour some piece of evidence that conclusively proves he couldn’t be guilty, but that someone else is the perpetrator.  

We know, sadly, of people mistakenly or wrongfully convicted, which often comes as a surprise (because we hate the idea that the justice system can be and in such cases is corrupt at one or more levels): 

And we’ve all, unfortunately, learned of cases where the defendant was falsely accused, which surprises some. See: 

Of course. I will describe one common way a judge can be surprised (especially in divorce and family law cases): like all of us, judges have their own worldviews based upon their individual personal experiences, what they were taught as they grew up, their own beliefs and biases. A good judge tries to be as aware as possible of these things, so that he/she will not take a subject approach to the case but will follow where the evidence leads according to what the law dictates.  

One of the things that many subjective-minded judges tend to do in divorce and child custody disputes is believe the woman/mother to be: 

  • honest 
  • the better parent of the two 
  • financially dependent on her husband 
  • under the husband’s explicit or implicit control (whether that be financially, emotionally/psychologically, physically, or both) 
    • victimized in some way (whether great or small) by the husband, if the wife claims to have been. Extremely common examples: “He controlled all the money, wouldn’t tell me how much/how little we had, and wouldn’t give me any to spend,” and/or “He forbade me from having a job,” and/or “He physically/sexually/emotionally abused me and/or the children,” and/or “He forced me to engage in sexual acts that I found objectionable/humiliating,” and/or “He never shared in the household chores and childrearing.” 

Don’t get me wrong; many wives/mothers are all of these things, but not always. But 25 years as a divorce and family lawyer I can tell you that in my experiences some judges presume the women to be some of these things simply by virtue of them being women, and if the wife/mother makes claims to being any of these things, the judge will often treat such claims as “prima facie” established until the husband/father refutes/rebuts them.  

Consequently, it often surprises some such judges when a husband/father proves* that, while he is not perfect: 

  • he is honest and/or the wife/mother has been lying about him or on the subject of other issues in the divorce and/or child custody case. 
  • he is either just as good a parent as his wife or the better parent of the two 
    • and if he proves he’s the better parent, that often comes as so big of a shock to some courts that the court cannot/will not bring itself to accept such a concept, let alone such a fact 
  • that if the wife/mother is in fact financially dependent on him (as many wives often are, though decreasingly so in modern society), he has been forthright and transparent about financial matters with his wife  
  • that he does not exercise any kind of force or control over his wife and/or children but is decent, loving, and treats all of his family members fairly and well 

*Getting over that bar is often extremely difficult, sometimes impossible for some husbands/fathers with some judges.  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 11: Something for nothing?

By Quinton Lister, Legal Assistant

Giving without expectation is one of the hardest things to do in this life. I often wonder in our capitalistic society why it is so important to do things for others with the expectation of payment.  

Then I became a legal assistant for a divorce attorney. 

I am amazed at how many people feel entitled to free legal services. Of course, it is true that not everyone who wants something for free is taking advantage of you, but in the case of legal practices, it is often the case. 

I am now beginning to realize that expecting payment for goods and services is not greed. It also serves as a check against abusive behavior. The amount of phone calls and emails I get from other people who are upset and demanding has shown me why it is important not to just do things for free “too much”. Some people have no problem taking advantage of others by milking others for free stuff and free services. Worse, some people who know they can get something for free abuse the privilege and try to ride that gravy train as far as it will take them. Worse, some people use the free stuff and free services to do harm.  

That’s not to say I should never be altruistic. Just the opposite. We all face times when we need help because we can’t help ourselves. But there’s a difference between a hand up and a handout.  

I can see the importance of providing protection against those who would abuse others’ compassion and generosity. Payment can be a form of protection against parasites. An honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work does a lot to ward off freeloaders. Paying for what goods and services are worth helps ensure they aren’t wasted and go where they are needed or wanted most. Paying helps us clearly differentiate between needs and wants, requirements and mere conveniences.   

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

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Is being a divorce lawyer miserable?

Is being a divorce lawyer miserable?

Miserable? Can be (and is) for some divorce attorneys, but for me it’s chronically discouraging.

Sure, the human pain and betrayal to which we are exposed is saddening, as is the toll divorce takes on innocent children.

It’s sad to see a nuclear family ripped apart and to witness the different, but inevitable short and long-term consequences for every member.

It’s annoying to see who should be mature adults wasting their precious time, resources, and emotional reserves on anger, conflict, and oneupsmanship.

What makes it discouraging for me, however, is the way courts still treat fathers generally, i.e., as second-class parents and sources of financial support but not as important to a child as a mother, not as crucial an emotional and psychological component of a minor child’s upbringing. While it is true that fathers are gradually being treated more fairly, it’s still discouraging how often courts presumptively write off the father as unequal to the mother, how they presume fathers don’t love and care for their children as much as the mothers, how often the courts will, in some cases, literally analyze what the physical custody and “parent-time” award will be by asking “what’s the minimum the kids really need with their father?”

I’m frankly amazed that courts in my jurisdiction (Utah) refuse to give joint physical custody so much as a losing chance when courts can easily test it during the pendency of the case before making a final determination. Instead, some courts retain the services of “custody evaluators” to predict what’s best for the kids without testing the hypothesis. Why? There is no good reason why.

Imagine you want to buy a new car. Imagine it’s going to be a major investment; you’ll be driving it a lot each year for many, many years. It needs to be the right fit for you and your family. The car you ultimately get won’t be perfect (nothing is), but you want your choice to be as good a fit for you and your family as possible. Like everyone else in your position.

Now imagine you’re told that of the cars you’re considering you are allowed to test drive only one of them. Indeed, while you’re contemplating which car you’ll ultimately buy you will be restricted to test driving only one of the possible choices.

There’s no compelling reason why you can’t test drive each of the three or four cars you’re considering, no reason why you shouldn’t (in fact there’s every sensible reason you should).

But the dealerships simply dictate that until you make up your mind, you won’t allow you test drive any car but one. When you ask the dealers why (if they give you any answer at all), it will be something along the lines of “these cars are not lab rats” or “test driving a car might harm the car, so it’s not worth the risk” or “test driving more than one car may confuse and upset you.”

When you ask the dealers, “How can I make the best choice of car, if you deny me and my family the most useful and meaningful way to choose (i.e., test driving)?,” the dealers will then tell you that either they will choose for you and that a “car choice evaluator” may be appointed to help the dealers (not you) decide what new car you will buy. It makes no sense, but the dealers will tell you, “We’ve told you how our customers’ cars are chosen, so the matter is settled.” That’s how child custody has been determined for as long as I’ve practiced law.

No matter how many times I ask courts to test competing custody proposals, to compare joint custody against sole custody, so that the court and the family (and that includes the children) can experience the different schedules and learn what is best, I have NEVER had such a request granted. Not once in 23 years of practice. Nor have I ever heard of a court doing such a thing in any other child custody case where I practice. That makes me miserable.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Are family law and divorce attorneys working during the Coronavirus?

Are family law and divorce attorneys working during the Coronavirus?

Yes, at least we are here in Utah, where I practice. Courts have done a fairly good job of holding hearings by telephone or Internet conference, so that they prevent people from having to come into contact with each other in person at the courthouse.

Some particular kinds of proceedings are still being held (even required to be held) in person in the courthouses, but anything that can’t is being held remotely or being postponed. Yes, some hearings and conferences have been postponed until we can meet in the courthouse (which is, for the most part, rather silly), but we are working.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Is it normal for your attorney to ignore your calls or answer your questions?

Is it normal for attorneys of a law firm who have taken on your case to never return your calls regarding any questions, concerns, or updates that you have regarding your case?

For many lawyers and law firms, yes, shamefully yes!

And often it depends upon what kind of lawyer or law firm. It is highly likely that if 1) you do not choose carefully who your divorce or child custody lawyer is and 2) fail to pay your lawyer well to have your lawyer do the job well, you will end up hiring a bad one. “Bad” meaning, among other things, an attorney that does not take or timely return your calls and who avoids providing you with answers to questions, reassurance in response to concerns, and with periodic updates as to the status and progress of your case.

If your lawyer is nonresponsive, meaning that your lawyer does not timely return your phone calls and emails and text messages, and your lawyer does not take the time to answer your questions and assuage your concerns to the extent that the attorney reasonably can, that is almost certain proof that your lawyer is incompetent and a clear indication that you need to get a better lawyer, and fast.

Now it is unfair of you to expect your lawyer to take your call every time you call the office. Attorneys are often on the phone throughout the day and are often already on the phone when a client calls, which prevents them from being able to take that call. So be understanding in that regard. But if your lawyer does not return your call, or at least have a member of his or her staff return your call (in the event that your attorney is away from the office for a period of a day or two on business) within 24 business hours, odds are you have a lousy lawyer who is not going to get any better.

If you have an attorney that responds to your questions with “you just have to trust that I know what I’m doing,” or “that’s the way the law works and I don’t expect you to understand,” odds are you have a lousy lawyer. If you have a lawyer that does not keep you apprised of developments in the case, even if the only thing to give you notice of is that nothing is happened lately and/or nothing is expected to happen anytime soon, odds are you have a lousy lawyer.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Do family law attorneys handle divorce?

Yes. Basically, all family law attorneys can handle divorce cases, while “pure divorce” attorneys clearly don’t handle other family law matters, such as adoptions, guardianships and conservatorships, juvenile court criminal case defense or non-delinquency juvenile court cases.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Why are divorce attorneys so expensive?

Why are divorce attorneys so expensive?

Because we divorce lawyers (I am a divorce lawyer) generally disappoint the people they serve. Some causes of the disappointment are the lawyer’s fault, some causes are the client’s fault.

Lawyers disappoint so easily because (and in no particular order): A) being a divorce lawyer is largely a thankless job; B) many divorce lawyers are money-grubbing opportunists; and C) virtually everything about the divorce process is miserable and so much of the misery is beyond one’s control to stop or mitigate.

Given all that, is it any wonder a divorce lawyer’s fees usually feel so expensive?

You’ll spend $30,000 for a car without much complaining because that car is so worth it! The car means you get to work safe and warm and dry in the winter and cool and comfortable in the summer. The car means freedom and fun. Sure, you paid $30,000 for the car, and sure, you have get it serviced and make sacrifices of time and other purchases to afford the car, but you got way more than $30,000 worth of benefit from that car. That car wasn’t expensive compared to the utility and joy it brings.

But spend $30,000 on a divorce and what do you have to show for it? Not much you can touch (indeed, you probably end up with less than you started), enjoy, appreciate, or use. The sacrifices you made to get divorced often feel as though they were made in vain. That’s not fair to lawyers who do a good job, but it’s understandable for clients to feel like their divorce lawyers really just made the best of a bad situation.

That’s usually why divorce attorneys are (perceived as) so expensive.

Utah Family Law, LC | | call us for an appointment at 801-466-9277

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Divorce and Family Lawyer “Win/Loss” Statistics

Potential divorce and family law clients want to know my “win/loss record.”  Frankly, until just now, I’ve never thought to keep track of this information.  Why?  Not because I am lazy (far from it) but because until just recently I believed that a “win” was hard to define in family law.  It is true that a “win” is hard to define and family law.

For example, if my client wants $1000 a month in alimony and is only awarded $750, is that a win or a loss?  If my client wanted joint custody on an equal time-sharing basis, his/her spouse wanted sole custody, and my client ended up with the kids two thirds of the year instead of half, is that a win or a loss?  So it was situations like this that led me to conclude it was very difficult, if not impossible, to keep win/loss statistics.  But I was wrong.

First, I know that clients and potential clients crave win/loss information information, and for good reason.  An attorney’s success rate is vital to know when making a choice of which attorney will represent you in your divorce or child custody case.

So today I sat down and asked myself a simple question:  rather than tell people “I really can’t quantify that for you (which sounds like a dodge no matter how you explain yourself),” how could I devise a way to quantify “wins” in a way that potential clients understand and appreciate?  Here is what I came up with.

For each hearing and trial, the client and I sit down and make a list of issues to be argued and fought over.  We track now those issues were resolved (by court order or settlement, for example).  Then we further refine the question by applying a “win” scale of 1 to 10 to the results reached for each issue as well.

For example: imagine that a temporary orders (pendente lite) hearing is coming up. The issues are: A) physical custody of the children; B) legal custody of the children; C) the amount of child support to be determined; D) whether to award temporary spousal support/alimony; E) to stay in the marital residence; and F) who will be responsible for certain household debts.

Assume that we want our hypothetical client to be awarded the primary physical custody of the children (at least 254 overnights per year); joint legal custody of the children; want child support to be awarded to our client in the amount of $1,000 per month; temporary spousal support/alimony of $1.200 per month, have the marital residence awarded to our client, and have our client pay the home mortgage and utilities, but have the other spouse pay everything else. Assume we have a reasonable argument for these positions, but not a slam dunk.

We go to court and here is the outcome:

A) physical custody – court awarded 50-50;

B) legal custody of the children – joint;

C) child support – $750 per month;

D) temporary spousal support/alimony – $1,200;

E) marital residence – our client gets to stay;

F) household debts – our client ordered to the mortgage and utilities, and car payment and insurance for the car our client drives.

And so the client and I subjectively (but with an eye to being fair and reasonable) rank this outcome (based upon what the client and I knew the strengths and weaknesses of our case to be) for each issue on a scale from 1 to 10 as follows:

A) physical custody – we didn’t get what was wanted, but the spouse didn’t get what he/she wanted, either, so let’s say that the client and I agree this gets a 6;

B) legal custody of the children – we did get what was wanted, so this rates a 10;

C) child support – 7;

D) temporary spousal support/alimony – 10;

E) marital residence – 10;

F) household debts – 8.

Out of a possible 60 perfect score (10 x 6 issues), we got a 51, or 85%. I bet future/potential clients would love to know about stats like these.  What do you think?

If it makes one uncomfortable for the attorney to have a hand in rating his own performance, fine by me. Let the client and client alone rate performance. Note, however, that the problem there is that divorce clients as a group (I’m simply being honest here, folks) are notoriously hard to please, even when you’ve by all accounts hit a home run. But I digress.

My point is that where there’s a will to keep useful, yea even reliable, statistics (which potential clients crave), there is a way. I’m thinking I will start doing this.  Would you find this helpful, if you were looking for a divorce and family law attorney?

If you would like to hear more about why I believe we are successful and can help you also be successful in your divorce proceedings, call us at 801-466-9277.


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Hey Divorce Lawyers – You’re About To Get Fired!

It is my opinion, based upon 18 years of practice as a Utah divorce attorney, that the quality and competence of most of the Utah attorneys who practice in the divorce arena leaves—and this is being charitable—much to be desired.

I’m an excellent Utah divorce attorney. I don’t state this to brag, but to be honest, and honesty is a trait sadly lacking in the Utah divorce attorneys of poor quality and competence.  I am by no means a perfect divorce lawyer, and I know it.  I cannot be all things to all people, but I can always develop and improve.

I recently came across this blog posting, which I knew was worth sharing and commenting on because it caused me a great deal of personal discomfort.  You will benefit from reading this posting and my comments if and when you find yourself in the market for a divorce attorney.

Hey, Divorce Lawyers: You’re About to Get Fired!

by Christina Pesoli

Christin Pesoli’s article:  My commentary:
If you’re a divorce lawyer, chances are pretty high that you’re an email away from getting dumped by your client. The “Dear John” email is likely already written and saved in your client’s draft folder. She’s waiting for the next time you blow her off or insult her to click send. Odds are, she won’t have to wait very long. This was an unwelcome, but necessary reminder.  I don’t like to think about or admit to the fact that divorce lawyer clients see me primarily as a necessary evil.  It’s bad enough to go through a divorce.  Hiring a lawyer too often feels like adding insult to injury.  I know why you feel this way. Most divorce lawyers know why too, but shamefully, they often spend more time avoiding the subject than bettering themselves and the legal system.
 Christin Pesoli’s article:  My commentary:
Getting canned will come as a total surprise to you. You’re actually doing good (or at least good-ish) work on her case. So, why are you about to be fired? Because your client doesn’t like you. And why would she? You treat her like garbage.

You make her list of worries longer. When she doesn’t know what’s going on with you, that actually adds more items to the already long list of things she loses sleep over. In addition to tossing and turning over her life being turned upside down, she now has to worry about whether you’re lazy, or unorganized, or forgetful, or too busy, or disinterested, or undependable, or unethical. She has to questions if her trust in you was misplaced. She second-guesses whether she’s picked the right lawyer. She wonders if it’s too late to fire you and hire someone else.

This blog postings author, Christina Pesoli, hits the nail on the head.  In a way, this paragraph has a double meaning.

Not to start out on the defensive here, but often the good work divorce lawyers do for their clients is confusing and thus feels wrong. Clients understandably interpret that uneasy feeling as a symptom of bad representation.

So while I am often surprised by how “ungrateful” clients are for the “obviously” good work I do, it’s my responsibility to help every client learn: 1) the difference between truly good and truly bad lawyer work; and 2) the limits of what an attorney can do under the best of circumstances, so that the client cannot only recognize good lawyer work, but appreciate it.

Because the legal system is so counterintuitive (even when it works well) and so dysfunctional, I owe it to my clients to educate them far more thoroughly than I have, or they’ll naturally remain confused, anxious, and resentful.

 Christin Pesoli’s article:  My commentary:
You talk down to her. We all get it. You have a fancy law degree and tons of experience handling divorces, and your client has neither. But that doesn’t give you a license to treat her like dirt for not knowing all the important stuff that you know. The fact that you have skills and qualifications that she lacks is exactly why she ponied up that hefty retainer and hired you to begin with. If she had your credentials and knowledge, she wouldn’t need you at all. You’re the store and she’s the customer. If you want her to keep buying what you’re selling, act like you value her business and make her feel like she’s come to the right place.

Here’s an exercise that will give you insight into how to treat her: Put your massive ego to one side for a minute and walk a mile in her shoes. Imagine that you’re going through the scariest time of your entire life and that everything that matters to you hangs in the balance. Next, imagine that you’ve hired a super-duper expensive person to pilot you through the terrifying and confusing legal process that you have no choice but to go through. Then, the next time you communicate with your client, treat her the way you’d want to be treated if you were in that exact same position.

I never thought this would happen to me, but it has: I have been in practice for more than 20 years, and I can see that I am starting to forget how I perceived the legal profession and our legal system before I went to law school.

I don’t have the space to explain it fully here, but briefly: the way we intuitively believe and perceive divorce law should work is rarely the way it does work.  Some of this misperception is based upon a genuine ignorance of solid legal principles, but most of your ignorance of our legal system stems from naïve and misplaced trust in a system that does not work and, unfortunately, is getting worse. Knowing the difference is key.

The plain, disgusting, discouraging truth is that even the best lawyers can’t consistently get fair and reasonable outcomes for deserving people in divorce.  Most divorce lawyers won’t acknowledge this because they either prefer to exploit client ignorance or they are terrified to admit to their clients just how hard it is to get real justice from our defective legal system.

 Christin Pesoli’s article:  My commentary:
You don’t keep your word. I realize that from your standpoint most of her questions don’t seem very pressing or important. In fact, some of them are silly and annoying. So, what’s the big deal if you promised that you’d call today with answers to her pesky questions, but you don’t actually get around to calling until tomorrow? You’re fighting a million fires and you have to prioritize.

The problem is this: She doesn’t know her question is no big deal. If she did, she wouldn’t have asked it. She also doesn’t know that the reason you didn’t call her is that you were so busy with other, bigger fires that you honestly could not come up for air. And she sure as heck doesn’t know that you plan to call her as soon as you get out of that hearing tomorrow afternoon. You know why she doesn’t know any of these things? Because you never bothered to tell her. All she knows is you didn’t call like you said you would, and it’s anybody’s guess when she’ll hear from you again. And she’s left to wonder what else about her case you’re ignoring.

While those who know me can tell you this is not true of me, it is true of most (not all) Utah divorce lawyers I have dealt with.  I am treated the same way they no doubt treat their clients.  E-mails go ignored.  When I call, their gatekeeping secretaries invariably tell me the attorney is always in a meeting, with a client, on the phone, in court, or some other nonsense.  Yes, some attorneys are very busy.  But they are never busy every minute of every day that you happen to call or e-mail.  You know this, but many lawyers think you’re too stupid to catch on and/or they think they have you over a barrel so that it doesn’t matter what excuse they give for blowing you off.

If your attorney does not return your email or phone calls within 24 hours or less, I can promise you that you are in for many other kinds of disappointment.  Do not hope or wait for things to get better; fire that attorney and replace him or her with a responsive attorney immediately.  One of the most important marks of an overall excellent attorney is how responsive he/she is to his client.

 Christin Pesoli’s article:  My commentary:
She’s not the only one who doesn’t know stuff. There are things you don’t know, too. And some of those things are important, like the fact that tomorrow afternoon is a terrible time to call because she’ll be driving carpool, and she really can’t talk about Daddy draining the bank account and taking that hooker to Hawaii when she has a minivan stuffed full of kids. So try your best to keep your word. And for the times you can’t, at least give her a head’s up rather than simply blowing her off. This is one of my biggest blind spots.

I’m embarrassed at how hypocritical I am sometimes; there are days when I just want to focus on getting work done, not answering the questions of worried or confused clients.  And yet I get annoyed when I call a client at the office who tells me he or she can’t talk until after work.  Too quickly I misjudge clients coping with extreme demands on their time and their emotions as flaky.  I’m sorry.  I know better, I’ll do a better job to remember.

 Christin Pesoli’s article:  My commentary:
Her impression of how things are going with the legal end of her divorce is based on the updates you give her; and her impression of you is based on how you treat her when you’re giving her those updates. Even if you’re doing everything else right, if you botch these two things, your client’s confidence in you will be seriously undermined. And it will be your fault, not hers. This comes back to taking twice or even three times as much time educating clients about what’s really going on in our legal system, warts and all.  This is hard enough for good lawyers to do, but impossible for the lousy lawyers because 1) they are lazy and don’t want to do the work; and 2) they fear that being honest with their clients about the sad state of our legal system and how little power they have to control the outcome of a client’s case will result in being fired.

Forgive me for tooting my horn a bit here, but I would rather lose a potential client who trusts me than obtain a client and that client’s money by playing on fears and/or selling false hope.  Whether you know it or not, when you’re going through a divorce you are highly gullible.  Check yourself.  Don’t let hurt, fear, vengeance, and greed cloud your judgment.

 Christin Pesoli’s article:  My commentary:
You drop stuff on her at the last minute. You know that statement you told her to whip up over the weekend and email to you by Monday so you can have it for mediation? You’ve known for weeks that you were going to need that from her. You could have let her know about the assignment and its due date a long time ago. But you didn’t. Why? Because in your view, it’s a no big deal project. It doesn’t take a law degree to write it. There’s no research or careful drafting required. You routinely have to pull together projects that are a hundred times more complicated in a fraction of the time, and you don’t come unglued.

What you don’t get is this: The projects you drop on her without even thinking are actually much harder than anything that you have to routinely do for you job. You know why? Because to her, they’re not routine. This is not her job; it’s her personal life. Surprise divorce assignments at a time like this can completely derail her. If she has her kids, the assignment will cause her to be too preoccupied and stressed out to fully be with them. If she doesn’t have her kids, she’ll be too busy obsessing over the daunting last-minute assignment to relax. Either way, you’ve detonated a bomb that’s totally ruined her weekend. And she’s paying big money for that treatment.

You berate her if she misses a deadline. From her perspective, deadlines don’t seem to mean much to you. You blow off calling her when you say you will. Court dates and various deadlines routinely get moved around — often without checking with her, and sometimes even without telling her until the very last minute. But if she fails to get you something when you ask for it — like discovery responses, for example — you treat her like a she’s a complete screw up. You drone on and on about how her irresponsible behavior is jeopardizing the outcome of her case.

Now in fairness to lawyers, including the lazy, crooked, and stupid ones, even the best clients often put off dealing with any aspect of their divorce until the last minute.

Divorce law is very much time-sensitive and deadline driven. Take deadlines seriously.  You could lose an important argument you otherwise would have won but for your failure to file documents with the court by a given deadline.

So while attorneys who make last-minute requests are annoying (I’m not one of them, by the way), I’m not going to fall all over myself too much in apologizing for those attorneys because frankly no matter how much advance warning they get, most clients procrastinate.

Still, I am amazed at the number of lawyers who don’t even try to give their clients advance notice.  Most divorce hearings in Utah are scheduled at least 28 days in advance.  If your lawyer is telling you about a hearing three days in advance, your attorney is fatally disorganized and incompetent.

That stated, if your lawyer is good about giving you as much advanced notice as possible, do yourself and your lawyer a huge favor by using all of that time to analyze, organize, and prepare as best you can.  You bear responsibility for the consequences of dumping everything on your lawyer at the last minute.  I know it’s hard enough to manage all the demands on you without the added pressure of divorce, but procrastinating only makes matters worse.  Help your attorney help you by making sure you understand each other’s schedules and accommodate them.

 Christin Pesoli’s article:  My commentary:
You can’t have it both ways. If you want her to respect deadlines, then you need to act like you respect them, too. Keep the deadlines you make for yourself; notify her when something has to be changed; and give her the courtesy of explaining why. I repeat: how quickly your attorney responds to emails and phone calls is not merely indicative of how concerned he is about you and your case, it is a highly accurate gauge of that lawyer’s competence.
 Christin Pesoli’s article:  My commentary:
You treat her like she’s both crazy and boring. Anyone who has ever worked with divorce clients knows that they are a not-so-charming combination of crazy and boring. They’re crazy because divorce causes people to lose their minds. And they’re boring because they all seem to lose their minds in exactly the same way. Crying jags. Screaming tirades. Public meltdowns. Ten page long emails to you at 2:00 a.m. Twenty page long emails to their ex at 4:00 a.m. You haven’t just seen it all; you’ve seen it all a million times.

But here’s the deal: This may be the millionth time for you, but it’s not the millionth time for your client. This isn’t just another divorce. This is her divorce. So if you can’t be sympathetic and supportive while you charge her however many hundreds of dollars an hour to represent her, then it’s time for you to find another job — and preferably one that doesn’t require you to be both a decent human being and a competent lawyer. I hear lobbying firms might be looking for your type. Your client may even be willing to write you a recommendation letter — but don’t drop that request on her at the last minute. She’s got a lot on her mind right now.

Tough, but sensitive is a hard combination of traits to find in a divorce lawyer.  I don’t tell you that to excuse the way lawyers treat their clients, it’s just a fact of life.

And so a lot of lawyers, in an effort to have their cake and eat it too subscribe to, “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.”

A good lawyer cannot be a good lawyer without giving his clients tough love, so be prepared for a lot of bad news; good lawyers care enough to be honest with you.  But if dealing with your divorce lawyer makes you more miserable than going through the divorce itself, AND if you are a reasonable person, you can probably do better.  Don’t fall prey to “better the devil you know” thinking when it comes to who your lawyer is.

I’m nothing if not honest, even brutally honest (which can come across as ludicrously honest since I’m a lawyer).  Unless I come right out and tell you I’m exaggerating, however, don’t presume that I am exaggerating.  So if what you are about to read offends you, know that that is not my intent.

I’ve tried to deny it, but I can’t deny it and be honest at the same time:  a significant number of divorces occur because one or both of the parties is mentally and/or emotionally unstable.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that anyone and everyone who gets divorced is mentally/emotionally unstable.  Nor am I saying that one of the two spouses in a divorce action is nuts.  I’m going to tell you what most attorneys know but are too afraid to share, and that is that many a divorcing person is his/her worst enemy.

Candidly, I am not the most naturally empathetic person, but I’m not without feelings.  Still, it’s quickly apparent quickly with some of my divorce clients that divorce was inevitable.

So before (or possibly around the same time) you make an appointment to speak with a divorce lawyer, I ask you to do something scary and even potentially humiliating:  schedule a session with a therapist.  Find out if there are serious flaws in you psychologically that are making your marriage fail.  If you are wholly or partially the cause of the strain in your marriage, divorce won’t solve your problems, and may actually worsen them.

Follow Christina Pesoli on Twitter:  Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277



What You Really Need to Know and Do to Get a Good Divorce Lawyer

Do you need a divorce attorney but you’re not quite sure where to begin? Selecting an appropriate and qualified attorney can be crucial to the outcome of your divorce case. Here are some useful tips for selecting a divorce attorney that’s right for you and your situation.

Determine what type of attorney you will need. Do you have children? If so, you’ll want to select an attorney that specializes in family law or child custody issues. Do you own a home, have assets and investments, debt, etc.? Depending on your financial situation, you may need to select an attorney that is experienced in financial law. Also, consider how aggressive an attorney you might need. Does your spouse already have an aggressive attorney? You may need an attorney that can match that. Do you have an amicable relationship with your spouse? Perhaps an attorney skilled at mediation, who can negotiate a divorce decree suitable for both parties, might be right for you. If your spouse is abusive, you may need to find an attorney that specializes women’s rights or domestic violence. If you live in the state of Utah, the Utah State Bar directory offers a useful search tool, whereby you can search for attorneys based upon their area of expertise, location, etc.:

Don’t wait until the last minute. If your situation permits, begin looking for an attorney early. Give yourself plenty of time to research and select an attorney with which you feel comfortable. Waiting until the last minute may result in choosing an attorney that may not be satisfactory to you.

Ask for recommendations. Asking people you know and trust for good divorce lawyer recommendations is a good place to start. You might begin by asking friends or family members who have recently gone through the divorce process. Therapists, financial advisors, CPAs, or other attorneys can usually refer you to reputable divorce lawyers as well. Be sure to ask several questions about the attorney that someone is recommending so that you can determine whether or not their experience or character is suitable for you and your situation – just because someone else had a good experience with a divorce attorney does not always mean they will be a good fit for you. Consider your own needs and/or your family’s needs.’

Be thorough. Before your initial consultation with a divorce lawyer, prepare several questions that you would like to ask them. You may want to ask them questions about their approach in settling a case, how long they’ve been practicing law (specifically divorce law), how much they charge (initial retainer fee, hourly fee, flat fee, etc.), what percentage of cases they have settled, do they have any particular areas of expertise (child custody issues, financial law, domestic violence, etc.), and any other questions that might pertain to you and your situation.

Think it through. After you have met with one or more attorneys, compare each of them. Consider their answers to the questions you asked them. Ask yourself whether or not you feel they would be suitable for you. Don’t be afraid to take your time while thinking it over. This is an important decision – after all, this is your life and your family.

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