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Working Efficiently With Your Divorce Attorney

by G. Beatriz Dubini

We've all heard of divorces gone awry. What we've missed out on, however, are the specifics that worked to frustrate the dissolution process, and to drive it out of control. Exorbitant costs, a horrific outcome or perhaps a never ending litigation are merely by-products of a much more complicated story.

Efficiency without compromising effectiveness should be the order of the day in dealing with your attorney. In order to work efficiently with your attorney, you must always consider how BEST to approach this thing called "the dissolution process".

You will always benefit if you:

  1. Are always honest and forthcoming with your attorneys. Hiding information from your attorney is a guaranteed way to impair his/her effectiveness in representing you and to increase your attorney fees. Your attorney will make both strategic and tactical decisions based on the information you provide. You pay your attorney in part to decide the manner in which your case is handled. Few things will spoil your working relationship with your lawyer more quickly, or increase attorney fees more quickly, than leaving your attorney out on a limb because you provided incomplete or inaccurate information.

  2. Maintain realistic expectations: In the midst of a divorce, people may lose sight of what really matters. An attorney will advise you as to what you can expect to occur and how the law deals with a particular issue. If your goal, however, is peppered with the desire to "get even", the battle may become a long, ugly and expensive one. The law is not designed to assist those seeking revenge. Similarly, the court system is good at dividing property, less good at "dividing" kids, and provably lousy at making people who are determined not to act like mature adults act like mature adults. You should have reasonable expectations about what your attorney can and cannot do for you; one of those goals should always be ending the process with respect and sanity.

  3. Organize yourself: Your financial information during this period is not "private"; your spouse's right to a full disclosure of your financial information continues through the date the property is all divided. Your income and expense information will be reviewed until no support is payable. The natural response that "my business is not his business" is often counter- productive; if your spouse's lawyer gets the sense that information is being concealed, that sense will often drive him to a much more rigorous, complete, and microscopic examination of your financial records, with additional cost to both parties. Don't make your attorney your personal assistant. He/She is obliged to present information to the opposing side and to the Court in an organized and intelligible manner. Either you can provide your attorney with the means to do this, or she can do the organizing and translating for you, with the meter running.

  4. Provide information in a timely manner: Your attorney will make various requests of you during the divorce. It can range from the uncomplicated, such as providing a check stub, to the cumbersome, detailed, labor intensive production of documents. If you won't do it, the attorney will spin his/her wheels getting it done. Whatever the information, delays in producing the information are going to increase attorney fees.

  5. Consider therapy or counseling. A divorce is never easy. Your attorney is not the most qualified person to assist in dealing with your emotional pain/recovery (that is no more so than a good friend lending an ear). Although a significant amount of personal information is shared during the divorce process between an attorney and client, and often times a certain amount of hand holding occurs, an attorney is unable, and should not become a therapist or counselor. You'll get more per fee dollar if you keep distinct the roles an attorney and therapist play.
    No one will ever argue that the dissolution process is easy. There are however various ways to make this period of time less painful and stressful for everyone involved.

  6. Being kind to yourself is just the start when going through this thing called "the dissolution process" Staying focused, being reasonable and understanding what's going on, will go a long way in keeping you sane (as well as work on, will go wonders on the pocketbook).

G. Beatriz Dubini, Gould-Saltman family law forum. The Gould-Saltman law offices are dedicated to the highest quality family law mediation and representation. Please email dgsaltman@aol.com or call (213) 939-8400 for more information.


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