Most of us have heard the jokes portraying lawyers as money-hungry sharks. Unfortunately some of these jokes are based on truths. As you begin this journey, your choice of a divorce attorney is among the most important — a make or break decision.
A contested divorce, like any conflict, takes a path all its own. The stresses and strains often lead to dark places no one wants to go. This is when you need the right attorney. This is when you need a steady hand on your shoulder and the voice in your ear saying "sit down; collect yourself."
You need a lawyer you can trust. In a moment when all of life seems to spiral out of control you want the luxury of not having to rely completely on yourself. A good attorney is a shielding presence who will reassure you while giving you good advice. Here, five ways to work successfully with your lawyer:
1. Pay now or pay later. Beware of an attorney who takes a smaller retainer fee but doesn't file motions. Some couples wait for months on end to get court orders for spousal and child support payments because their attorney did not file the necessary motions.
2. Time is money. Remember that when you speak to your attorney on the phone, you are being charged per minute. Don't make the mistake of chattering on and on. Be to the point and use a timer. If it is a routine question, such as the date of a hearing, speak with the support staff rather than the attorney. Time for support staff is not often billed; and if it is, the fee is much lower than the attorney's rate.
3. Let the lawyers do the talking. Follow your attorney's advice to the letter. These people go to law school; they should know what they're doing. Making stupid mistakes like calling your spouse repeatedly, picking fights and not protecting yourself can lead to more bills, violence, and restraining orders. You should limit all contact with your spouse. Only discuss your children and any business you may have together. Let the lawyers do the talking for you whenever possible. That's what they are paid for.
4. Resist the urge to get even. Follow the law. The most important thing you can have is self-control. There will be times when you want to lash out, call your spouse names, or act vengeful. These actions can only land you in hot water. Taking your spouse's credit card on a shopping spree can give you legal troubles you simply don't need.
5. Write it down.You have hired an attorney to protect you. That attorney is also a huge expense and you want to keep track of what you are being charged. Keep a log of every meeting, phone call and their durations. Also it is a good idea to record in a journal any incidents with your spouse, so that it will be easier to recall the details in court later on.
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