The legal system has it's own sub-culture. The majority of people that are getting divorced have never been in a trial of their own, and thus need to know some things about the legal system before selecting their attorney or going to court. This article contains some unspoken insight that people ought to know about this sub-culture before getting started.
Don't let your attorney become your (second) worst enemy. With lots of money and the shape of your future on the line, make sure you have some basic knowledge about how to work with them.
- Give your attorney clear instructions. Your lawyer should do what you instruct them to do. It is your burden to make sure that you and your attorney are in agreement on what your strategy is and how they will proceed. If you are not happy with the steps, speed or cost of your divorce, make sure you are absolutely clear about what you want them to be doing, and replace them if they are not following your instructions or if it seems that their goals are not aligned with your goals.
- Disclose everything. Be forthright in disclosing information to your attorney. If they are building a case and get blindsided because you have not told them something, it could cost you.
- Understand an attorney's primary goal. Although a reputable attorney seeks to make money by doing a good job and having a steady client workload, you should recognize that attorneys make money by billing hours. The more interactions you have and the longer the case takes, the more money the attorney makes. With every fax and phone call billable, make sure you have a reputable attorney, and make sure they are doing only what they need to be doing. If their strategy for you is to "take your spouse for all they are worth", they will likely take you for much of what you are worth in the process.
The legal system won't make anyone a better parent (or person). People are often disappointed or become frustrated when they learn that the courts aren't a vehicle for forcing their difficult (ex) spouse to behave themselves or change. Although the decisions that the judges make are usually in the best interest of the children involved, they can't and won't get involved to curb damaging behavior that divorcing and divorced couples do to each-other. It is up to you and your (ex) spouse to take the high road and agree to learn how to behave so that the process isn't emotionally and financially damaging to your children and to you as well. Some states have classes that are required, but if there is conflict, counseling with a parent coordinator or couples therapist should be employed if possible. Damaging behavior ranges from high-conflict interactions in front of children to unfair fighting for custody or assets, even if it is not in front of the children.
Show respect for the legal system in court.
- Address the judge as instructed, usually as "Your Honor".
- Have a positive attitude. Pay attention to both your verbal communication (speak respectful words) and non-verbal communication (the tone of your voice, your body posture, don’t roll your eyes, etc.)
- Maintain a professional composure. Don't get emotional (unless your attorney specifically advises it). Court cases are based on facts, not feelings.
- Be courteous to everyone. In addition to the judge, it will help you to be courteous and respectful to both attorneys. Also,you may not get points for being wonderful to your spouse, but you will lose points with everyone if you are discourteous and contemptuous.
Regional Law There are federal, state and local laws. In a divorce, make sure that your attorney is qualified to counsel you on the laws for the state in which your divorce will be decided. Additionally, your best bet is to find an attorney that knows the county where your case will be decided. An attorney that doesn’t you’re your judge or your spouse’s attorney will be at a disadvantage because, despite what they tell you, they will all be predisposed to certain solutions. In many cases, if the two attorneys know each other, they will negotiate better and come to a more amicable resolution faster.