Why did the client cross the road? Because his attorney told him not to. Of course, this joke underscores that the attorney-client relationship must be built on trust. Here are some tips on how to interact with your divorce lawyer that should save you time, money and help you avoid frustration and misunderstandings.
First, you must be candid with your lawyer. One of the biggest problems attorneys face are clients who don’t disclose damaging information early in their case. I recall one former client who, only ten minutes before a custody hearing, revealed to me that he had a six-month-old arrest and conviction for drug use. You can bet the other side already knew about it. Your attorney can help with damage control if you tell him or her the “bad” news from the start, or whenever it happens. It usually turns out that something a client thinks is very bad isn’t, or can be mitigated.
Second, be honest about your assets and debts. The last thing you want to do is to try to hide money or property from your spouse. Remember that you, and not your attorney, signs the financial declarations under penalty of perjury.
Third, your divorce lawyer is your advocate, not your therapist or financial guru. There is no substitute for a good therapist to help you through the emotional ups and downs of divorce, and a good financial planner.
Fourth, tell your divorce attorney what’s most important to you. It may be more time with the children, the house, or a favorite antique. Your attorney is not a mind reader. You and your attorney are a “team.” It’s OK to ask your attorney what you can do to keep costs down and help expedite your case through the system. Be proactive and involved.
Finally, don’t get hung up on the “pots and pans.” Remember that all your furniture, furnishings and appliances are valued at the money you could get them at the local swap meet or garage sale. Unless you have art or antiques that can be appraised, there’s no use spending new money in attorney fees and court costs to get old furniture and appliances. Today, these items are commodities and unless you purchased furniture as art, it doesn’t make sense spending thousands of dollars to fight over that old sofa.