Our new clients often ask us how they should work with us during the divorce process to obtain the best possible outcome and keep their legal fees reasonable? When people decide to get a divorce, one of their first thoughts is to find and consult with a divorce attorney who can guide them through the process.
The relationship and communication you develop with your lawyer are essential because they will most likely continue throughout the finalization of your divorce.
How well you can work with your divorce lawyer can impact the progress of your divorce proceedings and the amount of legal fees you will incur. A few essential points to remember about how well you will work with your lawyer is first to let them know your expectations and to understand they are not therapists.
In other words, you should not expect your divorce attorney to act as a therapist for your emotional issues related to the divorce. You should also never expect your lawyer to behave unethically to pursue unrealistic expectations.
Yes, it's likely true you are going through a stressful time in your life and need to talk to someone. While most divorce lawyers are willing to listen to the details of your emotional situation, their primary role is to provide legal representation for the best possible divorce outcome. Try to separate the two issues.
During your initial meeting with your lawyer, they will also let you know what they expect from you. They will also discuss a strategy and all your options.
Your attorney should always consult with you before making any major legal maneuvers and promptly return your phone calls or emails. Our California divorce and family law lawyers will examine this topic in more detail below.
What Information Does Your Divorce Attorney Need to Know?
How well you and your family law lawyer work together can tremendously impact the outcome of your divorce and how much you will spend on legal fees. After deciding who to retain as your divorce lawyer, you will need to provide them with all the information about your situation and what you are seeking.
You need to be specific about your goals, including issues over child custody, child support, visitation, spousal support, and property division.
Your lawyer will undoubtedly ask you for information. You should provide relatively quick, honest answers. Don't start telling a long-drawn-out narrative with information irrelevant to getting a divorce. Your lawyer will probably ask you why you are seeking a divorce? Some information you might want to write down for your attorney includes:
- Where were you married?
- How long have you been married?
- Did you sign a prenuptial agreement?
- Were you or your spouse previously married?
- Will there be any issues over child custody?
- Personal data about you and your spouse,
- Information about your children,
- You're home and work addresses,
- Telephone numbers;
- Your ages and places of birth;
- Your Social Security Numbers;
- Status of physical and mental health for you and your spouse.
To meet or surpass your expectations, you must first understand that your divorce lawyer needs your cooperation and accurate information. Telling them false information to make you look better is a mistake that could impact you later in the proceedings. Your information is confidential and protected under California law, called the attorney-client privilege.
What About Financial Information?
In a California divorce, financial issues are frequently one of the most closely scrutinized topics that lead to heated debates and allegations of dishonesty. Again, there is information your divorce lawyer might need to know, such as:
- What are your incomes and expenses?
- Are your financial accounts joint or separate?
- Do you make mortgage payments?
- What property do you own separate from your spouse?
- What property was purchased during the marriage?
- What assets and debts did each spouse bring into the marriage?
- What are the names and addresses of your employers?
- Does either spouse have insurance or a pension plan?
- How much money do you and your spouse have invested?
- Is either spouse involved in the stock market, etc.?
Before meeting with your lawyer, it would be wise to list how much you spend every month on housing, food, clothing, vacations, and the children. You should also provide relevant legal documents, such as prior or pending bankruptcies or judgments.
What Will Your Divorce Attorney Expect From You?
The ideal client for a divorce lawyer is well prepared, has control over their emotions, and will listen to their legal advice. You should pay for lawyer fees promptly.
If you are in a difficult financial situation, you should be honest about it and make an effort to work out an agreement. Don't make false promises. Most divorce lawyers have the following expectations from their clients:
- Always be honest even if the truth is not on your side;
- Disclose all relevant information when requested;
- Be cooperative and reasonable with negotiations;
- Don't be rude to the office paralegals or staff;
- Have realistic expectations about the outcome of your divorce;
- Don't call your lawyer excessively over minor issues;
- Don't blame your lawyer over how the family law system operates;
- Don't expect your lawyer to have therapy sessions over your emotions.
If you fail to answer questions honestly and fully or refuse to follow your lawyer's advice, you are only hurting your chances of a favorable outcome. In other words, you are expected to be honest and pay your legal bills.
You are also expected not to waste time asking many obvious questions or excessively venting your frustrations. If you believe there was some misunderstanding, then respectfully work it out with your lawyer.
Remember, your divorce lawyer is on your side. They are your ally and want you to succeed post-divorce. You and your divorce attorney must maintain a solid and trusting relationship to get the best possible legal representation and obtain the best possible outcome.
What Should You Expect from Your Divorce Attorney?
There should always be a clear understanding of what you are expecting to achieve from your divorce attorney. The lawyer will have issues they expect from you discussed above. Likewise, you should also expect some things from your lawyer, such as:
- You should expect to receive a retainer agreement that has the details and terms of your lawyer-client relationship;
- Your divorce lawyer should discuss an initial case strategy, but subject to change depending on what happens;
- You should expect to hear all your legal options and get advice on the best path to follow;
- You should expect the divorce lawyer to always be honest and realistic about the possible outcomes of your divorce;
- You should expect your attorney to promptly return your phone calls or emails.
It's in your best interest to stay involved with the divorce process. Working out a mutual agreement with your spouse is always better than forcing the family court to decide for you.
If you need additional information about how we can help you with any divorce or family law issues in the state of California, contact our firm to review the details of your situation. Furman & Zavatsky are California Certified Family Law Specialists in Los Angeles County. We offer a free case evaluation by phone at (818) 528-3471 or use the contact form.