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The relationship between your attorney and your spouse's attorney and its potential impact on your Texas divorce

People, like yourself, who are going through a divorce have a lot of questions typically. What is going to happen to your relationship with your children? Are you going to have to pay spousal maintenance? Who gets what “stuff” in the property division. These are all relevant questions that understandably you would like answers to. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, who offer free of charge consultations, are happy to answer whatever questions you would like no matter what they may be.

However, one question that I will receive on occasion that I will always find interesting is what is my relationship like with the attorney that their spouse has hired. These folks will have been served with divorce papers and now have questions about the lawyer that their spouse has hired. I don’t know the real reason why these folks ask me about my relationship with the other attorney but I could speculate that they want to know if I know him or her to determine if I may be able to work out a settlement with him or her. That’s the thing about divorce- everybody is looking for a quick road to the end of case before the beginning has even had an opportunity to crystalize.

Why an attorney can determine the course of your case

While this is not a formal reason why a divorce may or may not last long or be especially contentious, the attorneys that you and your spouse select can and will likely have a tremendous impact on your case. Some attorneys are mean, spiteful and love to stir up trouble. The law is a sport and your divorce is the arena for him or her to display their fighting technique. These folks want nothing more than a nice, long case to fight for their ego and will bill you for the pleasure of doing so.

Other attorneys (I think most) will be tough and strong advocates but will also look for opportunities to settle on issues into avoid having a long and drawn out case. Imagine if you and your spouse both choose attorneys that belong to this group, rather than attorneys that belong to the group in the prior paragraph. Don’t you think that your divorce would run a lot smoother and be more prone to having intelligent negotiation rather than unnecessary finger pointing and courtroom drama?

My point is that your divorce will take on the characteristics and the tone of the attorneys representing the clients. While you and your spouse may not get along well at all, that does not mean that you all will have to spend the entirety of your divorce fighting with one another. It is well worth your trouble to find an attorney that you believe will fight for you, but will be respectful while doing so. Lawyers do need to pick fights sometimes if your rights are in jeopardy but those opportunities are hopefully few and far between.

Experienced attorneys can push you towards the negotiation table

Suppose that your attorney and your spouse’s attorney are experienced and effective advocates for their clients. When your attorney contacts their attorney it is more likely that 1) he/she will pick up the phone and start to talk about solutions for their client. It should not be lost that a good attorney sees a divorce as a problem and will work to devise a solution to that problem.

A less experienced attorney may see a divorce as cause to anger opposing counsel into making decisions that are not in their client’s best interests. Usually this will not be the end result, however. From my experience if the opposing attorney in a divorce proves to be difficult to work with at the beginning of a case that will make it likely that I will not want to work with him or her as the case gets older either. This causes cases to lengthen a great deal. The longer the case, the more attorney’s fees that are paid and the more expensive your case tends to be.

Getting a diagnostic impression of a divorce case is not difficult

Your attorney should be able to diagnose the important issues in your case that will allow your attorney and your spouse’s attorney to negotiate and exchange important information. If figuring out how to take care of a large amount o debt is the major axis on which your case turns, then that ought to be figured out early. Basically you want an attorney that is able to fight for your rights but not necessarily fight your opposing spouse.

When you are determining what attorney you should hire, ask him or her in an interview how they see your case playing out and what he or she would do at the outset of your case to determine what direction is the likeliest for your case to take. If your attorney spends more time talking about what he or she can do against your spouse than for you, you may want to look in another direction for representation.

Beware the attorney who loves to poke at the opposing lawyer. I think any attorney who has been involved in a divorce case can tell you about an opposing attorney who spent seemingly all day, everyday filing motions with the court, sending emails about inane issues and generally stirring up calm waters. Every issue was an opportunity to beat their chests and attempt to cause animosity between the parties.

If you have been hurt by your spouse you may look at this and think that this is a good thing. After all- if your spouse saw fit to hurt you, then you may want to do the same thing to him or her. I would caution you on the intelligence of this plan, however. The fact remains that your goal in this divorce should not be to take your spouse for all their worth and to upset him or her.

The point is to reach a fair result and costs each side as little in the way of time and money as possible. While it may be fun to think about sending your attorney in to do battle against your spouse’s attorney the novelty of this wears off pretty quickly. What you’re left with is a case that seemingly will not end with no good will between the parties to bridge gaps.

How does your attorney view negotiation and mediation?

Ultimately, your case will likely end up in mediation. This is where you and your attorney, and your spouse and theirs select a third party attorney to help you both negotiate a settlement. Usually both sides will end up at the mediator’s office in separate rooms and the mediator will act like a ping pong ball, bouncing back and forth between the rooms to help a settlement be hammered out.

Some attorneys view this as an opportunity to try out different negotiating tactics. A good attorney will view mediation as an opportunity to end a case and their client to move on with the rest of their life. I know it is going to be a long day in mediation when the first settlement offer or counter offer received from the opposing attorney is nothing close to reasonable. This either means that there is a legitimate discrepancy in how both sides view the case, or the opposing attorney is digging their heels and are taking the rest of us along for the ride.

Questions on the importance of attorneys to the end result of your divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC take a great deal of pride in knowing how to stand up for our clients in a respectful manner. One that allows our clients to achieve their goals and shorten, rather than lengthen, their divorce case. To learn more about our office and our attorneys please do not hesitate to contact us today. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with our licensed family law attorneys.

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