How the combination of an experienced family law attorney and mediator can cause your divorce to resolve quickly

Have you ever assumed something to be true based on your observations of the world? I think we have all have done this before a time or two. I’ll give you an example. If you see weeds growing in your yard your first instinct may be to get out the lawn mower and cut the grass so that the weed is gone. Problem solved, right? In actuality, the weed probably wasn’t killed as a result of moving the grass. In fact, it may come back quickly and spread its seeds to other parts of the law by your having stirred up that “ecosystem” by introducing the lawn mower Instead, you could have gotten some vinegar out and sprayed down those parts of the lawn that were affected by the weeds. The acidity of the vinegar is like kryptonite to the weeds.

You may not have thought of something as benign as vinegar could take care of something as invasive as a weed, but it is indeed possible. Without knowledge of the powers of vinegar, you may have gone ahead and used force where it was not called for. This is a metaphor that could be applied to the world of divorce as well. If you are going through a difficult divorce or are just beginning that process it may seem to you that if your spouse is going to “punch” you that you will then have to punch back twice as hard. Unfortunately, this attitude is reinforced by some family law attorneys who encourage aggressive behaviors (in the legal sense) in order to prolong cases unnecessarily.

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan understand that there are a time and a place for a fight in the context of a divorce, but those cases are few and far between. For the most part, you need a result that is fair but not one that takes war with your spouse to get there. The truth is much of what you see from your spouse is posturing. She is afraid of your intentions and believes that by acting as the aggressor that you will be more likely to cede ground in the divorce to her in order to allow your case to be resolved.

Today’s blog post will center around the powerful team that your experienced family law attorney and mediator can provide to you and your family. Keep in mind that a courtroom is always a place of last resort for you and your spouse should negotiations fall flat. However, if you fully engage in the mediation process it is unlikely that you will ever have to consider the possibility of going before a judge for a divorce trial.

Do you need a lawyer at all to divorce your spouse?

You do not need to hire a lawyer to get a divorce in Texas. There is no requirement under the law that you or your spouse hire a lawyer to represent yourselves. It can be helpful to have the advice and counsel of a person who has been involved in many divorces and has some perspective to share on your case, however. Lawyers do not intend, for the most part, to stir up trouble between spouses. Unfortunately what is portrayed on television and in the movies is not all that accurate when it comes to family law attorneys. Our objective is to not to delay your case in order so that we can make more money.

Sometimes though, divorce cases do stretch out beyond their expected length due to problems that arise or issues that happen between attorneys and their clients. If you present your attorney with new information months into your divorce that could cause a huge shift in your case and may require court dates to sort through that newly arisen issue. It can be incredibly frustrating for the parties and their attorneys alike to think divorce was going to go one way, only to find out that a new issue that has been raised will cause all of your planning to be worthless.

Another problem that we touched on in the outset of today’s blog post centers around parties to divorce perceiving incorrectly that the hiring of an attorney or a settlement offer is made early on in the divorce is indicative of an aggressive mindset. Just because your spouse has hired an attorney does not mean that she wants to “take you to the cleaners” and rip all of your assets from you. It is most likely that she is scared and wants to make sure that she is made aware of the relevant laws in Texas that relate to your case. There is nothing wrong with that and in many ways is the responsible thing to do.

However, what ends of happening often times is that you are then forced to hire an attorney. When your attorney asks about your spouse you then tell him that your spouse has hired an attorney and is acting aggressively ever since you were served the Original Petition for Divorce. Your attorney will then “return fire” to the other attorney and a case that didn’t need to be has become full of aggression.

The aggression that the parties feel towards one another turns into bad blood, which turns into concern and anger, which turns into paying your attorney’s legal fees that are not justified based on the actual circumstances of your case. The lawyers go to all the trouble of filing motions and requesting discovery and doing all the sort of things that lawyers are trained to do before they even realize that you and your spouse do not have the assets to justify the money being spent. What’s more- you are more or less in agreement on what should happen to your children.

Avoiding unnecessary and harmful delays in finalizing your divorce

I have a friend who is constantly harping about his credit score. If you didn’t know any better you would think he considered a high credit score to be the most important goal that a person can have from a financial perspective. Not a high income or net worth- just a big number from a credit agency. I ask him all the time what the purpose of having a good credit score is and he will tell me that it’s important so he can be loaned money. I’ll go right back and ask him why it is important he be loaned money. He’ll reply so that he can maintain his high credit score. The discussion goes around and around just like that. Basically, he has told me that it is all just a means to an end. He wants the credit score so he can be loaned money in order to up his credit score even more.

What my friend does not grasp, despite my best efforts, is that a credit score is not necessarily indicative of having a solid financial state. In fact, it is typically quite the opposite. Only those who have a bunch of debts can have truly high credit scores. All the while you are missing out on the opportunity to invest and save up to truly better yourself financially. My friend and people like him have completely missed the point when it comes to their financial successes and failures. I think divorce cases can be a lot like this. Allow me to explain why.

Don’t allow your divorce to be a means to an end

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing to get a divorce, I believe that you should approach your case from the perspective of a person who wants to do the best possible for you and your family, given whatever circumstances you are facing. Rather than just jump on the divorce merry-go-round for a ride that can take a year or more, why not approach your case with your desired results in mind.

For instance, you and your spouse can talk before either of you hire attorneys to discuss what your goals are. They don’t have to be overly specific at this point- just something to put in the air where you both know that the other person’s goal isn’t to take you for everything you are worth. Clearing the air this way can go a long way to making sure there are no misunderstandings as to the intent either of you has regarding the divorce. Clear communication makes it very difficult for you or your attorneys to misconstrue something done by your spouse or their lawyer.

Next, I would tell you to each talk to your attorneys early on in the case and tell them you do not want to go to a temporary-orders hearing without first having attended mediation. Wait- what about the costs of mediation?! Doesn’t it cost money to go? Yes, it does. From my experiences here in the Houston area a half day mediation session will cost you anywhere from $300 to $600. Shouldn’t it be a goal to avoid paying money in this divorce?

Keep in mind that going to a temporary orders hearing will end up costing you much more than $800. You will be paying your attorney for every hour she spends with you in court. You will also be paying for all the time she spends preparing for the hearing. The costs of doing so will make that $800 you spent on two mediation sessions look like nothing.

Don’t allocate resources to your divorce that could be better spent elsewhere

Just because you have the money to spend does not mean that you should spend it on divorce. Keep in mind that your post-divorce life will come at you fast once your case is completed. If you have college to save for, retirement to plan and other costs breathing down your neck think of the money you could save by not pushing forward a divorce case that ought to settle in mediation. You can’t get the money you spend on lawyers and expenses back. You can do your best to preserve your assets, achieve a fair result and get out of your case with as little harm caused as possible.

Your community estate is a major financial concern to you and your spouse. The money that you spend on attorneys will be community income. The longer your case goes on for the less money you have between the two of you. You need to seriously ask yourself whether this money is better spent fighting over issues related to your divorce or used as a down payment for a new home that your children will be playing and growing in for years to come. That’s to say nothing of the debts or bills that have accumulated during your divorce that need to be paid sooner rather than later.

In the end, it is almost always wise to hire an attorney to represent you in your divorce. It should not be just any attorney, however. One with specific experience handling divorce cases is who you want to interview and eventually sign on to become a teammate with.

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