In yesterday's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we utilized our time to discuss how you can improve and solidify the relationship that you have with your family law attorney. The nature of that relationship is as much about a partnership as it is about your attorney working for you or about you relying on your attorney for guidance and information. If one of you does not fulfill their responsibilities the relationship cannot succeed and ultimately you will not be successful in your divorce.
Fortunately for you (and your attorney), it is really not that difficult to build and maintain a positive and fruitful relationship with your attorney. Simple steps like communicating well (or at least often), asking questions and complying with requests for information/documents are about all you have to do in order to have a beneficial relationship with your attorney. Whether you like your attorney or wouldn’t want to share a meal with him or her if they were the last person on earth, your attorney is still an important person in your life for as long as your divorce goes on.
Today’s blog post will see us shift gears from discussing how to strengthen your relationship with your attorney to habits/behaviors to avoid in your relationship with your attorney. We will also get into situations that occur in many divorces and how to handle them in the event you end up facing them in your own.
Talk to your attorney about anything and everything
Think of your attorney as your personal confidant when it comes to matters related to your divorce and your life. Remember- your attorney must keep secret and confidential any and all information to tell him unless you expressly give him permission to disclose the information. You've probably heard of this concept before as something called the "attorney-client privilege." Any worries that the sensitive or embarrassing information that you are going to share with your attorney will be made known to your spouse, their attorney or anyone else without your permission should be tampered down due to this privilege.
With that said, let’s consider just how important it is to share information with your attorney. There is a lot of information that you have in your brain, computer or file cabinet that could be very beneficial to your case. On the other hand, there are probably more than just a handful of pieces of information that have the potential to seriously harm your case. Some information falls in between either of these two categories. Either way- if your attorney asks you for documents or information regarding a specific topic related to your divorce it is best to provide him with all of the information available.
Furthermore, I tell clients all the time to not be the one to make the determination that a piece of evidence is not relevant to the divorce. While you may think something is inconsequential and therefore not important, you should defer to your attorney to make this decision. He may have a different opinion and can tell you why something may be relevant if you are in doubt. Remember- you are trying to build a relationship with your attorney. Allow him to provide context and advice regarding what is and what is not relevant to your divorce. If you vehemently disagree then what you say goes. However, it is typical that a simple explanation as to why something may be relevant will assuage any concerns you may have.
Remember who the client is, and who the attorney is
As in most any relationship when you start to place more "importance" on either person trouble will quickly follow. I am not at all trying to argue that either person- you or your attorney- is the more crucial partner. Without you there would be no case and therefore would be no need for an attorney. On the other hand, without your attorney, you would be operating in a world where you have no experience and little to no knowledge of family law. You need him and he needs you. It’s as simple as that.
That is to say that when your attorney makes a recommendation, especially one that you disagree with, you should treat your attorney with respect. That doesn’t mean that you need to kiss the ground that he walks on, but it does mean that you need to understand that your attorney is your guide through the divorce and should be treated like someone trying to help you. If you own a business that performs any type of direct service for the public then you likely know the feeling of a client not appreciating or respecting you despite your best efforts to serve him or her. While you may not agree with every piece of advice you receive from your attorney that does not mean that you have the right to disrespect your lawyer. If you find yourself in a position where you are doing so it may mean it’s time for you to look for new representation.
Money- here today, gone tomorrow
A big no-no in the world of divorce is to hide assets or property that you own in an attempt to shield them from being divided in your divorce. For instance, you could have a big bonus coming into your bank account that you know would ordinarily be divisible as part of your community estate. However, you got the bright idea to open a new bank account in order to deposit that bonus and therefore hide it from your spouse.
You can try to rationalize a decision like that anyway that you would like but the bottom line is that it is wrong. Number one you are violating the temporary or standing orders that were issued by the judge in your case. Doing so carries with it significant penalties that would likely place a large chunk of that bonus in your spouse's column for the purposes of dividing up a property. A second harmful side effect of your attempting to hide property is that you are harming your relationship with your attorney by doing so.
Wait a minute, you may be asking. How can you harm your attorney-client relationship by hiding assets from your spouse? How does that actually affect him? Getting back to what we discussed in the earlier parts of today’s blog it is essential that your spouse have information in order to help you make good decisions. He can only get that information from one person- you. If you choose to withhold information and hide assets at the same time you are committing a double-whammy to your relationship with him.
If you make a mistake in relation to your case it is best to tell your attorney immediately. Think about when you were a kid and broke something around your house. Your first reaction was likely to hide the broken item and then to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to think of a way to undo what you did before your parents could find out. Coming forward to talk to another person about a bad act that you committed is one of the hardest things that we can do as a person. Pulling the rug over something to hide it feels a lot better- at least in the short term.
In the long run, however, failing to tell your parent about a broken window in your room can result in you not sleeping well due to cold air coming in at night. If you tried to fix something on your own you could end up making a bad situation even worse. In this situation, your attorney is like a parent in a way. You are relying on their expertise and knowledge to help you create a successful result in your divorce. Your attorney should be told immediately if you have done something that could potentially be in violation of your temporary orders. If you tell your attorney as soon as possible about that bad act he can attempt to mitigate its damaging effects.
If your spouse finds out about your hiding property from her before your attorney does you will likely wind up receiving a phone call from your spouse asking you why you did what you did. At that point, it may be too late to offer an explanation from your attorney. Often times your spouse will have filed an enforcement lawsuit against you seeking to enforce whatever portion of your temporary orders bar you from doing things like this. Had you told your attorney earlier about your actions, or spoke to him before hiding the bonus in the first place, you could have avoided this lawsuit altogether.
Before you hire your attorney make sure you feel like you can trust him
You would be surprised at how many people going through a divorce hire an attorney based on the way he looks in a suit or because his office has the nicest furniture. If these sound like silly reasons to hire an attorney I would agree with you, but that does not change the fact that many people do hire attorneys for these specific reasons. For them, the actual advice that the attorney will provide is secondary to other factors that are more important in their mind.
Once you hire your attorney then the real work begins. You are in a position where you will be relying upon that person for advice and perspective on your case. It is essential that you have a high degree of trust in him. If you and your attorney disagree on a strategy or settlement offer that is fine. Well-intentioned people disagree on all sorts of issues- even well-intentioned people who are on the "same team." However, if you do not have a foundation based on trust with your attorney those disagreements can fester and grow into deeper problems that are more fundamental to your attorney-client relationship.
The best way to avoid hiring someone that you end up realizing down the road that you do not trust is to thoroughly interview each attorney that you consider hiring. An online profile or interview does not take the place of this requirement. Meet with each attorney you are considering hiring before you pay a retainer in order to try and pick up on their habits and attitudes towards issues related to divorce. We all have a sense about who we can inherently trust and who we cannot. If you get an impression from an attorney that he or she is not trustworthy then you ought to look elsewhere for representation. If you do not, you are setting yourself for a bad relationship with an attorney that you do not trust.
Discrepancies with your bill need to be addressed immediately- not a month down the road
As it happens you may have questions about your bill with the attorney. An attorney’s bill is not like the bill you get at a restaurant. There is more at play in an attorney’s bill and therefore it is much more complex. If you have questions about what was or what was not included in a bill ask your attorney to schedule a time to discuss it. If your attorney did make a mistake about something it is much easier to correct that mistake shortly after it occurred.
The longer you wait the less likely that the correction can be made. Refusing to pay a bill due to an error being included in the statement does not justify your not paying the bill. If you feel obligated not to pay your bill then you should speak to the lawyer immediately so that a correction can be issued, your proper amount owed can be paid and the work on your case can proceed as normal.
Working on your finances both during and after your divorce- tomorrow’s blog post topic
We hope that you will return to our blog tomorrow in order to discuss how to stay ahead of bills and build a solid foundation for yourself both during and after your divorce. In the meantime, if you have any questions for one of our licensed family law attorneys please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week.
Questions about the attorney-client relationship? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC today
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss this important subject with you all. If you have questions about hiring a family lawattorney please do not hesitate to contact our office today.
Across southeast Texas, people just like you have chosen to have the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC work on their behalf. For a free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys please contact us today.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Details about the Attorney-Client Relationship
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- Tips for hiring a divorce attorney in Texas
- Tips for hiring a divorce attorney in Texas, Part Two
- Hiring a Divorce or Family Lawyer in Spring, Texas
- Why do divorces cost so much in Texas?
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.