When a person decides to hire our office to represent them in their divorce, I always do my best to make them feel comfortable with our office and with me if I am assigned to their case. Even though you just paid money to have a relationship with our office and to have us advocate for you, your children, and your rights in a divorce, I do not have the mistaken belief that you are automatically OK with disclosing every detail of your personal life to us. It takes trust and time to develop a relationship where you feel comfortable as a client telling me all of the vital information that could impact your divorce case.
It isn’t that lawyers are nosey or want to judge your personal life. Not at all. Instead, a divorce is an inherently personal matter that requires a great deal of communication about issues that are very personal to you. Your attorney didn’t make up the rules or the system of law in our country; we operate under those rules the best we can in an attempt to help you achieve your goals. The client holds the cards that can help you succeed or fail in your divorce.
Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, will cover the subject of what is and what is not advisable when it comes to speaking to and communicating with your attorney. There is information out there that you will be eager to share with your attorney. There is information out there that you will not be eager to share with your attorney, but it is essential nonetheless. Finally, there is information you know that you do not need to bring to your attorney’s attention. We will do our best to go through each category and provide you with tips and tricks that can help strengthen your case and your relationship with your attorney during a divorce.
Sharing is caring when it comes to your divorce attorney.
For starters, if your attorney has asked you for some information on a particular subject, you ought to do as you are asked and provide it to them. If you have a question about why that information is essential, you should ask your attorney, and your attorney should be able to provide you with a response justifying the request. Once your questions have been answered, go about the business of obtaining the documents or information your attorney has asked you for. I understand that this will take some effort, but remember that your attorney is on your team. This is not busy work for the sake of doing busy work. It is helping you prepare a case that can help you minimize the length of your divorce and help you accomplish your goals.
Piggybacking on the previous paragraph, most attorneys will ask you to submit a questionnaire type form that requests basic information about you, your spouse, your children, and various other subjects related to your divorce. If you have a specific question about this form, by all means, address those questions to your attorney. However, once your questions have been answered, you should answer each question to the fullest extent of your ability. These questions are your attorney’s way of tapping you on your shoulder to tell you that this information is necessary to represent you. Please don’t make it like your attorney has to pull teeth to get the answers. Sit down with the television off and your phone put away and answer the questions.
What’s more, if you have information that your attorney needs, you should consider organizing it and synthesizing it yourself rather than relying on your attorney or their staff to do so for you. First of all, if you learn more about your case in doing these things, that is the ultimate benefit. Second, if you can do the work yourself, it means that your attorney’s office does not have to. That saves time, and money equals money as far as an attorney is concerned. Going about your divorce with a do-it-yourself attitude can help you become familiar with your case and prevent unwanted delays. Remember- although your attorney should be providing you with a certain level of attention, your case is not the only one your attorney has.
Skeletons in your closet? Let those bones out for the sake of your divorce.
If you have a criminal history or have been involved in a CPS investigation, do not wait until the day of a hearing or mediation to tell your attorney about it. We were all more excited to turn over our report cards to mom and dad when there were “A’s” aplenty written down. We weren’t so excited when a few “C’s” wound up on the report. My point is you may not be enthusiastic when you tell your attorney that you had a DUI last year with your child in the vehicle, but your attorney needs to know this so that they can formulate a plan to overcome that alarming fact.
An example of this scenario is a case I had last year involving a young man and two children. This was not a divorce case, but I will illustrate my point nonetheless. In this particular case, our client was attempting to cause the return of his children to Texas after their mother had up and left the state without his knowledge. We had attempted to negotiate a settlement with the other side but were unsuccessful before a temporary orders hearing.
On the day of the hearing, the opposing attorney took me aside and brought up that my client lived in a home with his mother and a few relatives. This came as no surprise as the client told me about his living arrangements early in our relationship. He failed to tell me that one of those relatives was an uncle who had a history of committing sex crimes against minors. This was a bombshell that my client verified was true.
When I asked him why he didn’t tell me about this, he said that since it was a “big house” and his uncle lived on the first floor of the home, he didn’t think it was necessary to tell me. Remember that we were at the hearing to tell the judge that the children were better off living with my client in his home because there was a built-in support system with numerous relatives living in the home and close by. A sex offender in the home blew that strategy out of the water. My client was in a position where going before a judge was not a viable option. Hence, we settled on temporary orders that day to have my client remove himself from home before a trial/mediation date.
Be wise when you call your attorney with a question
Your attorney should be able to answer any question you have about your case. Please don’t assume that it is your fault because you don’t understand something. Likely, your attorney did not explain the issues well enough.
With that said, be wise about calling your attorney for every question you have during any given week. Remember that every call you have with your attorney costs you money. It is OK to pay for legal advice, but calling your attorney fifteen times a week with questions is not wise. Instead, write down your questions and see when your attorney is available to take your call on the way.
How not to talk to your attorney will be the subject of tomorrow’s blog post.
We will begin tomorrow’s blog post by discussing how not to talk with your attorney and what subjects need not be involved in your relationship. After that, we will get into particular aspects of your divorce case and approach each.
If you have any immediate questions about today’s blog post topic or any other in family law, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We offer free consultations with a licensed family law attorney six days a week.