While your marital relationship will be the central focus of your divorce, it is the relationship between you and your attorney that will be the most integral to success or failure in your Texas divorce. While one relationship did not work the way that you intended it to, the other is an opportunity for you to build a strong and trusting bond with a person that will be in your life for at least two months.
There are a lot of misconceptions that exist about attorneys. We’ve all heard the lawyer jokes, bad move premises and the general attitude of some in the media about attorneys- they don’t need to be repeated in this space. With that said, you can do a lot to help build a strong relationship with your attorney by focusing on the issues that we are going to discuss in today’s blog.
Know, first of all, that your attorney is not there to work on your case by themselves. Quite the opposite- your attorney is there to help guide and advise you on issues that he or she is knowledgeable of due to their years of experience. However, the ultimate decision-making abilities lie with you. You are the person whose name appears at the top of any pleading or motion filed with the court. You are a parent to the children who are going through this divorce with you. It is your home, your business or your property that is potentially at stake in the divorce.
Communication is key
Stop me if you've heard that one before. When it is all said and done you and your attorney will either be done in by or thrive due to your ability to communicate with one another. This is not the sort of heartfelt, meaningful conversation that family members share. When I say "communication" in the context of you and your attorney I really just mean the sort of communication that allows the direct transmittal of information from one person to another. You will need to communicate with your attorney and update him or her on issues from time to time. Your attorney will need to do the same with you.
It really is simple to figure this out as long as you and your attorney are both willing to work with one another. For example, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will bend over backward to help facilitate communication between ourselves and our clients. For example, it is not uncommon for us to ask a client if he or she has a preferred day of the week to communicate or a means of communication (phone, email, etc.) to utilize. We know that you have a busy schedule and we want to accommodate that as much as possible. Of course, there are some messages that need to be communicated throughout the week but for regular updates when there is nothing major to report we will work with you to figure out a time and means by which communication will work best.
Think about your case and how you will argue your positions to a judge
It is likely that you will never actually have to go in front of a judge in your divorce case. We talked in yesterday’s blog post about how mediation has effectively made a divorce in Texas more about negotiation than litigation. This is a good thing for literally every person involved in your case. However, in the event that you will go to court, you and your attorney need to be prepared to present evidence that can help you. Begin by collecting evidence that could be beneficial to your case and provide that evidence to your attorney. Even if you think something is silly or not likely to be helpful you ought to provide it to him or her.
Many pieces of evidence may need to be explained to your attorney and/or their staff to be fully understood. Some things- text messages, emails, etc.- have context-specific explanations that need to be provided. If this is true of your case, it is best to work with your attorney's staff to schedule a time for you to speak to them about the evidence that you are providing. How you came about the evidence, what it represents and its significance to your case are good places to start a discussion. Your attorney can sit with you and analyze the evidence to figure out how to best utilize it in your case.
Do your homework and submit it on time
If you struggled in school with completing your work in a timely manner your divorce will offer you an opportunity to try again at this skill. At the beginning of your case, your attorney will hand you some paperwork to fill out. These documents are requesting basic information about you, your spouse and your family. It is helpful for your attorney to have these documents back by the time he or she begins to file your Petition for Divorce or needs to file an Answer for you. If you fail to turn these documents back into your attorney on time it may delay and ultimately harm your case.
Next, it is likely that your spouse will submit to your attorney what is known as Discovery requests. Discovery seeks to do exactly what you would think- obtain information about you and your life that can be used in your divorce case. These are not short or easy to complete requests. Some ask for you to answer “yes” or “no” type questions. Others will ask for you to fill in responses to some fairly detailed and complicated questions. Others will ask for you to collect and submit documents that are of interest to your spouse.
These requests must be turned in no later than thirty days from the date on which your attorney was provided the questions and requests from your spouse. As a result, you and your attorney will need to be on the same page as to how to respond appropriately to those requests. This can be done through exchanging emails about questions that don't make sense, or by having periodic phone calls to help you sort through issues. However, it is my experience that your best bet is to set up a time to speak with your attorney about the requests in person.
Remember- if it takes you 28 days to submit responses to these discovery requests to your attorney that only leaves him or her two days to review the material you provided, clarify any questions with you and then submit responses to their requests in an appropriate format. Like any good relationship, you need to think about your partner and how your actions will affect him or her. If you do not give your attorney enough time to do their job he or she may need to request an extension to submit your discovery responses. It is likely that an extension will be provided but your case may be unnecessarily delayed because of your actions.
If you need to communicate with your spouse do it in writing if at all possible
Have you ever been misquoted or misunderstood by a friend or family member? I think it is safe to say that we all have. It is a tough situation to be in, especially if that misunderstanding was due to something you told your friend or family member. We usually do not have an accurate record of what we say to other people so the misunderstanding can quickly evolve into a “he said, she said” battle.
In the context of a divorce case, he said/she said, is a recipe for anger, resentment, and delaying of cases. If you and your spouse are going over important subjects like your children, money, property or anything related to your divorce I would recommend that you have those discussions in writing rather than over the phone. Certainly, details can be ironed out in quick phone calls but if you are trying to engage in informal negotiations then use email. This way you can track exactly what was said and what was not said. You will also have a clear record of what you and your spouse want out of your divorce. Gaining a window into the thought processes of your spouse can be among the more valuable benefits of better communication.
Keep in mind that it is not uncommon for a rather small argument to blossom into something much larger in a high stakes situation like a divorce. Your attorney and your spouse's attorney can be great allies when it comes to calming down their respective clients. However, I can tell you from experience that the attorneys cannot help when each is relying on an entirely different set of facts than the other is. There is nothing more frustrating for two family law attorneys than to have upset, frustrated clients, who cannot get on the same page about what they are even arguing about.
You can avoid unwanted and unhelpful arguments by sticking to the plan of just communicated via email or text messages. This way you will have a clear record of what was said and where negotiations are. Secondly, you will not give your spouse an opportunity to mislead a judge, their attorney or any other person associated with your case by telling him or her an untruth about something that you supposedly had said.
Knowledge is power
Another hallmark of the attorney-client relationship is that you are paying your attorney to transfer as much of their knowledge about divorce to you and to your case. As such, if there is something about your case that you are unclear about or need clarification on, you should contact your attorney right away. Nobody is going to think less or you or get annoyed if you ask one to one-thousand questions. Your attorney works for you- not the other way around.
Just because your attorney is the one who has a nice office with the big desk and pretty furniture does not mean that you should feel intimidated by him or her. If that is the impression that you get then you may need to choose a different lawyer to work with. I mentioned at the outset of today's blog post that your divorce case is yours- not your attorney's. For you to be able to make good decisions in your case you need to have information. You will obtain that information from your attorney.
When you get into a mediation session then these pieces of advice become even more important. In mediation, you and your attorney will be spending a few hours receiving and submitting settlement proposals from your spouse and their attorney. This is when your question asking should be rapid fire. With so many plates spinning in the air it is essential that you be able to keep track of everything that is going on. The subtle nature of how one decision in a divorce can affect many issues down the road in your life and that of your children.
When your divorce is wrapping up, be sure to speak to your attorney about your Final Decree of Divorce. Much of the language in that document will be easily understood by most people but if there is a phrase or any other wording that does not make sense it is wise to ask questions about it prior to signing the document. Once you sign it is presumed that you have read and understood all portions of the order.
How not to have a strong relationship with your attorney- tomorrow’s blog post topic
Thank you for your joining us today to discuss the important topic of your attorney-client relationship. If you are interested in this subject then we think it would be great for you to join us tomorrow as we will go over some “don’ts” related to your attorney-client relationship.
Questions about the attorney-client relationship? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC 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
- Tips for hiring a divorce attorney in Texas, Part Three
- 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?
- How Much Will My Texas Divorce Cost?
- 8 Tips for Reducing the Cost of a Divorce in Texas
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- 6 things You Need to Know Before You File for Divorce in Texas
- SUCH AN EASY DIVORCE? THAT HUSBAND MAY LOSE HIS HOUSE!
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.