The decision regarding whether to hire a divorce attorney is the first choice you must make when deciding whether or not to get divorced in Texas. I think the next logical question to ask yourself if you decide to hire an attorney would be what qualities to look for when hiring an attorney. There are almost as many different kinds of attorneys as there are people who are getting a divorce. You will not suffer from a lack of alternatives in southeast Texas when it comes to selecting a divorce attorney.
However, the key to making the right selection for you, your family and your circumstances is determining what traits do you need to look for when hiring an attorney. Depending on your personality, the facts of your case, the personality of your spouse and the number of issues in your case you may need to focus on particular traits and set other traits to the side as far as importance is concerned.
Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will guide you in looking for a divorce attorney to represent you in your upcoming divorce case. Specifically, I would like to help you figure out what qualities or traits do you need to focus on when looking for a divorce attorney. I think that if you can figure out what traits are the most important to you then you will have a good idea of what attorney you need to hire when you complete your analysis.
Being able to anticipate problems and create solutions
The bottom line is that your attorney needs to be proactive. As a family law attorney, I can tell right away if the attorney representing the other party is going to be an adversary who will be competent or not. That analysis I go through usually starts and stops with whether he or she is proactive.
We all have those co-workers, friends or even family members who let life happen to them. This person may be intelligent and well-meaning, but in the end he or she is more than willing to allow themselves to sit back and be reactionary rather than proactive. Problems will arise in a divorce case. The key to being able to solve these problems is anticipating what the problem will be and then determining how best to attack the problem- before the problem even begins to take effect.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. If you are in the middle of your divorce and your ex-husband has failed to return your children to you on time after weekend visitation on every opportunity he has had there are two ways to approach this problem. The first would be to sit idly by and act surprised each time your husband drops the kids off late. Doing so violates your temporary orders. It also forces you into a position where you are having to make sure homework is done, assignments are correct and schedules are coordinated for the upcoming school week late on a Sunday night.
The other approach would be to proactively anticipate the problem and be ready with a response. Your attorney could start to draft a letter to the opposing attorney notifying him of your husband’s propensity to drop the kids off late on a consistent basis. A phone call on a Friday to remind the lawyer to phone his client and inform him that he needs to drop the kids off on time this time around would also be a good move to take.
Finally, your attorney and their staff could even begin to organize evidence and develop a rough draft timeline of events in case an enforcement petition needs to be filed with the court. That would only need to happen in the event that the other attempts to remedy the problem- the letter and phone call to opposing counsel- went unheeded.
These initial, anticipatory steps are very important to coming up with a solution to your problem and to avoiding the possibility that you all need to step foot in a courtroom. If your attorney can solve the problem by mailing a simple letter that works out well for everyone involved. However, it takes some forward thinking and some proactive behavior. If your attorney is caught flat footed each time you have an issue in the divorce you will wind up getting taken advantage of or will have to go to court to solve every problem, you encounter. This is an inefficient and wasteful path to take- both in terms of time and money.
Being able to negotiate even when it is difficult to do
You may find yourself in a situation where your spouse is an incredibly hardheaded person. Fortunately, when the chips are down and the pressure is on to make a decision in a divorce, most people will favor the least abrasive and confrontational approach. That means making every effort in the world to try and settle your case rather than to proceed to a contested hearing or trial. This saves time, money and usually results in a better and more equitable result for both parties.
However, every once in a while, a reasonable attorney will be confronted with an opposing party and attorney who do not like to negotiate and would prefer to throw their weight around. A few years ago I represented a client in Fort Bend County who was going through a difficult divorce. The client had a daughter with her husband and was essentially the little girl’s primary caretaker. Dad wasn’t at home much and preferred to spend time at work and with friends. However, now that the divorce had begun dad and his attorney began to play hardball with us.
Their strategy was to rile us up and get us into court at every opportunity. Their goal (I suppose) was to aggravate us into trying to spend time and resources in litigating a case that ultimately did not need to be complicated. These were two young people who themselves did not have a lot of money to fight this fight. I later learned that the husband’s parents had enough money to afford to pay for his attorney and for all their forays into the courtroom.
Our client and I had a choice: either play nasty in the sandbox or resist that temptation and instead opt to try and work out the problems that these folks had in negotiation. It is normal, human instinct to want to “punch back” at someone who has tried to knock you out. Like I said earlier, it doesn’t happen a lot in family cases but when it does happen the instinct is to bear down and punch back harder. However, doing so can often have the opposite effect.
Two people who are aggravated at one another to begin with don’t need much to push themselves over the edge and into a place where neither can stand to negotiate with one another. The inability to negotiate wastes time. You end up waiting to get to a court date where anything can happen when it comes to the judge making decisions that can impact your family for years to come. Instead of risking it all on a game of which party does the judge like more, I suggest you and your attorney take the nobler route. That of negotiation.
You should look for an attorney who has the ability to be the grown-up in the room. Sometimes our animal instinct to scratch and claw can come over us when our children and/or our property are at stake. I get that. However, your attorney should be willing and able to take a step back and help you to make decisions that may not feel great in the moment but will pay dividends for you in the future. That is what negotiation is in a nutshell.
Being able to stand firm when it matters most
Wait a minute, you may be saying to yourself after reading the above section of today’s blog post. Is the lawyer writing today’s blog telling you that it is important that the attorney representing you be willing to back down from a fight? Isn’t the party that hits hardest in a divorce the one who ends up with more time with the kids and more money in their pocket at the end of the divorce?
Hitting the hardest is something that I can’t say always works out well in the end. However, I can tell you that having an attorney with backbone does matter a great deal. That is the next trait that I would recommend that your attorney have- that of not backing down from a justified position. If you have been pushed around by your spouse and are in need of a strong advocate, you need to look for an attorney that identifies that quality and then seeks to defend you and stand up for your rights.
Another word that can be substituted for “attorney” is “advocate.” Your attorney should be ready, willing and able to advocate for you, your children and the positions that you need to take in your divorce. Having a backbone is crucial to being able to adequately and fully represent a client. It is all good and well to talk a big game with you in their conference room, but if your attorney backs down in the face of resistance from an opposing attorney then he or she is of little value to you.
But, wait! How can you identify an attorney who is a strong advocate just from meeting him or her a few times? Is there any way to anticipate how well your attorney will stand up for you and advocate for your rights in a courtroom? It’s not like you can take your attorney out for a test run in the courtroom or mediation office before choosing to hire him or her. So, what can you look for in your initial meetings with an attorney to determine whether or not he or she will stand up for you and your kids?
This may seem silly but if the attorney can’t keep their eyes off their phone when talking to you or doesn’t seem confident when speaking about their strategy for your case I would move on from him or her. Your attorney will not be able to competently advocate for you if he or she does not respect you. Respect is shown by the attorney giving you their full attention. Your lawyer may be the busiest person in the world (hint: he is not) but if he cannot give you eye contact in your twenty minute meeting then how can you trust that he will make eye contact with a judge when arguing an important point in your divorce?
The final piece of the pie as far as how to determine whether or not your attorney will be a strong advocate is whether or not the attorney has experience in family law. I don’t care how much moxie or spunk your attorney has. If he or she has never represented a person going through a divorce don’t let him talk you into becoming his first. Everyone needs to get their start somewhere, but that somewhere does not need to be with you and your family. A strong advocate for you in a divorce setting has been there and done that in the world of family law.
Questions about how to interview an attorney? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
Experience in looking for desirable qualities in an attorney can only be gained by doing just that- interviewing attorneys. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan invite you to contact our office today to set up a free of charge consultation with one of our lawyers. Our licensed family law attorneys will take the time to answer your questions and directly address your issues. Why not test out the tips I provided you in this blog post by speaking to an attorney from our office?