Divorce Litigation: A Partnership of Experts
The vast majority of divorcing couples can resolve all legal issues through non-adversarial divorce such as mediation or collaboration or by consulting with lawyers on a limited basis. But for the small minority of divorcing people who can’t, the old-fashioned method of divorce is still available.
Traditional adversarial divorce assumes a case will conclude with a court trial or a settlement under threat of a trial. A divorcing person is likely to be confused, overwhelmed and feel controlled by a mysterious process seemingly with a life of its own. The temptation is to seek comfort by passing responsibility off to their lawyer to take over. But that is not the best way to improve the chances for a good outcome.
A better way is for you and your lawyer to work in partnership with each providing their expertise. You are the expert on you. No one knows your goals, history, needs, desires, priorities and concerns and those of our children better than you. Your lawyer is the expert on the law and the legal process. As such, the lawyer’s role is to provide analysis and advice on how the law applies to the facts in your particular situation. This will guide decisions about how the case should be run – what things can be done and should be done – to achieve a divorce that meets your realistic goals and objectives. Your lawyer will be your advocate in court and, since the vast majority of litigated divorces settle, in negotiations with your spouse’s lawyer.
How does that work? Communication is the key. You need to be clear with your lawyer what you need to carry on with your life. What your needs (and hopes) are for alimony, child support and property division, child custody and the parenting plan. Even at an early stage in the case, your lawyer, based upon the information you provide or the lawyer can find out, should give you a range of outcomes and a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of your case. There are, of course, no guaranties, especially in divorce where the judge who would decide the case has so much discretion. The case evaluation should be revisited and modified as the case proceeds. It is the standard for you to evaluate proposed settlements. Your lawyer should give you options and advice so that you can decide whether hiring an expert, taking a deposition or making a motion in court is cost effective and the best way to achieve your goals.
Your role requires you to invest time and energy, as well as money, to provide your lawyer with the information the lawyer needs to advise you properly. That may require devoting a weekend reviewing old bank and credit card statements or missing a day of work preparing for a court hearing or a negotiation session.
You have to live with the outcome of the divorce. You will be more confident in the result and improve your prospects for a better outcome if you form a partnership of experts with your lawyer and work as partners.