Most clients have the same fears and questions. Clients also hold beliefs about the legal process in a divorce or about the behavior of the people involved that are not accurate . . . we call these myths. Here are the most common questions that clients ask, followed by other favorites and their answers.
Am I Going to Win?
Win what? It has often been said that no one wins in a divorce case. We will attempt to raise all issues structured to your case to your advantage, and make sure you “lose” as little as possible. However, if your intent is to punish your spouse or to win by way of an all-out, no-holds-barred victory, your goal is probably unattainable. We recommend that you retain another law firm if this is the case.
How Long Will It Take?
It is difficult at the outset of a lawsuit to foresee how long it will take to complete. We are better able to give you an estimated time range later when we understand more clearly what is at issue. The time involved is primarily based on four factors:
- The number and complexity of the contested issues;
- The intensity of feelings between the parties and whether there is an inclination to settle;
- The attitude and tenacity of your spouse; and
- The tenacity and desire for litigation of the lawyer of your spouse.
By far, the factor that makes lawsuits last longer is the intensity of the feelings between the parties and how much they want to fight.
How Much Will It Cost?
Although every family is unique, during our years of experience we have found similarities that allow us to anticipate and plan for the otherwise unexpected. While most offices will not be able to tell you what your case will cost, we help you plan for the expenses you are likely to incur. By combining the latest technology with decades worth of data we are able to predict and effectively plan for events. This prior planning reduces the time your matter requires and therefore reduces the cost of your case.
I Need a Really Tough Attorney; Are You Tough Enough?
Some people feel that to be a “fighter,” an attorney must (1) be uncooperative with opposing counsel in such matters as disclosing information, disclosing documents, and arranging for convenient dates for meetings, depositions, etc; and (2) never consider or advise compromise or negotiation with opposing counsel.
This notion is sadly misguided; the time to “fight” may be in TOUGH NEGOTIATIONS or in court. Being uncooperative with opposing counsel greatly increases attorney’s fees with all legal steps done the hard way such as preparation of special documents, appearances in court, etc. The information and documents are ultimately subject to disclosure under the law. Therefore, an uncooperative attitude serves no useful purpose. At times it seems you are always on the defensive. At different stages of the case, the roles reverse. Don’t worry, it evens out throughout the course of the case.
What If My Attorney Is Friendly with My Spouse’s Attorney?
Attorneys in a particular area are likely to have many cases against each other over the years. They are also likely to attend the same professional events and may work on committees together. Because they deal with each other day in and day out, a camaraderie may develop. Your attorney and your spouse’s attorney may exchange pleasantries, share a joke, or even have lunch together. This does not mean the attorneys are being disloyal to their clients. Remember, your attorney is professionally committed to achieve the best result for you given the facts and law applicable to your case. This does not mean that he or she must dislike the other side, or be hostile, rude or mean to the other side. Such behavior frequently harms, rather than helps, your case.
If the Other Side Suggested It, It Must Be Bad
It is unfortunately common to believe that just because the other side suggested some-thing they have an ulterior motive. Also, some parties believe that they should automatically do the opposite of what the other side wants. Let your attorney guide you in responding to requests from the other side. However, a request, suggestion, or offer from the other side is not per se “bad.” Most attorneys are not out to “get, trick, or ruin” the opposing counsel or client. Therefore, we do not advise a “knee jerk” negative response to any request from the other side.
How you should deal with your spouse during the divorce
Divorce tends to bring out the worst in people. Self-interest apparently justifies deceptions and outright lies that would be intolerable to nice people in ordinary times. Self-protection requires a new set of guidelines for dealing with your legal adversary:
- If love is gone, substitute politeness.
- Be skeptical. Half of what is said is meant to deceive you. The other half is self-deception.
- Breast your cards. Don’t let your spouse know how much you know.
- Walk away from arguments or conflict.
- Expect your spouse to resent your lawyer and to attempt to undermine his or her influence.
- Don’t enter into private negotiations without your lawyer’s knowledge and advice.
- Don’t make agreements or sign anything without talking to your lawyer first.
- When in doubt, believe your lawyer, not your spouse.
- Use your lawyers as hired insulators. Learn to say, “Talk to your lawyer and have him or her talk to mine.”
- Don’t rub in your legal victories. Losers try to even up.
- Please obtain a post office box until the conclusion of the case so that your mail will not be intercepted by your spouse.
- Do not, under any circumstances, keep any files in connection with your case at your marital residence or any location where your spouse could seize and obtain them, thus learning your entire case and strategy.
- Do not, under any circumstances, enter into any Agreements of Sale on your real estate, or the acquisition of new real estate, without first conferring with your attorney. Such an action or activity on your part could find you in a “squeeze play,” without a place to live and without funds to make the purchase, if your settlement has not been consummated by that time.
- Do not presume that your counsel receives copies of any correspondence, legal pleadings, or notices that you may receive in the mail or by judicial process. Upon receiving any such documents, contact your attorney immediately and send your counsel copies of any such documents.
- Do not be intimidated by your spouse if an ultimatum or deadline is given you to accept or reject an offer or proposition. One does not negotiate “under the gun” as to time. That offer or a better offer, we frequently find, may always be available or, failing same, the court will direct the appropriate fair settlement award to you.
The Web has many resources available to you to help answer questions you may have about your family law case. While nothing replaces the advice of legal counsel, the following resources are a good start and may be helpful in evaluating your case, understanding the issues you face or simply to provide perspective:
- National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
- ABA Section of Family Law FAQ
- AFCC – The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
- Children and Divorce
- Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
- Montana Child Support Enforcement Division
- Montana Judicial Branch