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What Should You Expect From Your Spouse’s Divorce Attorney?

hands only of client and attorney speaking

It is common for one spouse to complain about the other spouse's divorce attorney. Sometimes, that complaint is justified and fair. This is especially true when the other attorney is unnecessarily aggressive or not working to find a common/mutual solution, but rather, advocating an outcome that only benefits one party.

Most of the time, however, the other side’s attorney is simply doing their job and fulfilling their responsibilities to their client and the party frustrated does not understand the role and the process. All attorneys have a duty to be a zealous advocate for their client.

What does being a zealous advocate entail? What exactly should you expect from your spouse’s attorney? How should you interact with them during the process?

Some attorneys cross the line from being a zealous advocate to essentially being a mouthpiece for their client. This happens when their client (your spouse or former spouse) tells their lawyer what they “want” and rather than their lawyer giving them appropriate advice about the reasonableness and likelihood of obtaining what they are requesting, the lawyer simply supports it and asks, or even demands, the outcome from you. It is an essential part of an attorney’s duty both, to their client and the court, to give their client a realistic assessment and understanding of their likelihood of success in achieving what they are requesting. When a client makes an outlandish request, an attorney should not simply parrot the request if they already know it is unreasonable.

As there are many situations in which clients/litigants are having to address situations, we will outline how to deal with and interact with an attorney who is a bad attorney, followed by a different analysis when your spouse has an excellent family law attorney.

What is a bad divorce or family law attorney?

A family law attorney who is not a good attorney can be defined by a lack of experience, a lack of skill or a lack of ethics. How do each of those scenarios affect your case?

A family law attorney can be highly experienced but lack a lot of basic skills, conversely they can also have great skills, but lack basic experience. In the family law profession, there are many different types of attorneys with different personalities and different thoughts about how a family law case should be approached and addressed.

Some of the reasons that we often hear a client is frustrated by the opposing counsel include that the lawyer has made inaccurate or misstatements to the court in paperwork or at a hearing. Often, this is due to a lack of preparation, knowledge or understanding about the facts. In some unfortunate situations, misstatements can be intentional to mislead the court. I often share with clients who express frustrations about these issues that generally, the family law community is small. This means that the judge hearing your case has worked with the opposing counsel before and is familiar with him or her to such an extent that if he or she is often caught unprepared, making inaccurate statements and being called out on them, it is likely a pattern that the judge is already familiar with

Unfortunately, in other circumstances, if the judge hearing your case is misled to such a degree that the misstatements or misrepresentations are believed, you may have suffered a previous loss and it is due to that circumstance that you are now seeking out representation or to change your legal representative. Where you have already experienced an opposing attorney who manipulated the truth or the legal process, it is an absolute necessity that you get an excellent, knowledgeable and experienced attorney on your side.

Another common concern that we hear is that the opposing attorney is not communicating with your spouse or former spouse. Often our clients hear this is an issue because the parties are trying to communicate and work through issues but the opposing party is unable to make a decision, agree or move forward due to their inability to receive a response from their attorney (due to a question they have or some other issue). Often the end result of this behavior is a lack of forward progress in the case, which affects both parties and the timeline of the case. Along with a failure to communicate, another common frustration expressed is a failure of opposing counsel to timely complete paperwork. Often, this is a habitual issue with bad attorneys. Again, this results in delays in the case, particularly if the judge provides patience for this through continuances or rescheduled hearings. Again, this just makes the entire process frustrating for everyone.

Yet another concern that we regularly hear is when an opposing attorney fails to complete paperwork they file accurately. In some cases, the attorney has relied on their client to provide accurate information and when correct information is not shared, the attorney is limited in providing correct information by the client providing it. In yet other situations, attorneys have failed to confer with their clients in preparing the paperwork that they write and file and thus, what they file does not represent the true wishes/desires of their client.

We have been involved in some cases where the opposing counsel has done a bad job for their client by advocating a position that is either inconsistent with the facts of the case or inaccurate based on the law that applies in the case. Generally, spending time in the case process pursuing factually or legally inaccurate positions wastes judicial time, adds otherwise unnecessary costs and frustrates everyone involved.

In conclusion, if your spouse or former spouse has hired a bad attorney, the most common effect is a waste of time and money in the litigation process, or worse, in some situations, a result that is not consistent with the facts and the law. The best weapon you have to battle against such consequences if to ensure that you retain a highly knowledgeable, skilled, efficient attorney who is well versed in your state’s divorce and family law.

What Should you Expect if Your Spouse Hires an “Average” Divorce Attorney?

Again, this varies, but the greatest, most common thing we see is a lack of attention to important details. Unfortunately, we have seen some situations where an attorney is simply not knowledgeable about some of the. Nuanced details about a particular issue, such as military pensions, which has resulted in a loss to their client worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many attorneys take a cookie-cutter approach to divorce and family law cases where they essentially believe that all cases are the same or similar and they do not investigate the individual details of a client’s case.

Yet another issue we often see with average divorce attorneys is a lack of deep/intricate knowledge the law. As we always tell clients, we are not able to be proficient in criminal law, real estate law, business law, probate law and family law. When you work with an attorney who focuses on only one area, they are going to know the law in that particular area to an excellent level because it is their focus and what they work with every day. Attorneys who know the law in an in-depth way are able to give better advice to their clients, better advocate for their clients and help their clients make better decisions about settlement versus trial. Often, when a divorce or family law situation becomes complex, the shortcomings of an average divorce attorney become very apparent.

Finally, what should you expect if your spouse hires a great divorce attorney?

This is an interesting issue we often discuss with clients. Some clients are upset or disappointed when they believe their spouse or former spouse has hired an excellent family law attorney. While counter-intuitive, it often makes your case and the process much more efficient, cost-effective and less stressful when two excellent attorneys can collaborate together to bring about a resolution.

The best attorneys are generally the most disciplined, consistent, diligent and ethical. They think about the big picture, including the long-term needs of the family and no do crate problems or engage in behavior that makes an already difficult situation worse. Excellent attorneys at their core focus on solving problems. If there are factual or legal disputes, the excellent attorneys present the issues efficiently to the court and the client understands and is informed of each decision. This allows genuinely disputed issues to go to court without unnecessary or unreasonable delay.

What you can ultimately control is the choices you make. You should hire an excellent divorce or family law attorney who is going to oversee your case process if a cost-effective, time-efficient and skilled manner. Carefully selecting a skilled family law attorney is one of the most important decisions you will make in your family law litigation process.

If you are going or anticipate going through a family law legal process, please call Pingel Family Law today at (816) 208-8130. Put our knowledge, skills and experience to work on your side!

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