Litigating a divorce settlement can be a very disappointing and confusing experience due to couple’s common expectations and assumptions of the divorce process and their divorce lawyers that usually fall short. Most of the disappointment resulting from divorce is due to what many people assume will happen with their divorce lawyer and in court during their case. When incorrect assumptions set unrealistic expectations they can have mild to severe repercussions emotionally as well as financially. Let’s explore the top 5 assumptions couples have of divorce lawyers that usually fall short.
Assumption 1: Their lawyer is their therapist. While many attorneys are absolutely sympathetic to their client’s cause, they are not trained professional counselors that have the skills to emotionally assist the client with psychological issues. A client can rack up enormous legal bills venting to their attorney when in fact they should be taking these issues to a trained professional counselor to sort out. Clients should be aware that it is of no benefit to engage their attorney in lengthy emotional conversations that have no bearing on the legalities of their case.
Assumption 2: Their lawyer will remember every detail of their case. Let’s face it, the average Attorney carries a caseload of 15 to 20 cases at any given time. It is unrealistic for a client to assume their attorney can recall every minute detail of their case. A client needs to be pro-active in reminding their counsel of the facts in their case when addressing issues in mediation, negotiation or court. Clients should keep a list of pertinent facts to their case that they should review with their Attorney just prior to entering the courtroom or negotiations to refresh their memory of relative information helpful to their cause.
Assumption 3: Their lawyer will bring up every detail of their case in court and mediation. Time is limited in court and only pertinent details and evidence will be presented relevant only to the issue at hand.
Assumption 4: The initial Attorney retainer fee is all they need to spend and they will be divorced when that fee is consumed. Retainer fees are simply a starting point to a litigated divorce, once Attorneys are engaged and the divorce is filed there is a process of required court appearances and conferences with the Judge that can greatly increase the costs and additional retainers and fees due. The average litigated divorce case fees can range from $35,000 to $65,000 or more for a family with simple assets.
Assumption 5: When they tell their lawyer they don’t have any more money that their lawyer won’t charge them from that point on but still work on their case. Simply stated an attorney only provides services that are paid for. Regardless of how sympathetic they are to a client, their time is their means to an income and when a client can no longer pay for their time they will no longer spend time and billable hours on their case.
Divorce litigation can have unpredictable results. So many variables can influence a completely unanticipated outcome that often does not serve either spouse or their children in the long run. We recommend that families mediate a settlement and avoid divorce court altogether. Many Family Divorce Mediation Centers provide the proper professional assistance that can bring more leverage to an outcome that serves all parties.
(*Points shared by Leslie Dinkins-Perez, LCSW-Presenter- “Great Expectations of Divorce Court” NASW Georgia Chapter Annual State Conferences 2011-2013)