- If you’re not paying your bill, you are not a priority. This DOES NOT mean that your attorney doesn’t care about you. But your attorney isn’t there to be your friend. They’re running a business. They have bills to pay. They must pay their staff, pay the rent or mortgage on their office space, and put food on the table at home, among other things. Yeah, maybe they have a nice house and a Mercedes, but they worked for it. And they cannot pay their bills if you aren’t paying your bills. None of us goes to work for free. Do you? What would you do if your boss just stopped paying you? Would you keep going to work? Duh, of course not. So, if you’re not paying your bill in a timely fashion, don’t expect your file to be on the top of the pile. We service the people who are paying us. They are the ones who keep the lights on. If you’re having financial difficulties, then have a conversation with your attorney about it and see if you can work out an arrangement. Don’t just ignore the invoices. I have way more respect for the client who owes me $5,000 and sends me a $200 check every month than the one who owes me $500 and dodges all my calls.
- Your attorney doesn’t care about what an ass your spouse is. We totally understand that your divorce is a highly emotional experience for you. We understand there are many things your spouse has done – and continues to do – that are less than admirable and really push your buttons. But I don’t need to spend the first 10 minutes of every single phone call hearing about how your spouse cheated on you, is a narcissist, is bipolar, or any other number of things that we hear routinely from clients. We know. That’s why you’re getting a divorce. And in case you haven’t heard this before, it’s not relevant to the divorce proceeding. The finances are relevant. When you go to the doctor, they ask you questions that are specifically relevant to the reason you’re there. It’s the same thing with your lawyer. So please don’t use your lawyer as a therapist. They can empathize with you, but it is not the best use of time to expect them to commiserate with you every time you must have a conversation. And they don’t really want to hear it because they have a job to do, which is to protect your legal interests, and that has nothing to do with whether your spouse is an ass.
- Don’t tell us how to be a lawyer. Anyone who has ever watched Law & Order (or any other legal show), or who has had a lawyer in the family, or has gone through any kind of legal proceeding at all, thinks they know how to be a lawyer. Unless you have gone to law school, passed the bar exam, been admitted to practice law by a governing body, and practiced law for more than a few minutes so you actually know what you’re doing, you’re not a lawyer. If you were, you wouldn’t have needed to hire a lawyer. You would just do it yourself, no? So please stop looking things up on Google and telling your lawyer that they need to change their legal strategy. You should have a lawyer you trust to protect your interests properly and tailor a legal strategy to meet your goals. You should also trust your lawyer to guide you so that you have realistic expectations for a reasonable outcome. If you have that, then you don’t need to refer to Google, or your friends, or your hairdresser, or anyone else to tell you that there is a better strategy than the one your attorney has come up with. If you think someone else can do better, then you should go hire them.
- You can’t always get what you want (but yes, you can get what you need). Clients often have a long laundry list of things they want out of a divorce settlement. Most clients want far more than they are entitled to and which is reasonable under the circumstances of their case. If you’re going to a lawyer to simply have them tell you whatever you want to hear, I am sure you can find a few who will do that. However, you will spend far more on legal fees than you should, your divorce will take far longer than it should, and you still won’t get what you want in the end anyway. Trust your lawyer to advise you what a reasonable settlement looks like and be prepared to compromise from the original laundry list you came to the door with. As lawyers, we pretty much know where this is all going to end and what a settlement should look like. If you’re not listening because you’re holding out for something better, you’re the one who will be negatively impacted. As suggested above, if you don’t trust your lawyer to advise you, then you should get a different lawyer. But be very careful just shopping around for someone who will tell you what you want to hear. If 5 attorneys tell you that you will have to pay alimony, and the sixth the one says you won’t, it’s very likely the sixth one is just telling you that to get your signature on a retainer agreement. Buyer beware.
- We are on your side, but sometimes you’re wrong. This is similar to #4 above. You can’t always get what you want, and you can’t always be right. I often hear clients say, “It sounds like you’re on his/her side!” If it sounds that way, it’s not because I am siding with him or her. It’s because there is something in the facts of your case that are not favorable to your position and I have an obligation to be honest with you about that. I much prefer to set my clients up with realistic expectations and then deliver everything I promised them – rather than tell them whatever they want to hear and have a disappointed client in the end when I can’t deliver the goods. I am always on your side, but sometimes you need to hear when you’re wrong so we can plan accordingly.
- The reason your case won’t settle is because you are not compromising enough. This is not true in every case; however, it is true in most cases. I wish I had a dollar every time I heard, “I want to settle but my spouse is being so unreasonable!” What that really means is, “My spouse won’t just agree to everything I have proposed.” Well guess what. They are saying the same thing about you! So, if your case isn’t settling, it’s likely because both parties are not compromising – or not compromising enough to get to the finish line. And it’s likely because of the reasons explained above at #4. If you’re reading this shaking your head no and telling yourself, “that’s not true, I am not doing that,” you probably are. Sorry, just being truthful. Consider this: look at your settlement position. Do you REALLY NEED everything on the list? Or do you just WANT everything on the list? Most people get hung up on giving in. They feel like, “Why does my spouse get everything they want!” But it’s exactly that kind of thinking that keeps you stuck in the loop! Worry about YOU - what YOU really need – rather than focusing on where you think your spouse is winning.
- If your case is around a year old, your attorney is tired of it. By the time you get to a year in the average divorce case in New Jersey, there has been voluminous discovery exchanged, numerous court appearances for various things, numerous phone conferences with the judge and/or adversary in the case, voluminous letters and phone calls, ESP has likely occurred, along with perhaps mediation. Attorneys know with a pretty good range of certainty how your case should end up after meeting with you one time. You are not a unique case with a novel legal issue. The issues in your case have been litigated thousands of times. There are only a few ways to skin that cat. If you’re not settled after a year, it’s likely because there are big personalities in the case that simply are not capable of compromising – or compromising enough to the get the case done – or someone is not cooperating with the process. Your attorney has likely had the very same conversation about the very same issue numerous times already with no resolution. The conversation starts to get stale. The fact is the case will settle when the parties are ready for it to settle. But if it sits on the shelf too long, don’t expect it to stay fresh to the attorneys.
The purpose of this blog was to give you some perspective on the way the people in your divorce are thinking that are not emotionally attached to it. It’s very difficult to make sound decisions when you’re coming from a highly emotional place. You don’t want to make emotional decisions in your divorce. You want to make intelligent decisions. It’s hard to do both. Treat your divorce like a business decision. And trust your attorney to help you do that.
At NJ Divorce Solutions, you can always trust us to be honest with you. We don’t tell you what you want to hear. We tell you what you need to know.
If you’re thinking about divorce or going through one now, contact us for a free consultation.
You can also listen to the Divorce Happy Hour podcast for information and discussion about various topics related to divorce.