During a divorce or separation, your lawyer can end up being the most frequently dialled number on your phone. So not only is it a new relationship forged at a difficult, emotional and often confusing time, it’s also one that few people have experienced before.
Here are my top six tips for getting the most out of your lawyer and their time – and to help make a challenging experience better for everyone involved.
Do be an active participant
It never helps when one party buries their head in the sand and expects their legal team to take care of the situation without their input. As tempting as it might be, don’t drop off the face of the earth. And don’t ignore your lawyer – after all, they need your input to reach a result that works for you.
Do what your lawyer requests
You and your lawyer are a team. So when your lawyer asks you to do something, it’s because they need you to do it in order for them to do their job. It may seem repetitive (for example, updating all your bank statements by a month) but it’s all an important part of the process. They understand that life gets in the way sometimes and a good lawyer will know how quickly some tasks take – like obtaining a new pension statement from your provider. When you don’t get in touch, or they don’t receive anything from you, there’s only so much they can do. Make time for them.
Do – and this is sometimes the hardest step – face reality
Talking to a professional – such as a therapist or counsellor – can make a huge difference in your overall emotional wellbeing, and in how you approach the situation.
Even if you didn’t want to divorce, if your spouse does, it’s going to happen. And if you want to be friends with your ex but they don’t, it’s probably not going to come about. It’s important to make sure that you will be okay in the future. So don’t give things away without thinking, just so your ex doesn’t get angry. Likewise, don’t refuse to make a decision simply to prolong the situation.
Don’t treat your lawyer like an ‘on-demand’ service
Realistically, they can’t always drop everything every time you call or email. At any one time, they might have 10-20 clients, all of whom need their help at various times of day. Legal proceedings can take a long time, and patience can be in short supply when you want to move on with your life – your lawyer gets that. So by all means keep in touch and stay up to date, while remembering that a good lawyer will know an emergency should one arise and will get back to you in a timely manner.
Don’t push your lawyer to get revenge on your ex
It’s all too easy to feel that nobody wins in a relationship breakdown. But don’t let this push you to extremes: your lawyer is there to protect you, not to hurt your ex. An experienced family lawyer has fostered a good professional reputation and relationship with the court and other local lawyers. They work hard to cultivate this – and it’s to your advantage. If discussions are constructive and practical, even during court proceedings, you’ll benefit. Judges also are more likely to believe a legal team whose arguments (taken from their client) are reasonable.
Do remember that your lawyer is a person too
Family lawyers study and practice for years to be able to provide the best advice and assistance. It may be hard to see it when you’re facing your own emotional turmoil or a frightening future, but your lawyer probably is as much invested in your outcome as you are. Many family lawyers admit to losing sleep over what might happen to their clients! At the same time, it’s great to hear from you months, or even years later – once you are happy and settled in your new life.