A good attorney treats all clients with respect and professionalism and remains dedicated to your cause throughout the litigation, but what makes you a “good client” for your attorney? Understandably, every case carries different factors and various circumstances, but in each case, regardless of the specific facts or details, there are a few things you can do as a client to make your case run smoother for your attorney and more cost-effective for you.
1) There is no doubt about it - divorces and custody litigation are emotional, some more than others, but most family law matters have an emotional draining aspect on clients to some degree. As your attorney, I can provide you with legal advice, but consistently urge clients to seek out the services of a counselor or therapist for preparing yourself and/or your children for the reality of divorce or new custody arrangements. When making decisions ancillary to divorce and custody, clients need to be able to think clearly and remove the emotions from the decision-making process as much as possible. A counselor or therapist can provide you with the appropriate outlet to purge all of your anger and frustration and help you develop healthy habits for moving forward.
2) As a subpart to the above-suggestion, while I recommend you to work on the emotional aspects of your family law litigation with a counselor or therapist, you do need to be open and honest with your attorney and explain any important facts relevant to your position and case – the good, the bad and the ugly – and this can become emotional. I need to know everything that the opposing party has done to cause you to seek out the advice of a family law attorney. I also need you to tell me everything that your spouse or opposing party will use against you. It is never a good idea to hide things, even embarrassing things, from your attorney. Remember, you share an attorney/client relationship and all information provided to your attorney in the scope of that relationship is confidential and privileged. It is much better to inform your attorney on the front end, rather than having the opposing party surprise you with this information in the middle of trial.
3) Be organized in providing your attorney with documentation. The worst thing you can do is throw everything in a box and drop it by your attorney’s office. The more organized you are in providing documentation, the less time your attorney will have to spend sifting through it and the more time he or she can spend actually analyzing the documents. Absolutely bring any relevant documentation with you to your first meeting.
4) Don’t be a stranger! Keep in touch with your attorney. Return telephone calls timely and respond promptly to emails. Let your attorney know the best way to reach you and during what hours you are available.
5) Be patient. Understand that the divorce and custody process may take a while, even if it ultimately settles. Certain timeframes are out of attorneys’ hands completely, as hearing and deadline dates are frequently scheduled by the court. If you are anxious, discuss the timeline with your attorney and make sure you understand the process. In my practice, there are very, very few “quickie divorces” where all issues are settled immediately. I understand that this is not a fun process for you and you want to obtain closure as soon as possible, but you need to be patient and trust your attorney.
6) If your case involves custody, sign up for a co-parenting class, even if the court does not require it. There are several co-parenting classes throughout the New Orleans metro area to consider; however, one of the most attended programs is called Focus on Children Divorce Program at the Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital. Details can be found on their website (http://www.chnola.org/parentingcenter). The cost is $25, but well worth it. The website describes it as “a nationally acclaimed program to help divorcing parents lessen the impact of separation and divorce on their children. The importance of co-parenting skills is stressed.”
These are just a few simple things that can make your relationship with your attorney better. Always, always be up front and honest and have patience. Remember that divorce is a process, not an event.