How you and your spouse decide to proceed with divorce is probably the most important decision the two of you will make. You have options, and it is important you understand them before diving in. Here I want to talk about one option, litigation. In blogs to come, I will talk about the mediation and collaborative divorce options. You can also find these topics on the website.
The most common option is “litigation.” In a litigation case, each party typically has a lawyer, a so-called “attorney of record.” In a litigation, case parties have the option of going to court if they cannot resolve the issue through negotiation and settlement discussions. Some people need a judge to decide issues because they cannot agree on the time of day. It’s important to recognize if you or your spouse is/are that kind of person. Be realistic. If your case is going to be a dogfight, then there’s not much reason to spend time or money on a settlement. I’ll help educate the judge as best as we possibly can and work diligently with you to get the best possible result in court. I will be realistic about your chances. It’s important that you have realistic expectations. I won’t inflate those even when I know it’s what you want to hear.
Most “litigation” cases settle without going to court. If both clients and both attorneys are reasonable and acknowledge that some compromise will be necessary to settle issues along the way, we can usually achieve a better settlement through negotiations than we can in court. In a settlement, we are not bound by what the judge can do at a hearing or trial. We can package a settlement more creatively than the law often allows a judge to do. The reason is that a judge must follow the law. We can settle a case using the law as our guide, but we can also create a package that is unique to your circumstances. Judges often do not have that liberty when deciding issues in a contested proceeding.
If you read the testimonials on the website, you will see one former client comment that explains I was a good “sounding board” for him. It’s my job to assess your case and help you set realistic expectations about what is achievable. This is one of my strengths. Just like a doctor must give you bad news sometimes, a lawyer is sometimes the bearer of bad news. “Sorry, but you are going to have to pay your spouse spousal support. That’s the law and unless your spouse doesn’t ask for it, you will have to pay it.” I know many of my higher-earning clients do not want to hear that. For example, I do them no favors by dancing around the clear result. However, that is not to say that we won’t work hard to limit the amount or duration (when possible), even including exploring a buy-out or other creative options. Don’t expect me to sugar-coat things because I know it’s what you want to hear. Be careful when interviewing lawyers so as to not be seduced by results they cannot deliver. It is very expensive if you are also ordered to pay for your spouse’s attorney fees for taking them down that path. Ouch!