09 Jan Things clients will wish they’d known before they started their divorce
If I had to guess at the single most important thing that many clients would do over when it comes to their divorce, it’s who they would choose to represent them. No one tells you how important the people you work with during your divorce are, but they can make the difference between a great outcome and a terrible outcome. Obviously, who you are divorcing is a choice you made long ago, but from whether you hire an attorney, who the attorney is, who the mediator is to which friends you listen are all choices that are critical but sometimes made for the exact wrong reasons. If you choose an attorney who is too aggressive, you end up spending money fighting about things that never should have been disputes in the first place. If you choose an attorney who isn’t aggressive at all, you end up being steamrolled. The same applies with mediators – someone who is more interested in getting the deal done can often end up catering exclusively to the more unreasonable spouse, while convincing the easy-going spouse to do things that they ordinarily would not have agreed to do.
It’s easy (after the fact) to parse apart what could have been done better, but if you’re heading into the abyss of divorce, there are some things to consider before you hire someone. Remember this, there are a lot of terrible attorneys who continue to get work because… they are great salesmen. If you’re really afraid, you are going to gravitate towards an advocate who tells you everything is going to be ok. If that person is also telling you that the fault for your situation lies entirely with the other person, that they can help you punish that person, and that you are going to “win”, run. There is an inherent desire to have a divorce validate your feelings that this was unfair to you, and that is even better if the outcome punishes the other person with less money or less parenting time. But the truth is that proposals that feel unfair to the other side just encourage the other side to care as little about your outcome as you care for theirs. That’s a recipe for a big old fight, and the only person who wins is possibly the professional who makes more money the longer and deeper the fight goes.
Divorce is a time of loss. With loss comes fear and vulnerability. With both of those comes desperation, anger, and mean behavior. If you recognize that at the get go, then you can look for someone who can see a path out of the divorce that minimizes the loss not just to you, but to your spouse and to your children. Find people who say “well, yes, you coulddo that, but…” because some of what you will want to do are probably things you shouldn’t do. Personally, I fantasized about billboards that spelled out in delicious detail some of the things I thought the whole world should know about my ex. Pretty sure not buying the billboards was a good idea.
There is a Native America proverb about the two wolves who live inside of every man, one being Good and one being Evil, who are constantly in battle with each other. When asked which one wins, the answer is “the one you feed.” The story may seem pretty far away from divorce, but it really has a kernel of wisdom because indulging in mean behavior, uncharitable thoughts, and anger just begets more of the same. If your friends/ confidants/ attorneys are encouraging the wrong wolf, stop listening to them.
So, when it comes to divorce professionals, find someone who understands what is important to you. Find someone who is moderate. Avoid procrastinators (look for online reviews – nothing generates animosity like an attorney who is too busy to settle until the day of trial) or those who put pressure on you to do something that feels questionable. Take at least a day after you speak with an attorney to hire them – remember, pressure sales make for bad attorney choices just like they do automobile purchases.
And, if you discover you’ve hired the wrong person, change them. It’s virtually never too late to switch horses.