I was recently asked what is the most important factor in determining whether a divorce goes smoothly or becomes a disaster, and I didn't hesitate: picking the wrong lawyer. And it's not even close. Choosing your representation carefully is one of the most impactful ways that you can keep your divorce from becoming a nightmare.
First off, let's be clear: the lawyers involved in the case have the ability to make things a lot easier or a lot harder. They are the ones who are versed in the process, so they are the ones who know how to keep the train running smoothly or send it crashing off the tracks. Sadly, some choose the latter.
Why would they want to make a case more difficult than it needs to be? One word: money. A scorch-the-Earth, knockdown, drag-out divorce case can make an attorney's year, earnings-wise. It can easily earn an attorney fees ten times what they would make on a simple, amicable case. For some attorneys, that profit motive is enough, and the ends justify the means. The key for you is to know how to spot such a lawyer and avoid letting them turn your family into their big payday.
How do you spot such a lawyer? They will start by telling you they will get you everything you want (even though they know you very well may not get it). They know that, if you are talking to multiple lawyers and some are telling you what you want to hear and some are not, you are likely to go with the one promising to achieve your goals. So, beware of big promises on the front end. Look instead for a lawyer who gives you reasonable expectations and is willing to tell you that you might not get everything you want.
Avoiding the lawyers making the big promises will often be enough to protect yourself. However, some of these big payday lawyers know enough to avoid making the big promises. What are the other major signs that you may be getting taken advantage of? If the lawyer encourages you throughout the case to fight every inch of ground to the death. If you are constantly in court. If he or she is repeatedly suggesting that you file motions, instead of trying to work things out with the other side. Those should all be big red flags.
Here's the dirty secret: divorce cases don't have to be like that. Most cases can be settled, and many can be settled relatively easily. It's just that the big payday lawyers don't want you to know that, because a case that settles easily doesn't make them much money. If you have found yourself facing several of those red flags I mentioned, it is probably because you found a lawyer that wants to milk your case for whatever he or she can, not because your case has to be that way.
You owe it to yourself and to your family not to let yourself get taken advantage of by a big payday lawyer. You are the client; you are in control. Avoid the lawyers making the big promises. If your lawyer is constantly leading you into unnecessary battles, fire them. Your money should be going towards putting your own kids through college, not theirs.
This is obviously a topic I am passionate about. I would be happy to talk to you about it further, or to help you if you have found yourself in a bad situation. Feel free to give me a call: (248) 457-4566.