Maybe you do and maybe you don’t. Every now and then, I have a potential client come to my office saying that they need an attorney who is aggressive and willing to stand up to the other party and their attorney. Often by “aggressive” they mean, combative, litigious, or maybe even threatening. In other words, a bully. More often than not, being a bully, especially in family court, does little more than slow down the process and increase the cost of the divorce. If your goal is to actually get divorced, with a fair outcome, without spending a fortune, the attorney for you probably isn’t an “aggressive” one. Instead, you may consider looking for an attorney who can do the following:
- Listen. One of the main jobs of an attorney from the initial client interview to the last day in court is to listen to their client. Your attorney should listen to your story and listen to your goals and keep those goals in the forefront of their mind. If your number one goal is to have equal time with your kids, and all other issues are secondary, your attorney should know that and that goal should guide your case.
- Know the Law. Find an attorney that knows the law and has handled many other cases like yours. Some attorneys only practice family law while others practice in many other different areas. In some cases, knowing other areas of the law may be helpful for your particular case. For example, if you own your own business, it might be useful to have a divorce attorney who also practices business law. But if you have a complicated custody matter, that attorney who handles multiple other areas of practice may not have the expertise to guide you through your complicated case.
- Know the Locals. Each county has different ways of doing things in family court. Getting divorced in Hennepin County is not the same process as getting divorced in Stearns County. Both counties have the same laws and court rules that apply to divorce cases, but the process in each court is different. An attorney who is familiar with the process in your area is more likely to nimbly handle your case from start to finish than one who has never handled a divorce in your county. In addition, a local attorney will have more experience with the particular judge in your area and other local attorneys. Knowing how judges have decided certain issues and who is representing the other side is often a helpful tool to get things settled.
- Is Willing to Level with You. Some attorneys are willing to promise you the moon, even though they know obtaining it is an extremely unlikely outcome. After your attorney listens to your goals, your attorney should be willing to give you an honest critique of whether or not your goals are likely, unlikely, or impossible. An experienced attorney can do this by examining your situation within the context of the law and the outcome that has occurred in similar cases. In the end, it does not serve you to hire an attorney who is willing to file motion after motion even when they know the likelihood of success is minimal. Actually, doing so only serves the attorney’s bottom line, not yours.