Why should a person hire an attorney that specializes in divorce?
If someone is getting divorced they should hire an attorney who specializes in divorce rather than a general practitioner, for example; just like a person who needs a heart transplant should seek the services of a cardiologist rather than a proctologist. Enough said.
How can a potential client be best prepared for their first meeting with you?
Client should have all of the relevant facts written down to save the attorney time, as time is money. Start with the basics like Who? What? When? Where? How and Why?
You want to spend time getting your questions answered and formulating the best course of action and not just answering form questions from an attorney. Be prepared to talk about money and fees as it relates to doing things the easy/collaborative way or the contentious, litigious way. Be clear on what you want to accomplish and why, and then listen to the options. Ask questions and make sure that your personalities are a good fit, as this person will be entrusted with your future and it can be a long journey. If the chemistry is not there, abandon ship.
What type of questions should a client ask of a potential attorney?
What is your philosophy on when to settle? How well do you know most of the judges in the jurisdiction where my case will be pending? What all do you charge for and what about your paralegals, secretary and associate attorneys? What is your caseload like and what percentage of your practice involves handling cases similar to mine? If this case goes to court, what are some of the common and/or possible outcomes? What does a case like this generally cost? Do you know the opposing attorney and what are your thoughts about him/her and the likelihood of working things out without going to court?
What type of questions do you ask your potential client during the first meeting?
What is it you are looking to accomplish? Why? What is your plan? Who left whom (what is the motivation for the desired result)? What are the worst things that your ex will likely say about you and to what extent are those things true? What would it take to settle the case, as in what would be “acceptable” to you? What do you think the other side would realistically accept in order to resolve the case without unnecessary litigation? How much do you think this is likely to cost and why do you say that?
What do you see as being the most common fight of high-conflict couples?
Whether it is money, children, property, support or anything else of importance to one or both of the parties, it is often about “being right, looking good and having the other party look bad.” Most often it ends up being about money and kids and both are used to make the other one pay for perceived wrongdoings or shortcomings. Anger, fear and revenge are big obstacles to resolution.
What advice would you give clients to get a divorce with the least possible conflict and pain for all of those involved?
Grow up, get a grip and do what you have to do to work it out. If people would spend half the amount of time, money, and effort trying to come up with acceptable solutions as they will otherwise spend on litigation, most cases would settle.
What advice would you give a woman who states she has a physically abusive spouse?
It would be important and helpful if she could give very specific and detailed examples of any alleged abusive behavior and an appropriate risk assessment/evaluation would determine what course of action, if any should be taken. Discuss options for assistance and prevention of escalating and potentially dangerous circumstances.
How do you help a client determine what she should fight for and what she should let go of?
Try to settle all issues and any issues that can’t be settled should still be settled, if possible. If one has to fight to be treated fairly or for the best interests of the children then the situation might have to be litigated, but should only be done as a last resort, in my humble opinion. Fight to move on and put this all behind you and if something leads you in that direction and is an otherwise acceptable outcome then strongly consider it.
What is your view on mediation? Do you recommend it and can you explain what it is?
Mediation is where the parties come together with the assistance of one (sometimes a team of two) person specially trained in the area of communication techniques and conflict resolution, in an effort to come up with agreements. The mediator is a neutral person who cannot give legal advice to the parties, even if he or she is an attorney. Often, mediators encourage the parties to take any proposed agreement to independent lawyers for review and consultation. In my opinion, collaborative practice is more efficient. See www. CollaborativePractice.com
What is the best divorce advice you have to offer women who are just beginning this journey?
Educate yourself on collaborative law, communication skills and self-improvement. Don’t use children as pawns, try not to escalate things, and be reasonable. Do not listen to all of your friends, co-workers and family members. Take control of your circumstances and recognize that this is a process and you will get through it and most likely come out stronger in the end.
Years in Practice: 24
Is there anything else that you would like potential clients to know about you?
Divorce and custody battle survivor, founder of The Child Access Center, Inc., significant litigation experience, collaboratively trained, mediator, Court Appointed Best Interest Attorney and author of the award-winning book Stop Fighting Over the Kids: Resolving Day-to-Day Custody Conflict in Divorce Situations. Get a free PDF version here: www.mikethelawyer.com/book.php
I believe that more often than not, going to court over custody and visitation is the wrong approach. If you want to fight just for revenge, to screw the other side, or to prove a point, then I am not the right lawyer for you.
www.MiketheLawyer.com – recent interview