In one sense, an attorney-client relationship is not dissimilar from a doctor-patient relationship: the client (or patient) must take an active role in obtaining the desired results. A doctor can tell a patient with high blood pressure to watch their sodium intake, but it is up to the patient to eat more celery and less fast food. Likewise, an attorney can warn a divorce client to stop posting about the divorce on Facebook—-but if that advice is not heeded, then it may later materialize as evidence against the client.
One thing I attempt to do in my practice is to advise my clients how they can help their odds of achieving their desired goals. Some of the advice is common sense but sometimes the advice is counter-intuitive. Below is a list—by no means exhaustive–ascribing some of the ways family law clients can assist in their cases.
1. Keep a journal/log – In family law matters, there exists an almost unlimited amount of issues that can arise. Keeping a log or journal of these issues might later prove useful as evidence. For instance, if a custodial parent is upset that the noncustodial parent always brings the children back late from parenting time sessions (or misses parenting time entirely), then keeping a log of such incidents can assist with credibility if this issue is ever brought before the court.
2. Not losing your temper – Text messages and emails are often used in court to demonstrate domestic violence, lack of fitness of a parent, and many other issues. What may seem like blowing off steam in the heat of the moment may later be taken out of context or used to demonstrate a pattern. Besides the fact that disagreements should be worked out between lawyers (and the fact that losing your temper is often damaging beyond the courtroom), such actions can lead to loss of custody, imposition of restraining orders, or other dire consequences.
3. Meet with a mental health expert – In that vein, it is helpful for many people going through a divorce to meet with a mental health professional. The old saying that a divorce is worse than a death in the family is, according to most of my clients, very accurate and having a professional in your corner can help alleviate some of the stress.
4. Don’t use social media (if you do, don’t mention the divorce, bad mouth your spouse/ex-spouse, etc). Again, many things can be taken out of context and it’s easier for others to access your social media information than you might expect.
5. Take notes – When you speak with your attorney or something important occurs in your case, take notes. You should actually keep a notebook/binder of all important documentation and information relating to your case.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – If you don’t understand the court process or significant steps within the process, don’t be afraid to ask your attorney.
7. Educate yourself – Ask your attorney for information, documentation, or relevant books to help you learn the process. My firm produces a number of articles and guidebooks on the process to help our clients stay informed.
8. Seek compromise – There is rarely a winner in a family law action. Those who wish to punish their spouse or ex-spouse often simply hurt themselves just as much. Litigation is too expensive and trials are too risky to engage in unless the facts warrant such a course of action. A divorce will be expensive enough trying to procure what is fair. And in the end, the results will often inure to what is fair anyway. That doesn’t mean you should be a pushover—-but it does mean you need to pick your battles. Understanding this from the start can help control costs and reduce the amount of time involved in family part matters.
These are just some of the many ways a family law client can assist their attorneys in their cases. By working together, attorney and client can achieve greater results.
Your New Jersey Divorce Lawyer:
If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options. You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.