There is an important point to keep in mind when commencing the legalities of divorce – the relationship you will form with your lawyer. A word of advice, whilst ‘shopping around’ for a good lawyer make sure you find yourself a good friend, family member or therapist as your lawyer’s sense of empathy might just not extend as far as you originally thought.
The lawyer you choose will be the person you will often reach out to when all else fails, and this is why it is so important to get recommendations before committing to the person who will handle the legalities. It can make the difference between gaining custody of your children, agreeing to reasonable spousal support, staying in the marital home and all matters in between. If you currently have a lawyer who is not working in your best interest or dragging the process out unnecessarily, follow your gut feelings and change lawyers.
In my experience, changing lawyers midway paid dividends, and even though it created extra work initially, it was one of the best decisions I made. The decision to do so had a significant impact on how the divorce and aftermath was dealt with and I am so grateful I followed my gut instinct and made the change.
In doing so, it was clearly evident from the outset that although my replacement lawyer was not exactly empathic or interested in the minutiae of why the marriage had ended, he did not suffer fools gladly and this was exactly what I needed – a strong male presence who gave as good as he got.
In addition to this I became aware of a very important fact early on; although my lawyer battled tirelessly to defend my case at every twist and turn, he was there for one purpose and one purpose only – to sort out the legalities and leave family and good friends to bear the brunt of the emotional roller coaster. This rude awakening alleviated hefty legal bills which other divorcees were clocking up through constant phone calls to their legal team to discuss every aspect of their grievances towards their ex.
The truth is that lawyers have a limited interest in hearing every detail of the last time your ex dropped off the kids, how you felt, who said what to whom or how unfair life is. Understandably it is common and natural that as our marriage is falling apart, we attach to the next person who provides us with an avenue in which to recount in detail our anger and frustrations, this is undoubtedly our lawyer.
It is often the case that divorce lawyers complain that they are under a great degree of stress through their clients never ending phone calls demanding they sort out their maintenance payments, sale of their property and child custody arrangements, yet they are unaware that this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Do divorce lawyers really know what it’s like to have their life hanging in the balance as they arrive home to greet their wife and children? Are we simply another statistic or do they develop an emotional connection and empathic understanding towards their clients? After all, they get to go home and switch off from court proceedings as well as take a number of annual vacations to de-stress and leave the junior lawyer to pick up the pieces, much to our frustration. We have no such respite, as we are living and breathing the divorce rollercoster on a day to day basis.
In view of the above questions, I approached my lawyer once my divorce had become finalised to ask if his law firm would be interested in a divorce training workshop to highlight the process from an emotional standpoint; to my utter surprise, I received a positive response to my question, he was actually very interested. It seems to me that although there is a particular detached presence that lawyers exude, when you scratch the surface, perhaps there is an empathic understanding that goes beyond the boundaries and code of law.
To conclude, just as I advise friends not to mix business with pleasure, I give the same advice to divorcees going through the legal system. Do not mix emotions with legalities – leave the legal matters to your lawyer and the emotional matters to trusted friends and family. Not only will you keep a clearer head, but I can assure you that it will save you a great deal in legal fees.