What is it that we do when you entrust your divorce case to us?
Most are unaware of the ways their lawyer works for them “behind the scenes.” I am writing this article to shine a light on what we do to help our clients through this difficult time.
The GO Meeting
When you retain our firm, we schedule a GO Meeting with you. During this meeting, you can ask questions, and we invite your input with the initial planning. We treat you as one of the team throughout the case.
Go stands for “Goals and Objectives.” During the GO Meeting, we assess your immediate goals and the circumstances. At the meeting, we discuss and decide:
- Whether we want to file the case right away or whether will we try to resolve issues before filing;
- How to tactically notify your spouse of your decision to move forward;
- Whether we need to act on any safety issues for you or the children;
- Whether we need to address any other urgent matters.
Based on our joint assessment, we develop our initial action plan.
We manage our cases based on many factors, including the wishes of the client, the level of conflict, the disputed issues, and the personalities involved.
Because court rules require a timely exchange of financial information, we start you working on a financial affidavit immediately. We help you to fill out this document and make sure the rules comply.
The court also requires parents with minor children to attend a divorce education course. We get you started on that as well.
Three Phases of a Contested Divorce
Divorce cases are divided into three indefinite phases.
During the first phase, we try to stabilize the family financially and emotionally; during the middle phase, we investigate the issues and the facts; and during the final phase, we work to settle the case or prepare for trial.
When I refer to the phases as indefinite, I mean that the length of the phases differs based on the nature of the case. Depending upon the level of conflict, the first phase may last a week or in some unfortunate situations, more than a year. The length of the middle phase depends on legal issues and marital assets. The length of the final phase also depends on the issues and the matters in dispute.
The cooperation between the parties and their lawyers affects all phases of the case.
The Case Begins
Much of the case dynamic is created during the early days. When people mistreat their spouse, cutting them off financially (or worse), cases head toward the expensive path of conflict and court. Often, things cannot be reeled back once that occurs, and the “War of the Roses” ensues.
With these cases, I find that the best way to end the madness is to end the madness. We aggressively prepare these cases for trial. When passions are high, or people play games, the best way to finish the case is to get early trial dates. Some spouses don’t negotiate in good faith (or even play by the rules), and using the Judge to end things just makes good sense.
Fortunately, most cases don’t take this path.
Where cases are lower conflict, we try to settle things down so we can get to work resolving the case. Sometimes we disagree over payment of family bills or support, and we strive to resolve those issues by agreement. If we can’t work it out, we then ask the Judge for interim orders for support or assigning responsibility for bill paying.
The court can also enter interim orders setting parenting time. However, the Judge will first require the parents to try to work things out in mediation. If the parents still cannot work out an agreement, the court will enter temporary or interim resolving the dispute.
Once we stabilize things, we move into the middle phase of the case, where we investigate the issues and gather the information to settle or prepare for trial.
In the next installment of “Pulling Back the Curtain,” I will discuss what we do to work the case during this critical middle phase.