A Divorce Attorney, also known as a Family Law or Civil Law attorney can be a crucial key to how well you fare in a divorce. They can and do influence the outcome of the divorce, and how they handle you is almost as important a how they handle the judge.
Let me give you a little background on me, my experience and why this is so important.
I built my own business and was a millionaire by the time I was 30. I had dealt with a lot of Civil, Contract & Business attorneys in this time. Most were there to simplify the steps to get something approved through the courts, though a few helped with supplier, customer or employee contract disputes.
At the ripe age of 29 I “accidentally” got a girl pregnant. I married this girl, moved her into a large home, and basically bought her anything she wanted. She had worked for my accountant, so she did come in and help with the office a few days, or half days, through the week.
A few months later our son was born and I was very involved. I went to bed early, so she took care of late feedings. I went to work early so I took our son to work so she could sleep in. All in all, a typical young family. We had our normal arguments, the biggest on her wanting to go to the bars all the time, and me wanting to spend more time building my company.
One drunk night she came in late and we got into a fight where she punched me in the face and I restrained her. She then called the cops and tried to accuse me of abuse. Luckily, I had a bloody lip, she had red wrist. The police told me they could see she was out of control and asked me to go to a hotel for the night to let her cool down.
I did, and when I returned home the next day she had already driven 5 hours to her mom’s. With our son. While she was plastered drunk.
I tried to work it out with her on the phone for a week while also interviewing and finding a lawyer. During our conversations she said the things that most women say… “I’m going to take you to the cleaners, you will never see your son, I’ll make you pay…” you get the ideal.
Now, I had never hired a Family Law attorney, so I talked to my uncle who was a Lawyer in our state. He found what he said was the “best” Family Law attorney in our county. This was not true, but I still had a lot to learn.
I had my first interview with this lawyer, and knowing what I know now, I would not have hired him. He wasn’t that good; he had just lived in this town for 40 years and was well respected. He was not aggressive and he only gave me one piece of good advice – don’t get mad or argue with her.
While talking about our fight, he went to describe all of the things I did wrong… like restraining her wrist so I wouldn’t be hit again, or leaving the house which implies she is the primary care giver. During this conversation he did say he believed he could get my ex back to Texas and at least get me standard visitation.
Over the next week, I would call with different legal questions, and the more I did, the more he became impatient with me. At one point he told me, “You don’t have to call me so much. Every time you do it cost you money, and I will tell you the steps and what to do when needed.”
Now, I hadn’t been thru the Family Law courts, but I had built a multimillion dollar manufacturing plant, so I asked him to set up another meeting. I realized from his comments that I was going to have to lead my fight to have any chance.
The next day I showed up in his office and placed another $10,000 dollars on his desk (Double his first retainer).
He asked, “What is this for?”
Me: “I don’t want you to worry about money. When I call, I want you to take my call and answer my questions.”
Him: “You don’t need to question so much. I will inform you of the steps as we go through them.”
Me: “I don’t think you understand. You are a consultant. Your job is to help me navigate the legal system. I will determine what strategy we will use. If I ask you a question, I expect it answered. If you don’t like that arrangement I will find another lawyer.”
Him: Looks at the check and back at me, “What do you want to know?”
From this point on I studied. He let me have access to his legal library and I read everything I could on family law.
Thru this custody battle I learned a lot about the Family Law Courts and ultimately I got custody of my son.
What Your Divorce & Custody Lawyer Should Tell You
1) You are not to argue or fight with her.
Marriage is a business very much like a corporation. From the paperwork and name & identity, the marriage license is processed by the same group that processes corporate, LLC or partnership business paperwork. Once you decide to divorce, you are dissolving a corporation that requires a combination business law and family law if kids are involved.
I know all too well the emotional anguish of going thru a divorce. I know all of the false, fake and BS accusations thrown at you to not help the other party win, but to also damage your soul. But once you have hired an attorney and filed for a divorce, you don’t need to argue or fight with the other side at all.
If you have to deal with your ex, keep the conversation focused on logistics – when and where to get the kids. Forget trying to win them back or convincing them to see things your way. The more to try to work things out, the weaker you look, which will likely increased the attacks they launch on you. The more this escalates the more you are likely to say something in the heat of the moment that they use against you in court.
For now, put all emotions around arguing or fighting away.
2) Start A Journal
We are going before a judge at some point to have them determine many aspects that could impact your life. Your money, assets, custody, visitation and even child support and/or spousal support are all on the table.
Going forward, you should document everything related to this case. If you talk to your spouse about what time to pick up the child, write down the time, the date, what was said by both of you and any other related information.
If they argue, cuss, call you names, threaten you, etc. you also document this.
This journal will be used as evidence to show patterns with your ex, and their general professionalism in dealing with you about the children or assets. It also shows the Judge just how determined and professional you are. In many emotional or heated family law cases, these types of journals can remove the “he said, she said” into a documented and more trusted format.
3) Record Everything
Many states have different laws, but you should document and record everything. Get a digital recorder, and a small digital video camera. If your state requires you notify the person being recorded, a simple statement like, “For both of our protection, I am recording this event.”
You shouldn’t discuss anything else about it. Just make sure you inform the person in a way that covers you for the law.
These pieces of evidence can be very powerful and can determine your outcome. In most family law situations, at least one party is going to be highly emotional and angry. Having encounters on film or digital recording of this person threatening you, calling you names, refusing to let you see the child at your appointed time or anything in these realms is VERY damaging to their case.
In some cases, having these exchanges on film can keep you out of jail. In today’s society, domestic violence is taken very seriously. Every single day cases pop up where one party has intentionally punched or otherwise inflicted damage to their self to try and claim domestic violence against the other party. Having film proving otherwise, or even them punching themselves while telling you they are calling the cops to have you arrested is a sure fire way to stay out of jail, and move you very fast towards winning your case.
4) No Alcohol, Drugs, or Significant Others Around The Child
Your attorney should give you this advice, regardless if the judge orders it or not. Many Judges will include this in the temporary orders, but even if they don’t you should live by it. Do not give the other party any leverage against you.
If you can document doing any of these, you do. Add it to your journal if they call you drunk. Write down that ex has a new lover sleeping over when the kids are down – especially if the kids are telling you this. Added to the additional evidence you are gathering, this can help further display the ex-partners behavioral patterns.
5) Private Investigators
This one may or may not be used, but your attorney should at least discuss this option. If you partner is displaying any anti-social, destructive or other behaviors that could be seen as “not in the best interest of the child”, you needed these behaviors documented.
While your journal, recordings and video may be enough, nothing is more powerful than having a professional PI documenting the destructive behavior or your partner. Many partners will not do anything in front of you, knowing full well it will be used against them. Many of these same people will engage is less than beneficial actions when they believe no one related to their court case is around.
When they display these behaviors and your PI documents, they are literally giving you the nails to their own coffin.
How Serious Is Your Attorney
When you are first meeting your lawyer, they should bring these points up along with the steps of the hearings and filings in your state. From my experience, if they do not bring these points up, they are not serious about your winning.
Many lawyers that deal with Family Law all the time become lax. They have seen your divorce and much worse 100’s of times, so they will likely go thru the actions for you, but your case is not any more important to them than a pay check. If you are going to spend the money to get a lawyer, you might as well get one that personally hates losing, and wants to win bad enough to give you the keys to help them stand before the judge with you and all that evidence.