The stakes are high in a divorce. From divvying up assets to determining child custody arrangements, there’s a lot on the line during the legal process — and a lot of ways to screw it up. Over the course of the next few weeks we will talk about some of the mistakes that people make and how you can avoid them to make your divorce less painful and possibly reach a better result.
The mistake: Taking legal advice from just anyone. “Not all divorce advice should be treated equally. People mean well and believe that offering you advice on how to navigate your divorce is a way to support you. But you need to be careful and remember that not all advice is created equal. Your attorney is the best source for advice for legal issues in the same way your accountant is the best source of advice for tax issues. In the same way you’d ask your realtor to tell you the value of your marital residence, your lawyer is the best professional to speculate on how many years of alimony the judge may award you. That’s not saying an attorney’s advice is beyond question, but if you need a second opinion, direct your concerns to an equally qualified legal expert.” — James Sexton, New York City-based divorce attorney I do see many clients that get advice from their divorced friends, co-workers, even their hair stylist. Remember, everyone’s situation is different. Your friend’s conclusion of their divorce was a result of many moving parts, as is yours, including children, incomes, real estate, property, misconduct of spouses, and also cooperation and agreeability during the divorce process. Even your closest friends and family members don’t know every single detail that could impact your divorce, just as you don’t know all of theirs. “Just any attorney” is also not the way to go. Remember that this is a person you may be talking to every day for the next 6 months to a year. Are you comfortable asking this attorney some personal questions? Does the advice that he or she gives you seem to jive with your beliefs and life views? Be cautious of any attorney that makes you feel in any way intimidated. Although you want to go with someone that has the confidence to represent you well, you also need to have someone that will make you feel like your opinion is important and that does not make pressure you to take a position that you really are not comfortable with. Lastly, don’t let your accountant or your counselor take control of your divorce. In the case of a specific asset or incident, it may be worthwhile to seek advice from one of these outside professionals, however always be sure your attorney knows you are asking this third party. The advice that you get may be shared with the attorney, but remember that these other professionals do not see the judge every day and also likely do not have the knowledge of the relevant laws that your attorney has. For further questions on family law, divorce, child custody or modifications of divorce judgments please contact: Barbara L Graham The Law Office of Barbara L Graham LLC 314.725.7600 7777 Bonhomme Ave, Suite 1600 St Louis, MO 63105