Why Your Divorce Lawyer Shouldn’t Be Your Therapist
Compassion is a common trait in many family law attorneys. While it’s often appreciated by clients and can benefit the attorney-client relationship, it’s important to remember that compassion alone doesn’t win court cases.
A good divorce attorney will possess the drive, legal knowledge, and negotiating skills to succeed in the courtroom. However, even the most experienced lawyer can be hindered by a lack of professional boundaries and/or unrealistic needs from a client. In some cases, this can even lead to unfavorable results in court.
It's essential for divorcees to maximize their chances of success by maintaining healthy boundaries and setting appropriate expectations. What can you expect your attorney to do for you? Better yet, what does your attorney need from you to do their job well?
Keep reading to learn why it’s imperative to maintain a professional attorney-client relationship that benefits both parties.
Professional Boundaries in an Attorney-Client Relationship
Both therapists and lawyers indeed offer professional services to equip their clients for success. Still, it’s important to understand that “success” can look different in clinical psychology than it does in the legal field. At the end of the day, both therapists and legal advocates require professional boundaries to perform their jobs effectively.
The last thing you want to do is pay a professional for services they aren’t trained to provide. Investing in legal representation without setting appropriate boundaries or realistic expectations can result in you wasting your money—and your lawyer wasting their time. Moreover, it can affect their ability to help you in the courtroom. Ultimately, expecting the wrong things from your divorce attorney, even unknowingly, can result in a loss for both parties.
Risks of Blurring Professional Lines with an Attorney
Believe it or not, it’s entirely possible for lawyers and therapists to truly have a client’s best interests at heart, but offer contradictory advice—and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If anything, the client can be confident that the ball is in their court and they can (and should) retain the agency to make their own choices in life.
For example, if a client’s marriage has a known history of emotional and financial abuse, a therapist may encourage the client to fight for more spousal support from their abusive spouse. However, an attorney’s legal expertise may lead them to a different conclusion, and they might advise their client to pursue a different strategy.
While receiving conflicting advice can be confusing, it isn’t necessarily bad. It just means that your therapist and divorce attorney are drawing on their individual training, skills, and specialized knowledge to provide the best counsel and fulfill the unique responsibilities of their role.
No one benefits when paid professionals offer counsel that falls outside their area of expertise. Taking legal advice from your therapist or psychological counseling from your attorney likely won’t end well, as it can blur lines and muddle your initial purposes for hiring them.
In the same way that you wouldn’t ask your plumber for medical advice (or ask your physician to fix your sink), it’s important to keep your legal and emotional needs separate, as this is the only way that your therapist and divorce lawyer can do their jobs well.
What Does Your Divorce Attorney Need from You?
To obtain a favorable result in court, you and your divorce lawyer need to work well together. A poor attorney-client relationship will not only negatively impact the divorce proceedings, but will likely cost you more in the long run.
Consider adhering to these best practices to help your attorney provide the services you require from them:
- Share specific goals for the divorce. This can include desired outcomes for issues such as child support, alimony, child custody, and property division.
- When sharing information, keep it brief and to the point. Your attorney will undoubtedly require plenty of information to determine the best legal strategy for your case. When answering their questions, try to avoid unnecessary tangents or narrative detours. For example, if you want to keep half of the business you’ve helped your spouse run for years, there’s no need to fill your lawyer in on why your ex doesn’t deserve to keep it all. Be as brief and specific as possible.
- Avoid exaggerating or providing false information. While emotions tend to run high during a divorce, it’s crucial to tell the truth, not stretch it. Providing false information can negatively impact you during divorce proceedings.
- Avoid contacting your lawyer excessively, especially to vent about minor issues. Your divorce attorney is focused on the big picture and the main goal you both share: to obtain a favorable result in court. Excessive phone calls, especially to vent or emotionally react to minor issues, can be a waste of your money and a waste of your lawyer’s time.
Your Divorce Attorney’s Role
Familiarizing yourself with your divorce lawyer’s role in your divorce can help the two of you maintain a good attorney-client relationship and thus maximize your odds of success. Here are some things you can expect from a divorce attorney:
- The provision of a retainer agreement. This should list the details and terms of your professional relationship.
- An initial consultation. This conversation will likely involve discussing legal strategies to determine the best path to take in court.
- A review of your legal options. Your attorney will assess potential routes to take during the divorce.
- Honest, realistic legal counsel. Your attorney will provide you with advice and/or legal recommendations to help determine your steps throughout the process.
- Prompt, efficient communication. Your attorney will relay any updates and notify you of potential changes in your case.
While it’s essential to stick to the facts and minimize emotional detours as much as possible while collaborating with your divorce attorney, this doesn’t mean that your emotions and feelings aren’t important—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. For many people, healing from divorce takes a village.
In some cases, your lawyer may be able to refer you to other professionals who can help you navigate the tumultuous events of divorce. Whatever you need, be sure to take time for yourself and seek help when you require it. Many professional roles are designed to assist people like you in various areas during a major life transition. Seeking help from a financial planner, therapist, mediator, family or parenting counselor, realtor, lender, or other professional can empower you to get your life back on track and restore your sense of stability.
5 Things to Look for in a Divorce Attorney
When choosing a divorce lawyer, it’s crucial to find the best fit for you. What works well for one person may not work well for another, as we all bring a unique set of needs, preferences, expectations, and other traits to the table. While interviewing potential attorneys, it may be helpful to reflect on these 5 questions:
- What is their family law experience? Some attorneys specialize in multiple practice areas, and while this isn’t a red flag, it’s worth considering how long a lawyer has practiced family law in particular. How many divorce cases have they been in? What is their rate of success? Are they knowledgeable about divorce?
- What is their communication style? Do you prefer frequent check-ins with a legal advisor, or do you communicate more sparingly? This can affect a potential lawyer’s suitability for your case. How long do they take to return a call or reply to an email? How can you get ahold of your attorney if there’s an emergency?
- What is their proposed strategy for your case? Did they clearly invest thought and consideration into choosing a good strategy? Do they seem knowledgeable and confident about the proposal? How long do they predict your case will take?
- How will they charge you? What's their retainer price? Are there any expenses they require to be paid upfront? Will they charge you by the hour? What's the estimated total cost for their representation?
- Will you be working directly with them during the divorce? Will you be working with a different attorney at the firm? Will you work frequently with a paralegal or other professional at the office? Who can you expect to pick up the phone when you call with a question or concern?
It’s well worth the effort to choose an attorney who is not only experienced in family law, but is a good fit for your personal needs. Collaborating with a legal team who shares your vision and goals can help make the divorce proceedings as seamless and pain-free as possible.
Superior Legal Counsel for Families in Pasadena
Our firm understands that divorce is often a difficult time for families. The emotional toll of ending a marriage can make it all the more challenging to focus on the results you desire during legal proceedings. Rest assured that if you’re filing for divorce, you don’t have to journey alone.
Our experienced divorce attorneys go above and beyond to meet each client’s unique needs and ensure that our personal goals align with yours. At the Law Offices of Christopher L. Hoglin, P.C., we’re committed to making a positive impact in people’s lives. When you partner with us, you’re partnering with an award-winning legal team of compassionate advocates who are committed to restoring your peace of mind.
Filing for divorce? A trusted divorce attorney can help guide your steps to secure the outcome you desire. Call (626) 653-4075 or contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation.