During a divorce, relying on the assistance of your family law attorney is the right thing to do. Their guidance and focused legal experience can help you through this tumultuous time.
While emotionally and financially challenging, you can make the divorce experience a bit easier on yourself and your family by avoiding common pitfalls that damage cases and futures.
Cordell & Cordell’s attorneys understand how to navigate these challenges for their clients, which is why Executive/Managing Partner, CEO Scott Trout hosts a monthly Virtual Town Hall with a panel of attorneys from around the country, dedicated to educating men and fathers going through the divorce process.
This month, the Virtual Town Hall focused on five additional mistakes that men and fathers make while going through the divorce process.
1. Choosing the wrong lawyer
Your attorney is a necessary component to your future. They are there to get you through the divorce process and do what they can for your future, depending on the specific facts and circumstances of your case.
This is why choosing the wrong lawyer can be so detrimental.
Many in your life may attempt to recommend a particular attorney, who did well in a legal case for them, but they may not focus on family law. Some may look at reviews and find that a particular attorney who meets their needs has a negative review, making them pass on hiring that attorney and hiring someone less competent.
Whatever the situation may be, your choice in an attorney is an important factor in how the process goes. No case has a guaranteed outcome, so it is necessary to be vigilant when researching your lawyer.
“If you meet with an attorney who starts to make promises as to the outcome of the case, that’s a big red flag to turn around and run away,” Cordell & Cordell Virginia Senior Litigation Attorney Jacob Smith said.
2. Concealing information from your lawyer
When you meet with your attorney, you need to be upfront and honest about all of the facts of your case. They need your full transparency about all of your assets and everything that opposing counsel may use to discredit your character.
You do not want your attorney to be blindsided in court with a fact or a previously unidentified bank account mentioned by opposing counsel. Your case will suffer, because you attempted to conceal pertinent information from your attorney.
“I always say at the first instance, you want to tell your attorney everything they need to know, because our job as attorneys is to help you,” Cordell & Cordell New Hampshire Senior Litigation Attorney Jessica Ugarte said. “Just like at the doctor’s, a doctor can’t help you unless you tell them the symptoms. Your lawyer is not going to have a crystal ball and figure out that you have this million-dollar asset that you never told them about.”
By concealing information or assets, you are stifling the efforts of your attorney, in effectively doing their job and representing your case during your divorce.
3. Doing a sloppy job on financial records
In the same vein as concealment, you may do a poor job maintaining and recording financial information. It may be deliberate and part of efforts to conceal an asset, or it may be accidental and part of larger recordkeeping problem.
Whatever the case may be, poor financial recordkeeping can set your case back and make your attorney’s job a lot harder in court.
“In some respects, some of the most important things you can do in court are being completely clear and deliberate when it comes to your financial records,” Cordell & Cordell Ohio Senior Litigation Attorney Robert Vizmeg said. “It comes down to two things when it comes to financial records: credibility and penalty.
“In my jurisdiction, one of the first documents you file with the court is an affidavit of income and expenses. That affidavit is as if under oath, and you want to be as clear, as concise, and as truthful as you can, because these filings will have an impact on early orders and will speak to your credibility.”
If your financial records are poorly reported or are missing key assets, you may face penalty from the family courts.
“For example, in the state of Ohio, the penalties can include double or triple the damages, based on the withholding of an asset that should have been filed in the record,” Mr. Vizmeg said.
4. Talking too much – especially to your wife
The outcome of your divorce case affects your future, and you do not want that case impeded by disclosing too much information to those in your life, especially to your soon-to-be ex-spouse.
Whether it is regarding a particular strategy that you and your attorney have discussed employing or a particular discovery made in the case, talking too much can be detrimental to welfare of your settlement.
“I like to tell my clients that my office is like ‘Fight Club,’ said Cordell & Cordell California Senior Litigation Attorney Cassandra Lelek said. “First rule about ‘Fight Club’ is we don’t talk about ‘Fight Club.’ We don’t talk about what happens in this office.
“I understand people getting excited and going to friends and talking about their strategy. However, that can get back to your spouse. The best strategy is one that is secret.”
5. Being ill-prepared for testimony and interviews
During a divorce, you may find yourself settling in hearings or mediation, concluding the process with little to no turmoil. Conversely, you may find yourself in front a judge needing to face the cross-examination of opposing counsel, putting pressure on you and your case.
In those circumstances, your attorney needs to take the necessary time to go through a mock trial situation, if they believe that you are going to have to testify in front of a judge.
“If you find yourself in a position that you are going to testify in front of a judge and you are going to be cross-examined by opposing counsel, you need to be prepared,” Ms. Ugarte said. “That is where cases are won and lost.
“I always tell clients to listen more than they talk during cross-examination. Listen to the words you’re being asked. Answer that question. If you don’t understand, that’s OK. Ask for clarification.”
Answering the questions asked truthfully and concisely are necessary aspects of testifying under cross-examination, and your attorney can prepare you beforehand by asking you tough questions and giving you the necessary guidance before you take the stand.
While pitfalls may arise during the divorce experience, you can trust that your attorney will help you along the way. Staying prepared and doing the necessary work beforehand will allow you to maintain a clear outlook of your case and your life after your divorce is finalized.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.