Of course you should. This seems like the simple answer, but you would be surprised how many clients chose not to talk to their attorneys. Cooperation and communication with your attorney, is probably one of the most important things you can do in your case. Actually, it is the most critical thing that you can do, otherwise you leave your attorney in the worst position to fight for you.
You will get out of your family law case, almost as much as you put into your family law case. Garbage in – garbage out is a great expression to illustrate this point. If you do not give your attorney your cooperation, you may not get a good result and it may not matter how good of an attorney they are in your community.
What can you do or what can your attorney do to make this process easier?
1. Communication: It is important to talk to your attorney and have them talk to you.
While this does not mean you need to speak with your attorney every day, it is essential that you either communicate by telephone or e-mail about the status of your case every week to two weeks. Frequency of communication varies in every case, but I always attempt to contact a client once in every two week period, even if that is as simple as an e-mail saying we are still waiting for documents or a decision.
Contact obviously picks up during busy segments of your case, especially if there is a hearing approaching, discovery must be completed, or we are talking about settlement.
To make sure you know what is happening in your case, discuss the best way to communicate for you and your attorney up front.
2. Let your attorney know where you are
You have moved out of the house and established your own residence. Then you find that living a separate life is fairly simple and you don’t have to worry about your ex-spouse anymore. This is what you imagine divorce to be like, so you just go on living life and stop paying attention. The problem is that you haven’t told your attorney you have moved on and an even bigger problem YOU ARE STILL (legally) MARRIED!
It is important that if anything changes in your life, your address, your phone number or your e-mail address that you communicate this to your lawyer, so they can communicate with you. Just because your life has settled down doesn’t mean that your case has. There are still trial deadlines, discovery deadlines and other procedural requirements that have to be taken care of and your attorney can’t do it without your help.
Don’t miss a critical deadline, or lose your attorney, due to fact that you did not update your contact information.
3. Don’t hold your attorney back
An attorney can only offer you good advice, if the attorney has the information available to them to give you that advice. Often clients will not authorize an attorney to conduct discovery, follow through on information because the client wants a quick settlement. Settlement is great and most cases do settle, but agreeing to settle just to get it done is not necessarily the smartest thing.
If this is your position, then you should expect your lawyer to ask that you sign a form that you have been advised you are settling the case against his or her advice.
It is usually better to talk the alternate route and let your attorney do their job and make sure you are protected.
4. Disclosure: Tell your attorney everything!
The worst feeling in the world for an attorney is to be sitting in the Courtroom at your trial and hearing that you transferred $25,000 out of joint checking, or that you were arrested for DUI.
Your attorney is your advocate and your voice in this case. He or she cannot do the job if you do not provide all of the facts about your case, your financial situation, your drug history, information that might effect custody and visitation of the children and any other relevant and requested documents and data. To put it another way, your attorney cannot effectively do their job if you withhold information, even if that information may be harmful to your case or embarrassing for you.
Why is that? An effective family law attorney is like a chess player. They need to know how to use the information in the case, how to advocate for you by highlighting the good points and trying to diminish the bad. If a chess player can only see half the board, even the best chess player is set up to fail.
I try to make sure my clients know what I am looking for when we meet and expand on the information provided to me by my clients. I don’t just take what you provide, say thank you and move on. Many of my clients don’t understand this process, the language of this process or why they have to go through this process.
5. What should your attorney be doing?
Your attorney should make sure that you have the opportunity to communicate, participate and remain in contact with your advocate, so you can be involved in this process. As the client, you should take advantage of the opportunity to use your lawyer.
It is a big waste of money to hire a lawyer because you think you need to and then simply not participate in your case or talk to your attorney. I always try to make sure that the client knows what is going on in their case by going over their expectations of me and my expectations of them.