Written by Certified Family Law Specialist Peter M. Walzer, Esq.
We love to watch the antics of divorce lawyers on TV serials such as Suits, Boston Legal, or The Practice. While these shows are fun to watch, they are miserable to live through. You may have a handsome or beautiful attorney, who can mix things up in court, but can they resolve your case amicably, without drama?
Divorces happen all the time. In fact, there are roughly 100 divorces every hour in the U.S. But what many people don’t realize is that 95 of them settle without going to court, and 85 out of 100 cases involve people who do not have an attorney.
Even the best results in a divorce case will be challenging to navigate at first. If you thought that you were spread thin before deciding to divorce, you will be in worse shape afterward. You may be getting out of a toxic relationship, but the road to freedom can be long and hard -- especially if you don’t get the right professional help.
How to Choose the Best Lawyer for Your Divorce
The old saying, “You get what you pay for,” applies to lawyers as much as to anything else you spend money on. When it comes to lawyers, you must decide what your endgame is. Do you want revenge? Do you want to make your adversary suffer? Do you want to inflict pain and suffering? If that is what you want, there are attorneys who will serve you well. We call them “bombers,” and they are out there for hire, if you want them. But in most cases, they will cost you a lot of money on unnecessary litigation.
However, if you are willing to get beyond these natural emotions that arise during the breakup of a relationship, and determine what you really want, you can get expert help accomplishing your goals beyond revenge. These goals could be a child-centered parenting plan, an equitable division of the marital assets, and sufficient support to meet your financial goals. There are attorneys who are professional, knowledgeable, and experienced, who can help you achieve those goals, without wasting your money on unnecessary litigation. These attorneys have a set of tools that can solve virtually any problem. They know when to use these tools. They know whether the case can be solved all at one time, or whether it is best to approach resolution of the case in stages. Most importantly, they know how to separate emotions from issues, and when expensive litigation in court is necessary, and when things can be resolved outside of court.
What a Sophisticated, Experienced Attorney Can Do for You
Often times, an expensive divorce attorney can actually save you time and money by mediating an amicable resolution between you and your spouse without necessary litigation in court. The reasoning is that the one thing both parties can usually agree on is that they don’t want more assets and resources to go to their attorneys than necessary. Every dollar spent on an attorney could have been spent on the kids, and a good lawyer will help you understand that. Sophisticated attorneys know who the “players” are in the divorce business. They know how to handle difficult opposing counsel. They know the right judicial officer or mediator to hear your case. And they know the right financial and custody experts to use in mediation or litigation.
What Should be Handled by Your Attorney and What Should be Handled by Other Professionals
Parenting decisions are best decided with the help of counselors and psychologists, NOT attorneys. Why? Because attorneys advocate more for their individual client, while counselors are looking at the best interests of the children. Financial decisions are best made by financial planners. Overall, you need a lot more support during your divorce than just your lawyer. For more information about that, check out our article about the 6 people you need on your team during divorce.
Most divorce litigation is unnecessary. It is caused by emotional clients who don’t understand the court system or have not taken the time to work together on a divorce decree. It is caused by attorneys who are motivated by profit rather than the best interests of the client. Often, the wrong kind of attorney and the client are unable or unwilling to use alternative methods of dispute resolution and insist on going to court. These attorneys will use your emotions to make a profit for themselves. The litigants do not understand the weaknesses and unpredictability of our court system.
It is typical for great lawyers to be involved in high conflict divorce cases. At the outset, we want to know who is opposing counsel. We know that if a “bomber” is on the other side, the case will involve litigation, high attorney and expert fees, and a long process of usually unnecessary unpleasantness. On the other hand, if opposing counsel is reputable, knowledgeable, tough, and professional, we can be assured that the case will be handled well and that there can be an out-of-court resolution of the case. If there is litigation, it will be focused on a discreet issue, and it will be handled properly.
Why Not to Rush the Legal Part of Finalizing Your Divorce
People complain about the amount of time that it takes to get divorced, but slowing the process of a divorce can actually be a good thing. The temptation may be to step into court immediately to get your life off to a fresh start, but the time it takes to get to court will allow emotions to subside and common sense and rational thinking and decision-making are more likely to prevail.
Don’t let your breakup become a TV drama. Control the process by hiring a true professional who is not motivated by greed and who will not use you for their own profit. The true win in a divorce is to resolve your issues constructively and professionally, so each partner can go on with their lives and co-parent peacefully.
About the Author:
Peter M. Walzer, Esq. is the founding partner of the Southern California law firm Walzer Melcher LLP, a practice focused exclusively on family law with offices in Woodland Hills. He served as president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (2018-2019), an organization consisting of 1650 preeminent family lawyers in the United States. He is the past chair of the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Family Law Section, a past president of the Southern California Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and former chair of the executive committee of the State Bar Family Law Section.