Top 5 Things That Can Be Used Against You During Your Divorce
Whether you’re filing a contested or uncontested divorce, your case can get heated quickly if your spouse uncovers evidence against you. If you and your spouse are filing for divorce, here’s some advice from our divorce lawyers at Denver Family Lawyers.
1. Extraordinary Spending
Everything is traceable — including your credit cards and financial information. And, although Colorado is a “no-fault” divorce state, marital waste is the one form of misconduct that is generally accepted by Colorado family courts.
What is Marital Waste?
Also known as the dissipation of assets, marital waste is the intentional destruction or depletion of marital assets by one spouse, which would otherwise be split between the couple during divorce proceedings.
Dissipation of assets may be proven through the following transactions:
Spending marital money on extramarital affairs.
Transferring marital funds to another person before a separation.
Spending unreasonable amounts on business expenditures.
Selling marital assets below the market value.
Spending money on illegal activities such as gambling.
2. Hidden Assets
Even if your soon-to-be-ex doesn’t know where the money went, they’ll know where it was. Hiding or moving money out of joint bank accounts prior to your divorce raises the same red flags as extraordinary spending. Marriage often includes plenty of paperwork — for homes, loans, taxes, and other documentation. These documents can be used against you if the opposing party believes you’re withholding or hiding assets or other funds.
3. Your Romantic Relationships
It seems only natural to want to find a new companion after your marriage ends, but doing so before your divorce is officially finalized can actually impact the outcome of your divorce settlement. Not only will dating during your divorce harm your chances of obtaining the results you are seeking, but it is also a bad idea for emotional reasons, especially if you share children with your soon-to-be former spouse.
If your new partner has a questionable background and you are seeking custody or certain visitation rights, this can also harm your child custody case. Keep in mind that any individual who has frequent contact with your children will be heavily scrutinized and become part of a child custody investigation. Therefore, if your new girlfriend or boyfriend has an unsavory history, you can expect it to have repercussions when it comes to how much time you are able to have with your children.
4. Social Media Posts
Social media experts say that even if you delete a post off the internet it sticks around forever — and if your spouse finds it, their attorney will surely use it.
Going through a divorce is tremendously emotional, and even if your post seemed innocent to you, it can be used against you during your case. Additionally, social media is one of the easiest ways for a spouse to track adulterous behavior, and those posts will be reviewed by a judge during your divorce trial.
According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Facebook is the leader in social networking sites used to gather dirt spouses can use against each other during a divorce. The bottom line? If you’re going through a divorce, it may be best to limit your social media use until your case is finalized. Even afterward, posts could be used against you in regard to child custody agreements.
5. Text Messages and Emails
Just like your social media posts, text and emails can turn around and bite you even if you’ve deleted them. Though you may think that your communication is private — this isn’t the case.
Anything you put in writing can be used against you and is fair game for the opposing party. However, if your ex plans to use texts or emails not directed toward them, he or she must be able to show that they had the authority to access the information. During the discovery process, your ex-spouse and their lawyer can submit a subpoena for your texts, phone logs, and emails.
Our Advice? Hire an Experienced Denver Family Law Attorney
Often, we find that clients come to us after they’ve tried to handle their divorce on their own — only to find themselves in a deeper emotional, financial, and legal battle. Our best advice is to lawyer up before you and your spouse begin your divorce trial to ensure your case is handled properly, and so we can advise you on how to proceed.
At our Family Lawyers, we can provide the knowledgeable and experienced representation you need during this difficult time to ensure your interests are well-protected. Do not leave the outcome of your divorce up to chance by representing yourself.
Get started on your divorce case today and reach out to our law office.
The model rules set forth specific guidelines defining the attorney-client relationship. An attorney will be guilty of misconduct, for example, if she or he fails to provide competent representation to a client, to act with diligence and promptness regarding a client’s legal concerns, or to keep a client informed of legal proceedings. Charging exorbitant fees or overbilling is also considered misconduct, as is counseling a client to commit a crime. For example, trial lawyer Harvey Myerson was suspended in 1992 from the practice of law by the New York Supreme Court after he was convicted of over-billing
Attorney-Client Sexual Relations
The AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION (ABA) has recognized sexual relations between attorneys and their clients as a significant ethical problem for the legal profession. The ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility addressed this issue in 1992 by issuing a formal opinion (no. 92-364). Although the opinion acknowledged that the Model Rules of Professional Conduct do not specifically address the issue of attorney-client sex, it argued that an attorney’s sexual relationship with a current client “may involve unfair exploitation of the lawyer’s fiduciary position and presents a significant danger that the lawyer’s ability to represent the client adequately may be impaired, and that as a consequence the lawyer may violate both the Model Rules and the Model Code.” Becoming sexually intimate with a client, the opinion adds, undermines the “objective detachment” necessary for LEGAL REPRESENTATION because “[t]he roles of lover and lawyer are potentially conflicting ones.” In addition, the opinion argued, attorney-client sex introduces a clear conflict of interest into a case, and it may also compromise ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE, the principle that ensures the confidentiality of lawyer-client communication. Any secrets revealed to an attorney by a client outside of their legal relationship may not be protected by attorney-client privilege.
Proponents of professional rules against attorney-client sexual contact argue that the legal profession should follow the example of other professions such as psychology and psychiatry, and create strict sanctions against sex with clients. Legal clients, these proponents say, are often vulnerable when dealing with attorneys, particularly in such areas of legal practice as FAMILY LAW. A lawyer who becomes sexually involved with a client in a DIVORCE proceeding can take advantage of the client under-going emotional trauma. That lawyer may hinder any attempts at reconciliation between a couple and complicate matters for any children involved. Sexual relationships between lawyer and client may also affect custody and child visitation decisions in the case. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, in its Standards of Conduct in Family Law Litigation, specifically prohibits attorney-client sex: “An attorney should never have a sexual relationship with a client or opposing counsel during the time of the representation” (§ 2.16 ).
Some attorneys object to such rules, arguing that they interfere with their FIRST AMENDMENT rights to FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION. They bristle at the notion of state bar associations regulating the private affairs of consenting adults. Nevertheless, attorneys are increasingly being disciplined for becoming sexually involved with clients, and state bar associations are drafting clearer and more stringent rules against attorney-client sexual contact. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, for example, in 1987, revoked the license of an attorney in part because he had sex with a client (In re Hallows, 136 Wis. 2d 72, 401 N.W.2d 557). The attorney, the court argued, was “placing his interests above” those of his client. In 1990, the same court for the first time suspended the license of a criminal lawyer who had sex with a client (In re Ridgeway, 158 Wis. 2d 452, 462 N.W.2d 671). Oregon and Minnesota have adopted outright bans on attorney-client sexual contact. Rule 1.8(k) of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, which became effective July 1, 1994, forbids attorney-client sexual contact during the conduct of a professional legal relationship. It allows exceptions to the rule only for relationships beginning before legal representation has commenced or after it has ended. In the case of clients that are organizations rather than individuals, an attorney may not have sexual contact with any member of the client organization directly overseeing the case.
Awad, Abed. 1998. “Attorney-Client Sexual Relations.” Journal of the Legal Profession 22 (annual): 131–91.
Kane, Andrew W., et al. 1992. “Attorney Sexual Misconduct.” American Journal of Family Law 6 (fall): 191–95.
Shirey, William K. 1999. “Dealing with the Profession’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’: A Proposal for Regulating Attorney-Client Sexual Relations.” Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics 13 (fall): 131–60.
Struzzi, Melissa A. 1999. “Sex Behind the Bar: Should Attorney-Client Sexual Relations be Prohibited?” Duquesne Law Review 37 (summer): 637–57.
by millions of dollars (In re Myerson, 182A.D. 2d 242, 588 N.Y.S.2d 142 [N.Y. App. Div.1992]).
Many types of attorney misconduct involve a conflict of interest on the part of the attorney. A conflict of interest arises when an attorney puts personal interests ahead of professional responsibilities to the client. The model rules specify the potential for conflict of interest in many different situations. Thus, for example, an attorney who by representing one client adversely affects another client has a conflict of interest and is guilty of misconduct. Conflict of interest rules also forbid an attorney to enter into a business transaction with a client unless the client is fully aware of how the transaction will affect his or her LEGAL REPRESENTATION and agrees to the transaction in writing. Similarly, an attorney is guilty of misconduct if he or she makes a deal with the client for acquisition of the book, film, or media rights to the client’s story. Providing a client with financial assistance also introduces a conflict of interest into the attorney-client relationship.
If an attorney is related to another attorney as parent, child, sibling, or spouse, that attorney may not represent a client in opposition to the related attorney except when given consent to do so by the client. This type of conflict of interest has become increasingly common as more women enter the legal profession and the number of marriages between attorneys grows. State bar associations, such as that of Michigan, have held that these guidelines also apply to lawyers who are living together or dating but are not married. The potential for conflict of interest when the opposing attorneys are married or romantically involved is clear. Imagine a woman representing a client in a personal injury lawsuit seeking millions of dollars worth of damages from a manufacturer, with her husband representing the manufacturer. As a couple, they have a monetary interest in gaining a large settlement from the manufacturer, thereby giving the husband an incentive to lose his case. Given this conflict of interest, the couple is obligated to reveal to their clients the fact that they are married. If the clients agree to go ahead with the case regardless of the conflict of interest, then the attorneys may decide to continue their representation.
Special examples of conflict of interest have arisen in cases involving indigent defendants who must use publicly provided defense attorneys. In many jurisdictions, it is considered misconduct for an attorney to refuse court appointment as a public service defender for a poor client, even when a spouse’s legal associate or firm is involved on the opposing side of the case. Normally, for example, state bar associations allow a district attorney to prosecute persons defended by partners or associates of the district attorney’s spouse as long as the client is notified of the situation; similarly, they will allow a district attorney’s spouse to defend persons prosecuted by other members of the district attorney’s staff. Nevertheless, in a 1992 case, Haley v. Boles, 824 S.W.2d 796, the Texas Court of Appeals found that a conflict of interest gave a court-appointed attorney grounds to refuse appointment as a public defender for a poor client. The prosecutor was married to the court-appointed counsel’s law partner, creating a potential conflict of interest. According to the court’s decision, a poor defendant who must rely on a public defender has fewer choices for legal representation than a defendant who can afford to employ her or his own attorney. Therefore, an attorney who has a conflict of interest must be able to refuse to represent a client as a public defender without being charged with misconduct, thereby ensuring that the client receives legal representation free of a conflict of interest.
Any breach of the trust by the attorney that underlies the relationship between that attorney and the client can be considered misconduct. For example, an attorney is often called upon to hold or transfer money for a client, and in this situation, the client places an extraordinary amount of trust in the lawyer. Any misuse of the client’s money by the attorney—called misappropriation of client funds—constitutes a serious breach of trust and a gross example of misconduct. This offense includes stealing from the client, mingling the attorney’s money with that of the client, and controlling client funds without authorization. The model rules require that funds given to a lawyer by a client be kept in an account separate from the lawyer’s own account.
To encourage clients to inform their attorneys of all details relevant to a case, ethical codes also entrust attorneys with preserving the confidentiality of the information their clients give them; any failure to do so constitutes misconduct on the part of the attorney. The law protects attorney-client confidentiality with the principle of ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE, and under very few circumstances is it lawful to breach this privilege of confidentiality. The privilege may be revoked to prevent the client from “committing a criminal act that … is likely to result in imminent death or substantial bodily harm”(Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.6 1983), or to respond to civil or criminal proceedings made by the client against the attorney. Except for these rare cases, only the client may waive the attorney-client privilege of confidentiality.
Sexual contact between an attorney and a client is almost always considered a breach of conduct. Sexual contact represents a clear breach of attorney-client trust. It is also a clear conflict of interest because it can easily result in the attorney’s placing his or her own needs above those of the client, and it makes it difficult for the attorney to argue the client’s case dispassionately.
When you’re going through a divorce and looking for an attorney, remember that you don’t have to hire the first attorney you meet. Choosing the right lawyer to guide you through your divorce is one of the most important divorce-related decisions you’ll make.
Even if you’ve received a referral to a family law attorney from a friend or another lawyer, you should still do your homework; check the attorney’s qualifications, and make sure he or she has enough experience to handle your case.
There are lots of lawyers out there, and many advertise themselves as “family law” or “divorce” attorneys. However, family law is a subspecialty that involves complex legal principles, which take time and experience to master. Within the area of family law, there are even further subspecialties, such as custody law, international custody law, guardianship, and an area of the law involving Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs), which are special orders required to divide certain types of retirement benefits.
In addition, there are various financial aspects of divorce, including:
financial disclosure requirements between spouses
restraining orders prohibiting spouses from changing beneficiary designations or transferring assets before and during the divorce
alimony (how to calculate income available for alimony and the special factors courts consider when determining setting payments)
There is a vast body of law (which will vary from state to state) that applies to these issues. These laws are frequently updated or overturned by the legislature and/or the courts, so you’ll need to find an attorney that’s familiar with the new rules and cases that apply to your divorce.
If you have a very simple case, with minimal financial issues and no children, you may feel comfortable hiring a less experienced family law attorney. However, if you’re facing a contested divorce case that involves substantial assets, complicated financial questions, or a complex custody dispute, you should look for an experienced attorney that specializes in family law and has experience with the particular issues involved in your case. For tips about hiring a divorce lawyer to handle some or all of your divorce case, see our article, Hiring a Divorce Lawyer.
Ten Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney
We’ve provided a few questions you might consider asking during your initial interview with a family law attorney. These may help you determine whether this lawyer is right for your case.
1. Do you specialize in divorces, or are divorces just a part of your practice? How long have you been practicing family law? How many family law cases have you handled? Are you a “certified family law specialist?”
2. What is your strategy for my case? How long will it take to resolve my case?
3. How long do you take to return phone calls? How do I get a hold of you if there is an emergency? What do you consider to be an emergency?
4. Will anyone else in your office be working on my case? What experience do they have? Can I meet them?
5. How will you charge me? What is your hourly rate? Do you charge for the time I spend with other lawyers, with paralegals, and/or with secretaries? If so, at what rate? What is your retainer up front?
6. What costs (other than your own) do you expect will be involved (for example, for private investigators, forensic accountants, physicians, and/or psychologists), and how will you charge me for them?
7. What’s your estimate of the total cost of this divorce? (Do not be alarmed that most divorce attorneys will resist answering this question as the cost of the divorce depends greatly upon the level of conflict in your case. However, the way attorneys answer this question may help you size them up. An honest attorney will often answer that it is difficult to estimate the costs in advance. An attorney that gives you an unrealistically low amount may just be trying to get your business).
8. Do you allow me to negotiate directly with my spouse? How can I keep the cost of my divorce down? Are there tasks that I can do myself to cut down on the amount you will charge me?
9. Based on what you know about my case, how would you predict a judge would rule on it?
10. What can you do to help me understand the tax effect of the decisions I will have to make?
So you need to get more clients for your law firm. You’ve heard online marketing works, but you’re not sure where to start. Between Google, Facebook, PPC, SEO, and online reviews, there’s a lot to consider—and there are plenty of consultants who will claim that their solution is best.
How do you know what law firm marketing tactics will work for you? How do you know what to invest in and what to ignore?
We’ve published several tips from individual law firms here, and we hope you find them useful.
1. Take advantage of free law firm marketing options
“I think you should maximize your free marketing opportunities before spending a lot of money on marketing. For example, claiming your listings, getting a 10.0 Avvo rating, etc.”
– Heather Meglino, Managing Partner and Owner at Meglino Morse Law
2. Position yourself as a thought leader
“For us, (and I work in digital marketing as well as law) it’s all about internal and external SEO, and inbound marketing. The content (whether it’s videos on your site, monthly newsletters, etc.) will depend on your ideal/target clients. Setting yourself up as a subject matter expert through inbound is the most cost-effective lead generation tool out there!”
– Mandy Woodland, Owner at Mandy Woodland Law, PLC Inc.
3. Create educational content and promote it in the right places
“For our law firm, we have found that we gain the most traction through writing timely educational articles about estate planning-related issues. While we post these articles to our firm’s website and social media sites, we have found the most immediate results from posting to LinkedIn.”
– Matthew J. Tuller, Principal Attorney and Owner at the Law Office of Matthew J. Tuller
4. Build meaningful relationships with clients
“We are located in a very small, conservative resort town. Business is still based on relationships—who you know and how you are perceived as contributing to the community. A website is essential for credibility and general info, but networking and relationships are key.
It will be interesting to see how this changes as the current face-to-face generation phases out and the face-to-phone generation phases in.”
– Karen Klukiewicz, COO at Patrick Neale & Associates
5. Focus on securing referrals
“I have a referral-based practice. It’s important that my website be modern, clean, and work on both desktop and mobile.”
– Danielle Huntley, Principal at Huntley Inc.
“We do a lot of cross-referrals and have a very strong referral network. We also blog, speak at symposiums, teach, and are regular guests on talk radio.”
– Leslie Lelii, Office Manager at Virtus Law, PLLC
6. Take steps to multiply your referrals
“[T]ry to categorize the best groups your referrals come from and hone in on them. Develop relationships with your referral sources. Reach out, thank them, recognize their contributions. The referrals will not only keep coming, but will multiply.”
– Sean Robichaud, Lead Counsel at Robichaud’s
7. Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth
“The best marketing is word-of-mouth. I still get about half of my clients from word-of-mouth. Past clients are the best source of getting new clients!”
– Jonathan G. Stein, owner, Law Offices of Jonathan G. Stein
8. Prioritize online reviews
“Our paid and free profiles on Avvo actually seem to be the best return on investment, combined with the intense level of effort that we have put into building our website and newsletters into a real library of resources for people who are trying to learn more about estate planning. SEO of our website and making sure the many, many, many directories that are out there have accurate listings for us seem to be the next most useful steps.
We have been blessed with a ton of great reviews, and I hear all the time that the reviews were one reason even people who were actually referred by another client or a professional adviser made their appointments.”
– Loraine DiSalvo, Partner at Morgan & DiSalvo, P.C.
“My free profile with Avvo has … been a truly great marketing tool. I have received so many inquiries for legal help and many have become clients. I also utilize a strong referral network, and I am very involved in my state and local bar associations as well as the ABA where I have speaking opportunities. I’m still working on my website.”
– Kari Petrasek, Attorney at Petrasek Law, PLLC
9. Claim your presence online, but also focus on your community
“I do everything I can to claim my online presence with websites, directories, and assorted profiles. I do get several calls from having a good Avvo profile and a premium (paid) profile.
Otherwise, I pay little for advertising. We instead cultivate a good reputation in the community by sponsoring/supporting community events and organizations, personally networking within the community, and sending care packages to referral sources and others who seek to help us. We try to be very genuine in our approach and it has always worked for us.”
– Ruth Goldner, Attorney & Counselor at Goldner Deeg PLLC
10. Build a quality website that convinces visitors to choose you
“I’ve found that the best leads come straight from my website. People Google “Kingston criminal defence lawyer” and I come up in the top three results. I think I have a good website compared to the other people who also come up on the first page and it draws people in to contact me. By this time they’ve already checked me out and, I think, like what they’ve seen. I’ve found these clients are easy to land, even on the first phone call, with no follow up.
I’ve found that referrals from lead generating sites are less committed. They’re often shopping around or are just looking for free legal advice, it seems.”
– Simon Borys, Principal lawyer at Simon Borys
11. Invest in SEO …
“For online marketing there are two primary principles: Have a valuable website, and create valuable content. If you demonstrate your value instead of describing it, potential clients will flock to you.
At our firm, Palace Law, we have taken steps to build our internal SEO and external SEO. We have videos on our website introducing who we are and offering free information to potential clients. The latter (often called freemium services) is one of the most important things lawyers can do. Offer up valuable information to potential clients for free, form contracts, legal research, and instructional videos, and you’ll find that this not only increases your SEO, but also draws in a lot of clients. We also advertise and maintain profiles on paid and free sites.
– Jordan Couch, Attorney at Palace Law
12. … But know that it’s a long game
“I like SEO marketing, in that it helps keep you top of mind for people for when they need you, but I find the issue with that is timing.
People only retain a lawyer when they need a lawyer. [Legal services are] not an impulse buy item. So unless your SEO marketing is catching [potential clients] just when they need you, it doesn’t seem to generate a lot of immediate, direct ROI.
I think when people need a lawyer, they either think of you because you’re top of mind because of your previous SEO marketing, or they just Google you, which is why I think my website is the best tool.”
– Simon Borys, Principal lawyer at Simon Borys
13. Target local prospects with digital ad campaigns
“Our firm is currently running a Google Ad campaign for our surrounding counties—any time someone performs a Google search for family law attorneys in our county, they see our website. It has produced a huge surge in new client intakes.”
– Ebony Anderson, Paralegal at McCabe Russell
14. Try QR codes
“One fun thing we have had success with is running traditional print ads with scannable QR Codes [that lead] to our website … After each of our ads, we always seem to get business through the QR link.”
– Seth Kruse, Associate Attorney at Kasper & Associates, PLLC
15. Get onto social media
“Social media marketing is the future for lawyers. Most people perform research on their smartphones. I get one to two significant cases per year from paid marketing efforts on Facebook for a minimal investment.”
– Barry Walker, Managing Partner at Walker Law
16. Consider your practice area
“[Questions about marketing strategy] really can’t be answered meaningfully without knowing what areas you practice in, and without thinking about how your clients find lawyers. My practice is limited to representing other lawyers—90% or more of my business comes from referrals. A good website, occasional blogging, some Twitter use—these may be helpful, but you still need to differentiate yourself from all the other lawyers buying Adwords, sending out email newsletters, etc. What works for a lawyer in one practice area may not work for someone with a different practice.”
– Eric Cooperstein, Attorney at the Law Office of Eric T. Cooperstein, PLLC
When it comes to law firm marketing, find what works for you
Investing in marketing can get your law firm plenty of new clients—but it needs to be done right. Consider your practice area and your clients, and what works best for them (and you) before spending your time and money on any law firm marketing efforts.
To conclude, here are a few overarching themes from everyone’s advice above:
Invest in your online presence. A well-designed website and strong online reviews can help potential clients find you and choose to hire you.
The skills you need for your ideal career are something that you can work on and develop over time. As they say: practice makes perfect! Here are a few that you should consider working on if you aspire to be a successful lawyer:
1) Good communication skills
Lawyers must be orally articulate, have good written communication skills and also be good listeners. In order to argue convincingly in the courtroom before juries and judges, good public speaking skills are essential. Communication and speaking skills can be developed during your studies by taking part in activities such as mooting or general public speaking.
Lawyers must also be able to write clearly, persuasively and concisely, as they must produce a variety of legal documents.
But it’s not all about projection. To be able to analyze what clients tell them or follow a complex testimony, a lawyer must have good listening skills.
The ability to draw reasonable, logical conclusions or assumptions from limited information is essential as a lawyer.
You must also be able to consider these judgments critically so that you can anticipate potential areas of weakness in your argument that must be fortified against.
Similarly, you must be able to spot points of weakness in an opposition’s argument. Decisiveness is also a part of the judgment. There will be a lot of important judgment calls to make and little time for sitting on the fence.
3) Analytical skills
Both the study and practice of law involve absorbing large quantities of information, then having to distil it into something manageable and logical.
At times, there will be more than one reasonable conclusion, or more than one precedent applicable to resolving a situation.
A lawyer must therefore have the evaluative skills in order to choose which is the most suitable.
4) Research skills
Similarly, being able to research quickly and effectively is essential to understanding your clients, their needs, and to preparing legal strategies.
Preparing legal strategies requires absorbing and comprehending large amounts of information, then distilling them down into something manageable and useful.
5) People skills
Law is not an abstract practice. Irrelevant of how well someone does academically, at the end of the day lawyers work with people, on behalf of people, and the decisions that are made affect people’s lives.
They must be personable, persuasive and able to read others. This allows them to gauge juror’s reactions and the honesty of witnesses.
This allows them to decide upon the best approach to take in order to achieve the desired outcome: either client taking their advice or reaching a favorable negotiation with the opposition.
“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” Even studying to become a lawyer takes a great deal of perseverance and commitment – and that’s before you even start work!
The very word “Divorce” gives us goosebumps and it’s the last thing that we want to go through. Divorce can be as legally complicated as it is emotionally charged. Just as the word divorce can make you panic, and dealing with the legal process is similarly a challenge. There can be variations in divorce law from place to place, and your divorce is as unique as your marriage. Your divorce is a delicate matter that needs to be handled with care. And there are many types of cases that divorce attorneys handle; look for one with plenty of experience in handling your type of case.
Why Consulting a Divorce Lawyer Matters
A divorce on its own can be difficult enough without adding anything that can make things even worse. When you sit across from your partner for divorce negotiations, things can get heated. This is where a good divorce lawyer’s skills and experience can be invaluable. With their knowledge of family law as well as how the judges at your family court are likely to rule, an experienced divorce lawyer can offer reasonable choices for settling your divorce – and settling it out of court if possible.
Nobody gets married thinking that their love will end in divorce. Sometimes, a fairy-tale marriage ends up becoming a cautionary tale of what not to do during divorce if you want to avoid financial, physical, and emotional distress. The divorce process can emotionally drain all the members of the family unless you and your spouse agree to take the high road, treating each other with respect and cooperation. If you’ve decided to split, you’ll need the help of a good divorce lawyer from a reputable firm – a lawyer who shares your philosophy and can guide you through this challenging time of your life.
During the divorce proceedings, you’ll have to deal with a lot of paperwork. Not being in a proper state of mind you are likely to find all this quite confusing. Every form can be confusing, and once it goes to the court, the judge will rely on it heavily, so it is vital that each form is filled out correctly. It is here where a divorce lawyer can help. They will guide you in filling out every form effectively and accurately to avoid any unnecessary obstacles.
Types of Divorce Cases a Divorce Lawyer Handles
Below are the different kinds of divorce cases that a divorce attorney handle,
Uncontested Divorce: This is ideal because in this case both the husband and the wife will work with their lawyers to create their divorce agreement. There is no trial in an uncontested divorce because both parties agree on the terms. An uncontested divorce is the simplest, quickest, and least expensive way to divorce.
Contested Divorce: This can be the most difficult kind of divorce since the husband and wife do not agree on major issues like child custody, spousal support, or property division. The parties’ lawyers will still try to negotiate a settlement, but if the parties dig in their heels, the case will go to court and a judge will rule on all contested issues. Those who file for a contested divorce may face hearings and settlement negotiations to resolve the issues. In case no agreement is made then going for a court trial indeed will be necessary. Although you are allowed to represent yourself in court, this is not recommended as you will be held to the same standards as the lawyer on the other side of your case.
Collaborative Divorce: This divorce includes each party working with their own collaborative lawyer to reach an agreement without the possibility of going to court; if the case doesn’t settle, the lawyer must resign and the parties start all over from the beginning with new lawyers. In a collaborative divorce, both parties need to be cooperative and willing to negotiate in good faith to create a settlement that works for both parties. Full disclosure is essential to ensure that the negotiations are fair. In this case, the husband and the wife meet with their respective lawyer to negotiate an agreement. The “collaborative divorce team” often includes a neutral financial expert, parenting specialist, and divorce coach to facilitate agreement.
Default Divorce: When one party files for a divorce and the other does not respond, the court can grant a default divorce. The judge can grant the divorce despite the other party not taking part in the proceedings of the court. The court can give a default divorce if the spouse cannot be found, never returns from a foreign country, or leaves the jurisdiction without reason.
Summary Divorce: Simplified or summary divorce is quite common in some states – especially for short marriages (those that last less than five years). Most couples who get a summary divorce have insignificant joint debts, no children, and little property to divide. You can download the paperwork and forms you’ll need to complete a divorce and fill them out – but each of you should have your own lawyer read the agreement to ensure that it is legal and that you understand exactly what you’re agreeing to.
No matter if you are at the start or in the middle of a divorce, it’s wise to consult an experienced divorce lawyer for answers to your most pressing questions and concerns. Along with being your advocate, a knowledgeable lawyer will also offer you objective advice about which of your goals are obtainable and worth pursuing – and which are not. Hire the best divorce lawyer for your unique circumstances to reduce your stress during this difficult time.
Many people gravitate towards larger firms simply because they recognize the name. However, there are numerous advantages to choosing a smaller firm over their big-name competitors.
1. You are a Priority
Big law firms handle hundreds of clients at once- with them, you are just another case. This is not the situation with a small firm.
As a smaller firm, Thomakos Law is selective of the clients we take on, meaning if we have chosen to represent you, you can rest assured we are 100% committed to your success. We truly care for our clients!
2. Personalized Treatment
When you are paying a lawyer to do an important job, you should be treated like a VIP.
Though many big firms advertise their “team” of lawyers as an advantage, a single lawyer is able to take the time to know you personally and develop a deep understanding of the background of your case. Since you are not just another client in a hundred, you will receive the professional, caring, and attentive treatment you deserve from Thomakos Law.
3. Ease of Communication
Another disadvantage to a “team” of lawyers is the potential for breakdowns in communication. This can result in misunderstandings that lead to errors and needless time expenses.
With a big firm, there may also be confusion about who you should be talking to, something that never happens with a smaller firm.
4. Availability & Flexibility
Need to get in touch with your lawyer after hours? With a big firm, this is most likely not possible.
Smaller firms are able to be more flexible with their time, since they are handling fewer clients at once. Also, because they care personally for the client, they will be more willing to that extra mile for the convenience of that client. At Thomakos Law, we are always willing to work with your schedule!
5. Specialized Service
A long list of legal capabilities on the website of a big law firm may look impressive, but hiring a small firm that specializes in your type of case is a much wiser option. Since they handle cases similar to yours all the time, you have confidence knowing they are familiar with the ends and outs of the laws, as well as the best practices that lead to success.
When it comes to legal representation, size matters. Choosing a small law firm with the desire and capability to give you and your case the attention and treatment you deserve is the smart first step to take towards your success.
The Lives of Lawyers: Actionable Tips for Law Firms to Increase Client Satisfaction
Client satisfaction not only affects client retention and a firm’s reputation but is considered as a key driver of growth. According to Harvard Business Review, referrals are still the most common way people find an attorney.
Understandably, clients that have a pleasant experience working with you are highly likely to send more business your way in the future. In an age when Big Law firms are spending roughly 2% of their budget on marketing and business development, it’s important to remember that satisfied clients are a firm’s most powerful marketing channel.
With the internet, clients have more options than ever when it comes to legal services. If you are able to retain happy clients, you’ll be able to give yourself a competitive advantage. Winning cases is just one way to keep clients happy. Luckily, there are many other steps you can take to build rapport with your clients and to keep them entrusting you with their legal needs.
How to keep your law firm clients satisfied?
Keeping clients satisfied comes down to reducing common friction points, like billing, mismatched communication patterns, and mismanaged expectations, relating to cornerstone aspects of legal work, such as deadlines and billing. Below are some of the best practices to ensure client satisfaction:
1- Be responsive and accessible
Although it may just be one case among many for your firm, for the client, it could feel like their entire life hangs in the balance. When clients reach out to you, it’s imperative that they feel like they have a good chance of getting through and being heard. That means giving timely callbacks if you missed one. Preferably, never let the client wait for more than 24 hours.
Consider using App4Legal Client Portal, it allows clients to collaborate and add comments in order to inform or share information such as attachments and more via the comments section inside the ticket.
2- Keep your clients updated
Share important information to clients about their case as well as pertinent information about your firm frequently. Communication is a two-way street and, although you should always be accessible, the client shouldn’t feel the onus is on them every time to make contact.
Following up with clients or making sure they are up to date on the details will make them feel appreciated. It will also foster a sense of transparency and reliability. In a practical sense, it allows clients to else prepare themselves in line with new developments.
3- Strike up a personal connection
If someone’s about to enter critical legal proceedings, there’s nothing they want more than to believe they have someone is by their side. Through trying to appear professional, it’s easy to come across as cold.
So, from the very beginning, it’s critical to treat your clients with respect, dignity, and a hint of compassion. Client service is something that should permeate every part of the client acquisition, interaction, and retention process. Don’t let clients go too long without receiving real human contact from your firm.
Take a polite interest in your client’s personal and business life. This will also give you a better understanding of where they’re coming from.
4- Modernize your practice
In this day and age, every established law firm should have a modern, attractive, and functioning website. People have more choices than ever, and a professional website will create that first impression you need to stand out.
There are also many tools that law firms can use to improve their client service and streamline their work processes. Tired of having your law firm buried in paperwork and manual work processes? App4Legal software can help you effortlessly draft professional documents and manage them digitally.
To maximize your client acquisition, you need to compete for attention online. Nowadays, most peoples research starts (and usually ends) at Google. For law firms, it’s especially important to optimize their search engine rankings locally, as this is still how most law business is done.
You don’t have to be a marketing expert. There are many marketing tips that can help you in learning legal marketing. It starts with optimizing your online presence, enhancing your website appearance, and creating your free online profile. Contact us for more information.
Generally speaking, there are two types of divorce. One is called “divorce from bed and board,” which is available in some states. At its core, this allows couples to legally separate, and is typically used by spouses who want to live their own lives but, for whatever reason, don’t want to formally end their marriage. Divorce from bed and board is infrequently seen these days.
The more common type of divorce is an “absolute divorce” which dissolves the marriage. A legal clean break, so to speak. It’s this concept that this article will focus on.
There are various methods available to reach the goal of having a judge issue a judgment of absolute divorce. For the sake of convenience, it’s become standard practice in the law to label each of these methods as a separate kind of divorce, which is how we’ll describe them below.
In many states, an expedited divorce procedure is available to couples who haven’t been married for very long (usually five years or less), don’t own much property, don’t have children, and don’t have significant joint debts. Both spouses need to agree to the divorce, and must file court papers jointly.
A summary (sometimes called “simplified”) divorce involves a lot less paperwork than other types of divorce—a few forms are often all it takes. For this reason, summary divorces are easy to do without the help of a lawyer. You can usually get the forms you need from your state court’s official website, or from the local family court clerk’s office.
Once your case is settled, you can file for divorce with the court. Courts almost invariably fast-track these types of cases, so you can get divorced in a relatively short period of time. In some states, you many not even have to make a court appearance, but rather can file an affidavit (sworn statement) with the court clerk.
A default divorce occurs when you’ve filed for divorce, and your spouse doesn’t respond. You’d likely see this, for example, if your spouse has left for parts unknown and can’t be found.
Assuming you’ve complied with the court’s rules and regulations, a judge can grant the divorce despite the fact your spouse hasn’t participated in the court proceedings. On its face, this may seem like the ideal situation. No one is there to contest what you’re asking the court to give you. But be aware that there are pro and cons to a default divorce.
If you and your spouse are at loggerheads over one or more marital issues, to the point that you can’t come to an agreement, then it will be up to a judge to decide those issues for you. This is what’s meant by a contested divorce.
Contested divorces are stressful, time-consuming, and expensive (think mounting attorneys’ fees). You’ll go through a lengthy process of exchanging financial and other relevant information, mandatory settlement negotiations, and court hearings for temporary relief, such as interim alimony, for example, if warranted.
And if you can’t resolve the case after all that, there will be a court trial. The burdens of a contested divorce are why the vast majority of divorce cases ultimately settle at some point before trial.
Fault and No-Fault Divorce
This refers to the grounds (reasons) on which you’re basing the divorce. Your state’s laws will set out the permissible grounds for divorce. In the not-too-distant past, people who wanted to dissolve their marriage had to show that the other spouse was guilty of wrongdoing, such as adultery or cruelty. Needless to say, accusing your spouse of misconduct could make for quite a contentious divorce.
Now, however, all states offer some form of “no-fault” divorce. In a no-fault divorce, instead of proving that a spouse is to blame for the marriage failing, you merely state that you and your spouse have “irreconcilable differences,” or have suffered an “irremediable breakdown” of your relationship.
But note that just because the grounds for a divorce may be no-fault, that doesn’t mean the case is uncontested. You still have to resolve all your other marital issues.
If you have questions about these procedures, contact a local family law attorney for advice. The laws vary from state to state.
Before filing for divorce, options are available to you if you need assistance in trying to resolve your differences. These are referred to as “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) methods. One of those is divorce mediation. Here, a trained neutral third party (the mediator), sits down with you and your spouse to try to help you resolve all of the issues in your divorce.
It’s not the mediator’s job to make decisions for you. Rather, mediators offer guidance and help you communicate with each other until, hopefully, you reach a meeting of the minds. A successful mediation usually ends with the preparation of a property settlement agreement.
Another ADR option is “collaborative divorce“. This entails working with lawyers who are specially trained in this method of settling divorces. The spouses hire their own lawyers, each of whom is obligated to work cooperatively, with the sole purpose of trying to settle your case. Each spouse agrees to disclose all the information that’s necessary for fair negotiations, and to meet with each other and both lawyers, as often as necessary, to attempt to reach a settlement.
You all must agree that if your divorce doesn’t settle through the collaborative process, your original attorneys will withdraw and you’ll have to hire different attorneys to take your case to court. This is done to ensure that all participants, including the attorneys, are acting in good faith, with nothing to gain from veering away from the goal of settlement.
In states that allow it, a third form of ADR is “divorce arbitration“. This option is the most similar to a trial, because the arbitrator (usually an attorney or a retired judge) will make a decision on your marital issues, after being presented with the facts of your case and reviewing the documentation you would ordinarily produce at trial.
The benefits of arbitration are that it’s typically conducted in an informal—and thus less intimidating—setting than a courthouse (usually the arbitrator’s office) and, as with the other forms of ADR, allows you the flexibility of picking meeting times that fit your schedules. This makes it more cost-effective than having to make court appearances, which often involve sitting around racking up attorneys’ fees while waiting for a judge to become available.
The potential downside to arbitration is that, unlike mediation and collaborative divorce, the arbitrator’s decision is almost invariably final. You give up your right to appeal it; a right you would have in a standard court trial. It’s something of a roll of the dice in that regard, which is why arbitration isn’t as popular as the other ADR methods.
The divorce process can be a particularly emotional and vulnerable time. Don’t make these common mistakes.
As anyone who’s gone through a divorce can tell you, the process is rarely easy. Tensions run high, and couples often make poor decisions in the heat of the moment.
Given the mountain of financial, practical and emotional details that have to be sorted, it’s not surprising so many couples wind up making critical mistakes on the road to divorce. However, there are a number of things you should do, or more specifically not do, to lessen the chance you’ll regret your decisions later on.
Here are the top 10 tips on what to avoid when filing for divorce.
1. Don’t Get Pregnant
Having a baby during your divorce complicates a lot of things, and could even hinder your right to divorce. In November 2004, a Spokane County, Wash. judge refused to allow Shawnna Hughes, a pregnant woman, to divorce her abusive husband. Hughes’ husband is not the father of her child. But because Hughes became pregnant during the divorce proceedings, state law presumes Hughes’ husband to be the father of her child born up to 300 days after her divorce. The judge refused to grant Hughes a divorce because he was concerned there would be no father to take financial responsibility for the child. Although many states now grant single parents the same rights as married ones, having a child when you’re in marital limbo can be problematic.
2. Don’t Forget to Change Your Will
Getting divorced does not automatically revoke a will. If you want to prevent your soon-to-be-ex-spouse from receiving the monies and privileges granted them in your will, you need to update your will. You can re-do a will at any time. But if you die before you are granted a divorce, and you have left your spouse nothing, he or she can sue and recover part of your estate.
3. Don’t Dismiss the Possibility of Collaborative Divorce or Mediation
In a collaborative divorce, you can get the help of professionals—attorneys, divorce coaches and therapists, to divide property and manage emotional stress. Some critics of collaborative divorce believe that attorneys, divorce coaches and therapists who engage in collaborative divorce are not really experts, and cost too much time and money. But the majority of jurisdictions with collaborative divorce have stated that collaborative divorce is more cooperative and less adversarial than traditional divorce.
Mediation is different. Only one third-party professional—a divorce mediator—helps you and your spouse reach an agreement. Mediation is more of an ongoing process than a one-time intervention. Although lawyers are generally not allowed into mediation sessions, you can consult a lawyer at any time during the process to make sure you are getting the right result.
4. Don’t Sleep With Your Lawyer
It’s easy to get close to the one person who is on your side. But it’s also a big mistake. Some states prohibit all sexual activity between an attorney and client. Other states allow an attorney and client who had a sexual relationship before the case to continue the relationship. In either case, sleeping with your lawyer can compromise your attorney-client communications because you may be charged with adultery for the infidelity.
5. Don’t Take It out on the Kids
Children need a supportive environment to deal with divorce. Minimize the amount you talk about the process. It will give you more time to be there for them. Refocus your energy so you can attend their school and after-school events, help them with homework, and take them out once in a while to the movies or the zoo. When you are relaxed, they get more relaxed. Though you should be comfortable talking with your children about the divorce, the point of this divorce is to relieve stress on you and your family.
6. Don’t Refuse to See a Therapist
Seeing a therapist can help you get through the range of emotions that you will experience when dealing with divorce. It is a good idea to get help before you become extremely depressed or angry. A therapist is not just someone to talk to. They are also a professional who can show you how to relax, how to talk to your kids, and how to remain calm in court. Most importantly, a therapist can help you figure out how to become self-sufficient.
7. Don’t Wait Until After the Holidays
You already know the holidays are not going to be difficult. So why wait?
Divorce lawyers often see an increase in clients before, during, and after Christmas. It’s also easier to get used to an empty home before the holidays. If you wait (and fight) through the season, you may destroy any chances for an amicable split and wind up hashing out your differences in court.
8. Don’t Forget About Taxes
Typically, the person who is awarded custody of the children gets the house. But the house may not be the best deal. If you can’t afford the mortgage, taxes and upkeep on the house, you want to ask for the investment portfolio of equal value instead. However, before declaring yourself king or queen of your block, remember:single people are not allowed to shelter as many capital gains from taxes. Stocks can also be at issue. Newly-purchased stocks may be more desirable because they will cost you less in capital gains taxes.
9. Don’t Settle Early
Just because you want out of your marriage immediately doesn’t mean you should forfeit your financial security. Make multiple copies of all of your important financial documents: pension statements, tax forms, brokerage and mutual fund statements, credit card statements, and other records. It will make you aware of what you own and even what you owe.
Make sure that you and the children will continue to have health insurance during and after the divorce proceedings. While you are still married to your spouse, an illness or accident can change how property is divided.
If you and your spouse can work out an amicable agreement on your own, you can file what’s known as an “uncontested” divorce. This will save you both time and money in court costs.
If this is simply not possible, you may want to hire a professional mediator or an attorney. If you decide to retain legal counsel, remember to bring three things to the first meeting with your lawyer so you can assess what you will need once separated: a balance sheet listing the family’s assets and debts, an accounting sheet of your income and expenses, and your tax return.
10. Don’t Increase Your Debt
Divorce is expensive. On top of attorney’s fees, you will need money to set up a new household. Though it may be difficult to make ends meet, you should get used to having less now. Remember, your legal bills and court costs may come due before you receive your first payment of alimony or even your share of the marital property. While it may seem stressful, the freedom you’ll enjoy down the line will be well worth the struggle.
One Final Note
Putting aside strong emotions in favor of cooperating with your spouse and managing the thornier issues of your separation with a calm and level head will definitely pay off in the long run. Both of you will make wiser decisions and come out of the process with fewer bruises.