One of the common complaints from fathers who are going through a divorce or fighting a custody battle is how hard it is to communicate with their attorneys. By their very nature, these processes are difficult and time consuming and yet we tend to be impatient and ready to move on. And your divorce attorney doesn't just have you as a client and has many things in his practice to try to keep in balance. So dads have to take some initiative to keep the process open and communicative. Here are some recommendations from men who have been there on keeping the lines of communication open with your divorce attorney.
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- Choose your lawyer carefully. The most important part of your legal process involves selecting the right divorce attorney in the first place. Get recommendations from friends who have been there. Take extra care in your initial interview to establish expectations. Make sure you have a relationship of trust from the very start. Check out more recommendations from experienced fathers about choosing the right divorce attorney.
- Ask lots of questions and take notes. Come to each appointment with your divorce attorney prepared with a list of questions and concerns. Write down a summary of his or her responses. Then go home, make a copy of your notes, and mail them to your attorney for the file. This will help keep you both on the same page and help your attorney be accountable to his or her commitments.
- Be totally honest. This recommendation cannot be emphasized enough. You shouldn't try to impress your divorce attorney by telling him something that may come back to haunt you later. He is under ethical and legal requirements to not disclose anything you tell him--it's called attorney-client privilege. So be honest, frank and candid with him or her. If you screwed up somehow, your divorce attorney needs to know. Being totally, even brutally, honest works best in your relationship with your lawyer.
- Share your documentation. It is always important for a dad going through a divorce or a custody issue to keep documentation of everything--every time you have the kids, every time their mom is late dropping them off or picking them up, every time you pay child support or for anything else--all of it. Make a copy of your documentation periodically for your lawyer to make sure he or she knows what is happening.
- Get to the point. Your divorce attorney's time is precious, and expensive for you. Remember, your lawyer is not a therapist, so keep your conversations on point. A minute or two about the weather is OK, but don't just complain or gripe about your kids' mom. The lawyer's office is neither the time nor the place.
- Make friends with his assistant. Often, access to your divorce attorney is protected by his assistant. So get to be friendly and cordial with him or her. When you drop off documents, make sure and ask for him or her, say hi and be social. You might be surprised what a good relationship with the gatekeeper will mean to your working relationship with the attorney.
- Make appointments when needed. When you need to talk with the lawyer, make an appointment and go to the office. Phone calls are good, but you will generally not have the attorney's undivided attention unless you are in the same room looking at one another. It may be a little more expensive and time consuming, but it is worth the investment.
- Talk to the paralegal working on your case. A lot of the document and legal work will be done by a paralegal on your attorney's staff. Make sure you have a name and a phone number for the paralegal, and stay in touch on the important issues. Without that personal connection, often errors will be made on your documents or in preparation for court.
- Don't change lawyers unless you are totally desperate. Getting a new divorce attorney up to speed on your issues can be expensive and a waste of time. And attorney-hopping hurts your credibility in the legal process. Choose your attorney carefully, and then stick with him or her for the duration if at all possible. When you are unhappy with your counsel, work hard to resolve all the differences before you decide to make a change.