Consider a frank conversation with your attorney as to how you can best help them manage your case.

Hiring an attorney is expensive. Clients want to get the most value for their dollar. Similarly, attorneys want to present their client’s case in the most effective way possible. We want to get you the best result possible, but to do that, we need your help.

Honesty:  The most important thing you can do is to be honest with your family law attorney. We understand there may be details about your case that are embarrassing. Trust us, we have heard most of it before. If you don’t tell us about an incident or only tell us half of the story, we cannot prepare an adequate defense. To put it bluntly, if we don’t know what is around the corner, we can’t protect you from it.

Documents:  Just because you hire an attorney doesn’t mean you abdicate all responsibility for your case to that attorney. Please give us all the documents we request in a timely manner. Attorney’s fees start accumulating quickly when I have to ask a client for the same items several times. The best way to prevent this scenario is to gather all the requested documents together and bring them all to your meeting with your attorney. Without documents, we cannot make the case that your ex owes you money or that you have paid certain expenses for which you deserve reimbursement. Yes, we know it is a pain. If you want us to represent you to the best of our ability, you need to help us by providing us with ammunition.  And no, your word is not good enough in most cases.

Self-Control:  Try to remain civil with your ex. When you are involved in a lawsuit, everything you do and say will be scrutinized. This means your communications with your soon to be ex will also be analyzed – especially if custody is an issue. Every communication between you and your ex should be written as if a judge is reading it – because he/she probably will. If you write something snarky/insulting to your ex, your attorney will hear about it from your spouse’s attorney and then, in all likelihood, be required to clean it up. This means writing a letter to the attorney explaining what you “really” meant when you said x,y,z or that you were having a bad day and really were sorry that you called your ex the explicative in the e-mail you sent after the custody exchange. This cleanup costs you money and erodes your credibility with the court.  If you need to elevate stress, buy a punching bag.

Every case is unique, so this list is not meant to be comprehensive. Have a frank conversation with your attorney as to how you can best help them manage your case. Contrary to popular belief, most of us want to get you a good result without taking more of your money than necessary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle L. Stowell is a shareholder and a California Bar Certified Family Law Specialist. She regularly represents business owners, professionals, and other high net worth individuals (or their spouses) in divorce and related actions. She also writes and speaks regularly on family law issues, with particular emphasis on divorce involving children with special needs. Based in Folsom, California, FORESTER PURCELL STOWELL PC can be reached at or 916 293 4000. This information is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice.

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