Be An Active Client

by Dorothy Ripka, JD of Cordell & Cordell, PC

When a person first arrives at an attorney’s office, the first thing on my most people’s minds is that they need to find a lawyer, then all of their problems will be solved.  The last thing most people think about is that the role that they must play in their own divorce.  Your lawyer can only be as effective as you make them. 

This is a startling statement to many.  So take a moment to consider it this way: Who knows your life better than you and your spouse?  Who has the most access to information regarding your children and assets?  Who has the most to gain and/or lose in this case?  In other words, while any good attorney will be vested in a good result in your case, that attorney does not have to live your life the divorce is finalized.

 

You are the most important piece of evidence in your case.  You will lead your attorney down the path of intelligently aggressive representation.  How can your attorney do a good job for you if she/he does not understand you, your life, your goals, your fears, your skeletons in your closet, etc.?  It is simply impossible.  Please consider these issues when you first arrive at your attorney’s office in the beginning of the case.  Be sure when selecting your attorney that this topic is discussed at the first meeting.  Your job does not end there.  

In most cases, the average person will shift in their goals, expectations, fears, etc. during the divorce process.  Why?  There are a multitude of reasons. 

Sometimes your very unreasonable spouse, once removed from the same household, becomes more reasonable.  Sometimes it becomes cost prohibitive to have the goals/positions you took in the beginning of the case.  Sometimes people just don’t want to fight anymore.  Also as your case progresses forward and more and more information is revealed, the issues may not exist that speculation raised in your mind.  Or in the reverse, the seemingly reasonable spouse is now out partying, leaving the kids unattended and spending the nest egg.  Whatever the reason, if there is ever a shift in your position or goals in the case, inform your counsel.  For instance, if your attorney thinks you are ok with your wife having custody of your child, your representation will head in a far different direction than if there a fight for custody.  If you want a different course of action be sure that you are sharing this information with your attorney.    

It is an excellent idea to check in your attorney on a regular during your case regarding goals and strategy.  Have a meeting to be sure you are on the same page and determine that the strategy being employed by you and your attorney is consistent with your goals.  You have the best chance for success in your case by making your concerns, goals, etc. clear in the beginning of your case, and making sure to follow up with your attorney on a consistent basis regarding any changes.  

Dorothy Walsh Ripka is the Team Leader of the Cordell & Cordell, P.C. offices in Dallas, Fort Worth and Memphis. Ms. Ripka is a seasoned attorney who has devoted her practice exclusively to domestic relations. She is licensed to practice law in Texas, Missouri and Illinois.

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