When you are going through a divorce, it’s important to keep in mind that your lawyer is not your friend. While you may have a cordial relationship and it may seem like a friendship at times, it’s a business relationship. That means if your lawyer sees you making a mistake or making a poor decision, they may not always tell you. This is especially true if the divorce has been dragging on for months, sometimes years, and the court is pressuring everyone to just get it done. Here are some secrets your lawyer knows but may not share with you:
(1) Whether your spouse is getting along with his/her attorney. Divorce lawyers are a relatively close-knit community traveling in the same circles. They see each other in court, at bar events, etc. They may even be friends, socializing with each other during their personal time. It’s not unusual for attorneys to vent to each other about their clients during phone calls and other events. While they are still required to honor attorney-client privilege, they may sometimes make it known whether they like their client or despise them. Your attorney may be saying the same thing about you!
(2) Whether the other side is more or less flexible than you. Sometimes, in an effort to just get things done, lawyers (as well as judges and mediators) make a judgment about which party is more or less willing to compromise. The one that may be more willing to compromise is typically targeted to do just that: compromise even further to get the case settled. This is usually a quicker route to getting things done than trying to convince the more rigid party to be more reasonable.
(3) You are less of a priority if you are not paying your bill. This may seem obvious, but it often seems that the clients who aren’t paying their bill are the ones who call the most and expect their attorney’s undivided attention. While most lawyers take their responsibilities seriously, practicing law is still a business. The people who are generating income for the firm get bumped up in line.
(4) What the judge is saying about you. Sometimes judges give a sense of their perception of the parties. Sometimes it is favorable and sometimes it is not. This can have a great impact on the advice your lawyer may give you when encouraging a settlement. Your lawyer may not encourage you to dispute an issue that he or she already knows the judge would not rule favorably for you. However, the “code” is that a lawyer does not repeat anything the judge or the other attorney has said in confidence during meetings. The attorneys and the judge ordinarily have a common goal of the getting the case settled.
(5) What the other party is saying caused the divorce. Most states are now no-fault divorce states, which means there doesn’t really have to be a reason for the divorce other than the fact that at least one of the parties wants one. This means that those reasons are largely irrelevant, but being human, parties often like to talk about these topics. The reasons could be anything from “we grew apart” to infidelity or a variety of other reasons. Sometimes attorneys will discuss these emotional issues largely because it helps to resolve issues in the divorce when you can understand where the other person is coming from and what may be important to them from a psychological standpoint. Very often, the parties have very different opinions about what caused the divorce.
(6) When the attorneys have conspired to move a court date. Sometimes attorneys have other matters that have to take priority for various reasons. Sometimes one of the attorneys has a personal matter that creates a scheduling conflict. Attorneys will sometimes conspire to move a court date to accommodate such events without letting the clients know so that the clients don’t get angry with the attorneys.
(7) If he or she is friends with your spouse’s attorney. Clients often believe that opposing attorneys are supposed to hate each other in order to be effective. However, it is quite the opposite. When attorneys are able to get along and work cooperatively together, they are actually better advocates for their clients because they typically communicate more effectively without emotion muddying their judgment.
These are just a few examples of what your lawyer won’t tell you. Keep in mind that although your lawyer has been hired to represent you, this is a business relationship that only requires him or her to give you legal advice and advance your position in court. It does not require them to be your friend or tell you every minor detail about how they move your case along. That’s why it can be helpful to have a coach who helps you evaluate not just your divorce, but how your divorce fits into your life from all angles. Lawyers can hold back for various reasons. It’s not up to your lawyer to help you find your vision.