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How to Choose A Divorce Attorney

My cousin (who is also an attorney, but not in Arizona and not in family law) sent me a message a few days ago, on behalf of her friend who is getting divorced.  Jana’s question was, “how does Amy choose a divorce attorney and what questions should she be asking?”   By the time I was finished with the email, I realized that there are probably lots of “Amy” people in the world (both men and women) who are bewildered, confused, scared, and stressed, but still need to make a smart decision.  Here’s what I told Amy ~ First, you should decide what kind of divorce you want: do-it-yourself with legal consulting and/or drafting of documents, mediation, arbitration, Collaborative Divorce, negotiated settlement, or litigation. Those are listed in order of expense from under $2,000 to $50,000 and up.  There’s more information on our Services page that describes these options.  This is probably the most critical step in the process, because not all attorneys are suited to all types of divorce. Then, when you have decided what kind of divorce you want, you should call several therapists and NON-family law firms and ask for a referral to a family law attorney for (i.e.) mediation. If you get the same name twice, you’ll know that the person is at least somewhat respected by their peers. I don’t recommend asking friends for a referral because most people who get a divorce either think their attorney was the best or worst that ever lived with no frame of reference other than their own divorce. Now that you have an idea of what kind of divorce you want and have a list of attorneys to call, you should get...

Divorce Recovery = Prevention

We are all familiar with the horror stories about nasty divorces, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, taking years to complete, and leaving the family in ruins.  Unfortunately, that scenario (or one similar) is pretty much the norm in our society.  The emotion-fueled “intimate war” is promoted and glamorized by Hollywood divorces, daytime television, greedy lawyers, and unenlightened spouses who want to have their “pound of flesh” for sins both real and imagined.  Can you ever recover from such a traumatic and devastating experience?  Maybe, with a lot of counseling and inner reflection.  On the other hand, we are now seeing the fallout from those types of divorces in adult children — books and web articles abound and none other than Oprah has featured adult children of divorce on her wildly popular talk show.  If you are the divorced person, there are (according to Google) 1.36 million resources on the web, including support groups in every city, at most places of worship, and at community centers. From where I sit, I think the best recovery program is prevention.  Rather than having to experience and then recover from a bitter and harrowing divorce experience, why not nip it in the bud and avoid the mess in the first place? What?  Too difficult to bite your tongue and put aside your base instincts in favor of a peaceful divorce?  Well, here’s a news flash.   That’s what divorce litigators are counting on.  Want to drag out all the dirty laundry and make your spouse “pay” for their bad acts?  Yippee!  That means more (and more) billable hours!  Can’t bring yourself to have a civil conversation about exchanging...

Flat Fees Are Finally Here!

Billable Hours Lawyers are taught at the outset of our careers that the Billable Hour rules the world.  Coming from the business community, I always found the billing practices of law firms to be rather odd.  In most other service industries, the customer obtains a quote or bid or scope of work that outlines what you will pay for the work you want done.  Law firms (as well as accounting, and some other professions), on the other hand, almost always operate on an open-ended contract that often brings a frightful surprise to clients at the end of the month.  A common analogy is taking your car to the garage for repair and the mechanic informs you that he might be able to fix your car, but he’s not sure how long it will take and can only tell you what it will cost when he’s finished fixing it.  Another good comparison is hiring someone to paint your house by the hour.  Either way, an open-ended hourly system of billing invites inefficiencies and does not serve our clients as well as we should. Variable Costs of Litigation Legal fees can vary greatly from firm to firm and can increase exponentially with even a little bit of conflict between the parties.  It’s been very difficult for the Family Law bar to adopt flat fees because of the moving target of litigation.  For example, given two cases that have almost identical fact patterns, assets, and liabilities, Case A’s litigated divorce will cost around $30,000 each and Case B”s litigated divorce will cost in excess of $150,000 each.   And it’s hard to know, in advance, which case an attorney might...

5 Scenarios For A Parenting Plan Tune-up

The over-arching theme of co-parenting is that “things change” — kids get older, change schools, you and/or your co-parent remarry, you move to a new neighborhood and, all the while, your Parenting Plan is safely tucked away in a file cabinet, becoming an outdated old clunker of a plan. As we like to say in family law practice, the best Parenting Plans set out “fall back” positions, are filed with the Court, thrown in a drawer, and never see the light of day again … because you and your co-parent are  raising your kids and working together as family members should.  Even in the best co-parenting relationships, situations sometimes arise that will have you digging around looking for that dusty old legal document to figure out what to do next.  And then, when you find it, you may be surprised to find that it says something you didn’t expect or doesn’t say anything at all about your new situation. Here are a few common scenarios that we see and I have outlined them for you so you can think about whether or not your Parenting Plan may need a tune-up. Babies became teens:  If your Parenting Plan was written for wee ones and your babies are now in driver’s ed, it’s likely that your parenting arrangements, vacations, and holiday plans have all changed, too.  Maybe your Parenting Plan was concerned with day care, but now should be addressing curfews and college choices.  Definitely time for a tune-up! Blended families and Parenting Plans:  It’s a few years down the road and now you have yours, his, ours, and theirs.  How do you...

What’s Your Everest?

I was inspired to blog about this topic from — of all things — a Champion sportswear ad that posed the question and went on to say, “The summit awaits each of us — and the symbolism of Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, can help us achieve our own goals and dreams.”  I see their “Everest” on the faces of people who are struggling through a divorce, who have been climbing a long ascent with few resources and no summit in sight.  They are physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially exhausted and overwhelmed.  Just like a person climbing Everest, every step is a monumental effort, and they are constantly battling fatigue, depression, limited resources, isolation, and defeat.  Some people never make it to the “summit” of divorce — they never experience the relief of closure, resolution, and peaceful acceptance.  Recently, a friend told me about a couple who were about to appear for another (their 8th in 10 years) post-decree hearing in Court, this time regarding parenting time.  These two have not been able to attain their summit in the traditional divorce model.  Years (many years) after their divorce, they are still struggling to reach the “top” or at least the end of their climb, but — like many who attempt Everest — they ran out of tools long ago.  The only resource left to them was their “position,” which rarely serves the needs of the children or parents.  Here were two people that — individually — have so many strengths and talents.  But together, they are unable to climb that last mile to the summit of closure and resolution, so they just keep on trudging.  Their children...

Are You Insane?

Albert Einstein (a fairly smart fellow) said that the definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  In that respect, it’s fairly simple to self-diagnose!  If you’ve been doing the same things over and over and still expect to see different results, you might be insane … or, you might be giving a conditioned response. Insanity needs attention from someone trained in psychiatry.  (Not my gig.) Conditioned responses need attention from you, because the only cure for the conditioned response is awareness and a willingness to change.  So what does this have to do with family law?  As it turns out, quite a lot.  You see, if you are repeatedly responding in an unhealthy way to conflicts or issues with your co-parent, expecting THEM to change, you’re probably going to be disappointed (at the very least). Here’s an example of conditioned responses (CR): You:  I’ll be there at 6 to pick up Andrew and Emily. Them (Pushing Your Button):  I told you that I needed to leave at 6.  Be here at 5:30 or not at all. You (CR):  You didn’t tell me that.  Besides, the orders say 6 and that’s when I’ll be there. Them (CR):  You heard me.  5:30 or don’t bother. You (CR):  I have to work for a living, so I’ll be there at 6. Them (CR):  Don’t bother because we won’t be here. You (CR):  Fine. I just won’t bother following court orders, but I’ll be calling my lawyer in the morning. Them (CR):  Fine.  Go ahead. But you still won’t see the kids tonight. You (CR):  Screw you!...