Perhaps you have just learned that your wife is having an affair. Or that your husband has previously-undisclosed bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. Your ability to trust is at an all-time low. And yet you are entering into a crucial relationship with a divorce attorney and you’re feeling uncertain about how much you can rely on him or her. Can you count on your divorce attorney to always have your back?
It depends on what you mean by “have your back.” Certainly, you can expect that your attorney’s primary allegiance and duty will be to you. That is, no matter how charming and important your spouse is, not matter what good friends your attorney and opposing counsel are, no matter how much your attorney wants to make a good impression on a particular judge or mediator, what is in your best interests will be the touchstone for every action and communication of any ethical divorce attorney.
You can also count on your divorce attorney to bring all of his or her legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and diligence to bear on your case. In fact, the Rules of Professional Conduct which bind all attorneys require no less.
But what about the areas which are more gray? What about the situation where there isn’t a match between what the client wants and what the attorney advises. A client by the name of Jill, for example, was extremely angry about her husband’s unwillingness to agree to the amount of support she proposed although he earned ample income to do so. Jill instructed her attorney to “paper” the case by subpoenaing large numbers of potential witnesses and filing numerous motions. Another client, Thomas, became fixated on several items of furniture which were relatively small in value compared to the remaining financial details of a proposed settlement. In both cases, the client complained “You’re not fighting for me” when the attorney proposed a different course of action.
In fact, this may be the exact situation in which your divorce attorney most has your back. Honest advice about a realistic settlement option or about effective litigation strategy, while it may not sit well with you, may be the point when your attorney most merits your trust. You can’t help but be influenced by your emotional baggage as you make decisions in your own divorce case. But your attorney brings to his or her advice both objectivity and experience in assessing the facts and the applicable law in your unique situation.
In summary, make it a point not to let your mis-trust of your spouse spill over into the attorney-client relationship in your divorce case.