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Top Five Mistakes People Make in a Divorce

Authored by Todd Burnham

1. They don’t hire an effective law firm.

It is a critical mistake to hire an ineffective attorney. Close to 50% of our current clients are people who didn’t use an attorney during their initial divorce, or if they did hire an attorney, they didn’t receive the result they were hoping for. In my opinion, it is only appropriate to proceed with a divorce pro se (without representation) if and only if your case is straightforward and there aren’t significant assets.

Attorneys are like physicians. There are general practitioners and there are specialists. Domestic relations (divorce/custody) is a highly complex area of law, and it gets more complex if there are escalators: children, complex finances, high assets, relocation, parenting time and maintenance modifications, common law marriage, etc. The more complex the case and the more that is at stake, the more specialized the representation needs to be. Not all law firms are created equally. Effective lawyers change the outcomes of cases. Interview several before choosing the best one.

2. They don’t demand an effective attorney.

Too often, law firms market that their expertise extends throughout the firm when, in fact, maybe one or two lawyers are specialized and the others in the same firm are learning on the job. It is extremely rare to see a law firm comprised of exceptional talent from top to bottom. And many Colorado family law attorneys are new and inexperienced. As well, many firms don’t have a mentorship protocol.

If your attorney isn’t getting the job done – complain! I regularly see lawyers blow off financial analysis in cases, likely because it isn’t their strength. Demand better representation. You are paying for a service. This is a service-based business. Never settle for less than you and your children deserve. It is a mistake to stay with an ineffective lawyer or law firm.

3. They let their emotions drive the case.

It’s a mistake to let your emotions dictate your divorce. It’s up to your lawyer to keep you thinking rationally, and speak on your behalf. This is the most vulnerable time in your life and you absolutely need to be seeking high ground in all communications. Mistakes are made when people don’t control their emotions. Catastrophic mistakes are made when lawyers become emotionally enmeshed in their client’s case. When this happens, the lawyer is absolutely ineffective.

4. They don’t have a comprehensive strategy.

Mistakes uncovered at the end of a case (errors/oversights/missed opportunities) usually relate back to decisions made early in the representation. Strategic planning is everything. You and your attorney need to have a gameplan early on, especially when it comes to effectively using experts.

5. They have unrealistic expectations.

You and your lawyer should have clearly communicated expectations before the case begins. Develop your strategy. Discuss all possible scenarios. I am fond of the saying, “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.” Don’t go into a case thinking it’s reasonable to expect that you will get everything. If your lawyer is pushing for that, find another lawyer. You should expect effective representation, fair rates, transparent billing, and a commitment to helping you achieve your goals.