When you’re facing divorce, you have your hands full. The last thing you should have to worry about is an incompetent attorney or mediator who was supposed to guide you through the process. Make sure you can recognize what behaviors are unacceptable so you know what your options are. Below we cover five ways attorneys and mediators may fall short and what a good relationship should look like.
What it Looks Like:
This is when your attorney or mediator is not responding to you or not responding within a reasonable amount of time. To make sure all parties are in the same page, your mediator or attorney should set expectations about how often they will communicate and how long it will take them to respond. Clear and consistent client communication is key so even you, the client, are receiving responses, if they are jumbled or nonsensical, this is just as bad as no response at all.
What it Should Look Like:
At the Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado we give our clients written instructions in our getting started package to make sure our clients know how to reach us and when and for what.
Generally in business, It’s reasonable to expect a call back within x24 to 48 hours amount of time. To account for the variabilities of life, both you and the attorney or mediator should set up autoresponders for any time where you or they will be unable to respond within a normal timeline. It is unreasonable to expect a response from your attorney or mediator outside of business hours unless they've behaved in a manner that would lead you to believe that calls or texts happen outside of those hours. If you want to ensure you know that your emails have been read, look for a email tracking solution.
Can It Be Fixed? If you’re in the consultation phase, make sure to tell your attorney or mediator what you expect communication wise. Make sure your expectations line up.
The professional/firm you hire to guide you through your divorce should provide clear instructions up front as to how they manage communication timelines, and they should be held to their standards. Remember, this is your divorce, your future and you are the boss….you hire your divorce professional and you have the right to fire your divorce professional.
What it Looks Like:
If you have had to inform or remind your attorney or mediator about a deadline and missing that deadline ends up costing you money, that is a huge red flag and in most cases, warrants firing them.
Look out for:
An example of a deadloine that was missed by one of our client's previous attorneys was not turning the discovery in time so the home appraisal was inadmissible, leading the client to be awarded a substantially lower amount. Another example: witness disclosures were not made timely resulting in rescheduling your court date.
What Should it Look Like: Dates and deadlines are clearly communicated via email and with enough notice if the client needs to provide information.
Can it be fixed? It depends. If the missed deadline doesn't affect you in a material way, i.e. money or lost time, it is not worth breaking up with your mediator or attorney. If they're missing deadlines, they're also likely not communicating well, so it's not uncommon for #1 and #2 on this list to operate in tandem.
What it Looks Like:
The legal and mediation worlds depend heavily on details and facts which vary with the circumstances. Make sure that your attorney or mediator is asking relevant questions and fleshing out the details, especially related to finances and child support and parenting plans (if applicable) A failure to understand Colorado divorce law may arise if they are new practioners or if they not keeping up with changes to the law. The legal and mediation process depends heavily on the small facts which vary with the circumstances.
A competent attorney or mediator is required to have a solid understanding of the state divorce laws. You may want to exercise caution in hiring an attorney who practices different types of law with family law being one of them. Family law is very complex and case law is deep. In addition to feeling a connection with the person you hire, it is important you're comfortable with their knowledge. This means you may need to seek a second opinion.
What it should look like: When they are as open and transparent with you about what their reasoning is. They put their logic into plain English without a bunch of convoluted phrases.
Can it be fixed? This is especially tricky. You either know your stuff as they say, or you don't. There's not a speedy way to become more knowledgeable. Proceed with caution.
What it Looks Like:
Your research uncovers something they missed, etc. If you find that your lawyer or mediator has demonstrated clear ignorance or mistaken understanding of an issue of law, or has failed to understand the specific facts of your case; then maybe you aren’t getting the legal service that you paid for.
What It Should Look Like: Usually you won't know what they should have known, until its too late. However, here are clues that your attorney or mediator is the kind of divorce professional who crosses their t's and dots their i's.
An example: Mixing up your case up with another client’s case and sending you their documents.
Can it be fixed? Depends. If you suspect an error or oversight on the part of the professional, address it with them right away.
However, if you find that your lawyer has demonstrated clear ignorance or mistaken understanding of an issue of law, or has failed to understand the specific facts of your case; then maybe you aren’t getting the legal service that you paid for and you should seek another opinion.
Remember, the documents you produced as well as the reports/documents produced by the divorce professional belong to you. You may request them to seek another professional to look at them and offer a second opinion.
Too many Yes’s are also a red flag.
What it Looks Like: Some lawyers and mediators are going to tell you what you want to hear. They need to be realists and not people pleasers. It may be that you have a very strong case, but there are no guarantees. Court is really a ‘crap shoot’ and to hear promises about your outcome would not be acceptable.You need a divorce professional who will give it to you straight so that there are no terrible surprises down the road.
What it should look like: A no nonsense attorney or mediator who has been there and seen a lot. This is not about making you feel good, they're also there to manage client expectations.
Can it be fixed?
Yes, if you are in the consulting phase you can spot this kind of behavior and seek another divorce professional. If you have already hired them, and that behavior was what reeled you in, you may need to adjust your expectations to be in line with the reality of divorce where the reality is unpredictability.
If you are contemplating divorce, the professionals at the Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado can help. Give us a call at 303 468-5626.