Going through a family law matter, whether it be a divorce, a custody and parenting time action or involvement in a post-judgment issue, is a very difficult and stressful time. Because of that, you might feel compelled to reach out to your attorney more often than you should or take matters into you own hands by doing things you thought would help but end up hurting you. To help you avoid some common pitfalls, we put together a list of tips that may be helpful as you go through the process.
- Avoid texting and emailing your attorney with information as it arises or occurs to you. Unless it’s an emergency or time sensitive, keep track of the information to go over at your next scheduled appointment. This will save you money (you may be billed every time your lawyer opens your emails) and it ensures that the information you provide is in one place instead of piecemeal throughout numerous e-mails and texts.
- Don’t use employer email when communicating about your matter. It is not confidential and may be discoverable by the other side. Further, your employer has a right to look at all of your emails. Instead, set up a secure personal email that the other party cannot gain access to.
- Many times, especially in divorce matters where the parties are still living with one another, one party will tell their spouse what their lawyer is saying and make pronouncements of what is going to happen. Don’t put much stock in these types of statements which are often meant to get under your skin and cause a (negative) reaction. Instead, verify such statements with your lawyer. Parties in divorce actions often attempt to undermine the attorney/client relationship of the other spouse by making statements and pronouncements which aren’t true.
- Many court appearances now are via Zoom or some other video conferencing system. If you don’t know how to use these platforms, ask a friend to show you or practice with you. (Remember, if you ask your lawyer for help, you may potentially be charged.) When appearing on Zoom, treat it as if you were attending court in person. Be dressed appropriately. You wouldn’t wear a sweatshirt or t-shirt to court if it were in person. Have the right space to log in to court, i.e., quiet without interference and with appropriate backdrop.
- It’s inevitable that you will do your own research on the internet. That is okay and expected as you are likely nervous and curious. Don’t believe everything you read, however, as much of the information is inaccurate or will be different for you because of other factors. If you have a concern about something you’ve read, ask your lawyer.
- Don’t talk to neighbors and friends about their matters and expect to obtain the same result in your case. Many times lawyers hear “well my neighbor got $5,000 per month in spousal support. Why can’t I?” The law is fact-specific and there tends to be a great disparity of opinion by courts as to what amount of spousal support those facts should bear out.
- Don’t talk about your case in front of your children, or even when you think they are not around or are sleeping. This is a very stressful time for your children too and they are paying more attention than they normally might. Furthermore, don’t involve your children in the matter. And while they have questions and it’s ok to answer them in a neutral non-negative way, don’t use it as an excuse to tell them everything.
- Do not read your spouse’s emails. First, it could be illegal if done on a device you don’t own or one that has an expectation of privacy. Second, reading emails between your spouse and his/her attorney, even if out in the open and/or on a device that you own, is an invasion of the attorney/client privilege. Your lawyer should not want to know of any information you obtain that way. It is unethical.