In keeping with the previous blog about marriage, commitment, divorce and life after a divorce, taking a step back prior to proceeding with a divorce is often a wise course. Often times I, and other attorneys here, have often consulted with clients who want to get an idea of what a divorce would be like before they journey down that road. Sometimes clients want to proceed down the divorce path immediately. Other times a client is not really ready to leap into a divorce and just needs someone to provide some guidance for a potential situation in the future.
During these initial meetings, we often discuss the likely outcomes of a divorce such as what will happen to the home, the children, how much support they may receive or pay, and even who will get the family dog. We also discuss the divorce process and what may be involved, such as the process to file the divorce, service on the other party, what will be the living and support arrangements while the divorce is pending, how will the divorce proceed through the court process, and how long the entire process may take from start to finish. Many of these questions cannot be definitively answered, but I can give the client at least some frame of reference based on potential scenarios and past experience.
One additional angle to consider is what the divorced life will look like will be like, not just the legal issues, but the personal and emotional issues our clients (and even the other parties) may experience. Depending on the circumstances, the emotions can include sadness, joy, anger, apathy and even serenity. Relatedly, I discuss how to deal with a soon to be ex-spouse, before, during and after the proceedings, and how the divorce may impact others, especially the children, whether the children are tiny infants or even mature adults.
I also take time to set the client’s expectations about the divorce, not only about what the potential outcomes may be, but how we get to resolution. There are times when a client and spouse acknowledge the marriage is over, and they just want to move on to the next phase of their lives. Other times, one party wants to attempt to save the marriage while the other has already checked out of the marriage. Sometimes clients want to release the full force of hell on the other side for whatever hurts and wrongdoings may exist.
In the initial meetings, I will take time to remind those clients that the reason(s) for the divorce will frequently have little to no impact on the ultimate resolution of the divorce and to focus the energy of the client on the end results instead of refighting ancient battles. As with most things in life, there are exceptions to the general rule, but, generally speaking, the cause of the breakdown of the marriage does not impact how much property will be received, who gets custody of the children, whether and how much maintenance is paid. Illinois is a “no fault” divorce state, which means that fault does not impact those things.
During these initial meetings and discussion, we want to know what is important to our clients, to determine the best course of action for them, and what type of attorney we need to be for them. Do we need to be a protector and stand up for them when they cannot speak for themselves? Do we simply need to be a facilitator and help guide them along the road of the divorce? Do we need to be something in between? Will our role change during the divorce proceedings? I have found this self-evaluation beneficial too as the client gets to know what type of attorney they are hiring and what they can expect. There are a wide range of family law attorneys in our area, even in our own office. If the client and attorney are not on the same page as to the representation desired, the chances of the client being satisfied with the ultimate representation will greatly diminish.
Once this ground work is established, we lay out an initial strategy to achieve the client’s goals and objectives. Different strategies can be employed in different situations. Is this a case that we should prepare a settlement agreement to be served with the Petition for Dissolution? Do we need to prepare one or more motions for temporary relief and brace for a long drawn out fight? More importantly, how does the client want to proceed? Despite our initial plans, it happens that we plan for peace and get a war, or we plan for war and soon arrive at peace.
The importance of the initial meeting(s) cannot be underscored as they will set the tone for the divorce proceedings. Like the seasons and weather in the Midwest, that tone can change in a second, but if the initial foundation is established and strong, we can weather any storm our clients face. Our ability to be effective advocates and to achieve a good result depends on establishing a good attorney/client relationship.
Roman J. Seckel
Drendel & Jansons Law Group
111 Flinn Street
Batavia, IL 60510
This article is not intended to create or imply an attorney-client relationship and is not intended as specific, legal advice. This article contains only general statements and opinions of the law and should not be relied upon for advice or application to a particular circumstance or set of facts. No attorney/client relationship is formed by the publishing of this article or responses to it. No information contained herein is a substitute for a personal consultation with an attorney. Email or call (630) 406-5440 for more information.