The Bulldog Question: What You Should Want in a Divorce Attorney
Countless times throughout my career, I have been asked by divorce clients if I’m a bulldog. To put the debate to bed, I am not a four legged creature of the canine variety that has been the mascot for countless sports teams throughout American history. If anyone wants to create a team called “The Great Dustinis”, then you have my blessing.
The other question that the client asks is whether I will “fight” for them. This is another question I am not very fond of. To be honest, I am not going to punch the opposing party or the opposing attorney in the nose, risking my legal career, or at the very least, an embarrassing trip to the county jail, for anyone except my wife. I’m fairly certain that she would probably punch the person before I got the chance.
If you are searching for a lawyer and during the consultation you feel the need to ask either of these questions, then you probably need to go find a different attorney. If you happen to be meeting with me and feel the need to ask these questions, you have my blessing to seek other representation.
The answer to the questions that you are REALLY trying to ask, “YES! I will advocate for you to the best of my ability.” Advocacy is only part of the equation, and not even the biggest part. Chances are if you are going through a divorce, it’s your first time. As with anything we do for the first time, a large source of anxiety is the fact that we don’t have a clue what’s going to happen. Part of the lawyer’s job is to provide some guidance about the process, what steps we take to get the divorce, who does what, when do we see the judge, etc.
In my opinion, the biggest part of an attorney’s job is to help a divorce client prepare for post-divorce life. Clients have to face difficult choices to prepare for the next chapter in their family’s life. Sometimes that means evaluating a budget to make sure income is sufficient to pay household bills. It can mean preparing a permanent parenting plan that will provide stability for the children. It can mean having tough discussions about selling assets like the house because the client’s income is not enough to maintain the property, and the likelihood of alimony is slim. To provide the client with a solid foundation for life after divorce, there has to be honest, sometimes hard discussions.
Growth is painful. The cases that I am proudest of are not all about the legal arguments or sticking it to the other guy. The cases that are the most rewarding to me are those clients who are stronger at the end of the case than what they were when it started. They have more confidence and better attitude, not because they have gotten rid of the spouse, but because they know that they have been through a difficult process and not only survived, but thrived. The truth is divorce sucks. With the right attitude and effort, you can be a success story.