“Let’s not get lawyers involved”

I hear this a lot from new clients. One or both of them was reluctant to get a lawyers involved in the case with the hope that they could resolve their divorce or custody problem in a peaceful, out of court way.

In principle, I’m all for that! Even though there are rare cases when it doesn’t work, as a lawyer I try hard to resolve all of my cases out of court.

But let’s consider what that statement, “let’s not involve lawyers,” could actually mean. Sometimes the statement comes from the spouse or parent who makes the most money. They’ve probably consulted a lawyer themselves and found how much they’ll have to pay either in a separation and/or support (like child support or alimony).

In these situations, sadly, the higher income earner may be hoping that the other parent or spouse will settle quickly and won’t know what they’re losing if they don’t consult with a lawyer; so they’ll try to be as persuasive as they can to avoid it. Many lawyers are quick to assume this is the situation because they’ve seen it many times before, because it is a real concern, and because they know they can do something to help.

The other concern about lawyers I want to focus on, however, is more common. It isn’t always that one spouse is trying to trick the other. Many people, whether divorcing or seeking a parentage case, are afraid that, if lawyers get involved, then the fighting will increase and it will cost a lot of money.

Given the reputation of divorce lawyers in Los Angeles County, they’re not wrong to be concerned. While most of the family law lawyers I’ve met are sincerely interested in helping families, I’ve personally come across a few who do, in my opinion, seem fueled by conflict and cash.

That said, there are a lot of lawyers out there like me who didn’t get into this field because they like to be screaming at opposing counsel while stuck in traffic on the 405 in their Bentleys. People like us are more concerned about simply helping people by ensuring everything is resolved fairly and the children will be protected in the process, if there are any.

Going further, I’m optimistic there likely a few other lawyers like me who have a deeper understanding that “fair” is a really a highly fluid concept (some call it a four letter word) and that the Family Code can only reach fairness on some limited financial bases and a judge’s intuition in an 18 minute long pendente lite hearing on custody.

Thus, fairness requires a much deeper understanding of your family, of your children, of you, of your values, and what it will mean for you to emerge from this problem stronger, healthier, and happier than before.

When you’re interviewing lawyers, I know you won’t know for certain which of them are right for your family. Do your best. Listen to your intuition.

But have faith that, sometimes, getting lawyers involved is actually better for your family than not.

(Photo by Timur Weber)






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