When Should I get an Attorney? (Part 2)

For example, a client tells me her husband is leaving her with two small children. He’s unhappy and feels that they have grown apart.  He no longer wants to be married and would like to work out an agreement without dealing with any lawyers.

Aside from not knowing the law applicable to support for herself and the children, the Wife is in a terrible position to negotiate her own support. She’s feeling like she did something wrong and often wants to save the marriage. She’s insecure about herself and her future and just wants her family back together. She recognizes her need for support, but she is willing to make concessions to get her husband back. The unspoken logic is: “if I do what he wants me to, maybe he’ll come back to me.”

Conversely, many spouses who want to end the marriage feel guilty and promise much more than they can (or should) to get out of the marriage or assuage their guilt. For example, a wife may have a very good reason to be upset about her husband’s affair (and he may have good reasons for feeling guilty) but that does not mean he has to pay extra support.  Just because the husband was wrong in having an affair (or leaving the marriage), does not mean that his wife gets additional support or property because of it. 

An attorney, however, is not experiencing any of those feelings and is not likely to be pushed into a bad compromise by feelings of insecurity or guilt. The presence of the lawyer removes the personal manipulation from the negotiation. Hiring an attorney undercuts a party’s ability to manipulate the other party.

Finally, an attorney provides a shield for the client. Rather than arguing endlessly with your spouse about how much he or she is willing to do (or unwilling to do), once you have hired an attorney you can tell your spouse that you don’t want to fight and that he or she should contact your lawyer. “Let’s keep the arguing between the lawyers.” That’s why you hire a lawyer. 

Contacting an attorney in the first instance before promises are made (or implied) is a better policy than trying to get out of those promises after you have made them. Knowing what you are giving away (or promising) before you say anything at all is prudent as well. Finally, letting an attorney take over the negotiations takes much of the personal manipulation out of the process and shields you from an ongoing argument.