Ask Attorney Jennifer B.: New Year, New Divorce?
It’s a new year. A time for new beginnings. But for those of us who have clients in the midst of a divorce, the start of a new year can bring even more anxiety. Many clients are wondering about when their divorce will end and what their post-divorce reality will look like. Most clients are more ready than ever to resolve their matters, start the new year fresh, and move on. As counsel, our job is to be consistent with our advice and help our clients find the best path to resolution. This may not always be the fastest, but with steadfast guidance, we can help the client get there. The following are some tips to set expectations for the new year to help them navigate the rough waters of divorce.
- Start the year with a discussion. The start of the year is an opportune time to assess where things are with the matter and where the client and you think that the case should be. This strategy session is critical to set reasonable expectations moving forward and figure out next steps to reach a conclusion of the case. It is a time to step back for a moment and look at the big picture. Once the expectations and goals are set for the new year, both the lawyer and the client will have a game plan that can then be implemented;
- Set a timetable with goals to be met. Once an overall plan is developed, the lawyer and the client should take steps to implement the goals in a reasonable timetable. For example, it may be that updated financial information is needed to start settlement discussions. The lawyer can lay out a schedule outlining what documents the client should gather and when the client should deliver them. Maybe some check in times can be set on the calendar to make sure the plan is being followed and to discuss any issues that arise. If both the lawyer and client is aware of the timetable, there is less chance for miscommunication, and there is an action plan in place;
- Keep the lines of communication open. No legal case is free from unexpected twists and turns. As such, it is important for the lawyer to always keep the lines of communication open. Setting scheduled check-in times, as noted, is one way to facilitate this. In this way, the client knows there is a set time to speak and the client should be encouraged to make a list of questions or issues to discuss at that time. While clients should be regularly updated about their cases, this is also a good time to discuss any new issues that may have arisen and to review the big picture strategy for the matter and any changes to the overall game plan. Should the client need to speak outside of the scheduled check-in times, it is imperative that the lawyer carves out time in their schedule to address the client’s concerns. Divorces are stressful and many of our clients have never worked with a lawyer before. Thus, it is our job to counsel our clients when they need us and let them know that we are doing our utmost to assist them through this difficult time.
With an overall plan of action, a reasonable timetable for goals to be met, and open communication between the lawyer and the client, hopefully the client will feel a little less anxious about their matter because they will see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. They can then turn their focus to moving forward with their lives in the new year and for many years to come.
With more than 25 years of experience in the industry, Jennifer Brandt’s practice includes all aspects of family law including divorce, custody, support, alimony, adoption, and guardianship matters in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In addition to family law litigation, she also negotiates prenuptial, post-nuptial and cohabitation agreements on behalf of clients. In addition to her busy practice, she’s a well-known legal commentator on national news networks including CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, ABC News, Court TV and local and regional television and radio.
If you have a family law issue or would like me to speak about legal issues, you can connect with Ms. Brandt at www.cozen.com.