There's no way to dispute that divorce attorneys are expensive, and even more so the longer your divorce goes on. Most clients, however, recognize the value of an experienced attorney who understands the laws and court protocols that are essential to obtaining a fair settlement. An attorney is also your personal advocate, fighting for your rights and interests on important issues like custody, financial support and property division. Where things become problematic is when clients assume that an attorney is paid to do whatever he or she wants. This is an easy line to cross, by the way, because the line between what you want versus what is practical/ ethical often gets blurred when your mind is full of hurt, fear and resentment.
Another factor that can cloud your judgment is the idea that “the customer is always right”. If you pay for a service, then you should get what you want, when you want it, right? Well, it's not that simple with legal representation, especially with deeply personal and complicated proceedings like divorce. For example, you may want your attorney to be more aggressive towards your spouse, who seems to have little to no respect for you, or basic requirements like submitting financial documents. Certainly, attorneys can and often do get aggressive, but he or she has to make that decision based on many factors, not just because it's something you want. In fact, the attack dog approach is not helpful in many cases, and could easily backfire if the other side claims harassment or intimidation.
The other area where clients demand immediate action is when the courts are moving at a snail's pace on everything from getting you a hearing date to finalizing a support order, while you struggle to make ends meet. The truth is, New Jersey family court judges have several hundred cases going at any given time, so it can unfortunately take months on average to hear back from the courts. That's not something your attorney can effect, even if he or she has extensive trial experience with that court system. In fact, any attorney with long-term experience in the NJ courts will tell you that barraging the judge and court staff for daily updates is a bad idea.
Remember, you and your family are important to your attorney, and he or she will do everything within reasonable means, within a reasonable time frame. Where clients and attorneys often clash is over the idea of what is reasonable, and what one should expect from a paid legal representative. Then again, you shouldn't hesitate to get a second opinion from another attorney if you believe that you are receiving ineffective counsel. At the end of the day, it's you who has to live with the outcome of your divorce, so you shouldn't continue to work with someone who doesn't have your best interests at heart. However, an attorney cannot put your personal interests above professional codes of conduct or long-established court protocols.
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