Let’s begin by saying the role and activities of a divorce lawyer can be a challenging, emotional and often precarious dance.
To begin, a good divorce lawyer must have a ‘bag’ of unique skills.In the first instance, and while it may seem obvious, they need to be an attentive listener as the decisions made in or out of court will greatly affect their client’s lives.
Sometimes difficult, they must also remain non-judgmental and objective to ensure they promote their client’s best interests. It also goes without saying that exceptional interpersonal skills are a standard, as the role requires dealing with a variety of personalities both professional and emotional as part of each divorce case.
These skills must come to bear and as required in key divorce areas from marriage annulment and legal separation to child custody, child support and visitation rights.
Adding to the skill mix, advocacy, mediation and alternative dispute resolution skills are also important and if this is an area of law you wish to practice, you should seek to learn these skills in law school through appropriate course selection. These will give you a sound legal basis as you enter the real cut and thrust of divorce law.
The emotional hurdle
No one would argue that divorce constitutes one of life's major stresses. Indeed, research shows it ranks just below the stress of bereavement.
If you are a person that has experienced divorce you will understand the emotional stresses at play. If not, it is important to never underestimate the gravity or the emotional context of divorce as it is frequently built on feelings of loss and/or betrayal, humiliation, financial uncertainty, guilt, anxiety regarding the pain inflicted on the children. Possibly the greatest fear is of losing access to your children or in extreme cases, losing custody of your children.
An experienced divorce lawyer will quickly grasp the emotional forces at work. All too often, the process of bringing a divorce to a sensible and proper resolution is undermined by emotional factors, which, if not properly managed, can then be acted out in sordid and costly divorce wars.
There are a number of areas a divorce lawyer should actively be involved in to provide a professional level of service to their client.
A. Providing the client with accurate legal information regarding his and/or her legal rights.
B Informing of the client regarding the different procedural matters that are available
These can range from:
- Simple divorces where the parties have (among themselves) agree on the terms of the divorce
- Divorces where correspondence is exchanged in the form of proposals and counter-proposals
- Divorces where a certain amount of interim litigation takes place. For example, when related to family violence, applications for maintenance and/or contribution to costs and/ or child custody.
A competent and caring divorce lawyer will also attend meetings with their clients with the opposing party and their legal counsel (as required) and ensure they are conducted in a professional and productive manner.
As noted, a good divorce lawyer will have appropriate mediation skills to help facilitate such meetings. With professional mediation, the outcome of these meetings can drive resolution and save much angst and cost. Indeed, the lawyers at CLW have a settlement rate of 97% out of court which saves their clients further legal fees and can help them move on sooner.
In some cases, however, such as custody issues, litigation cannot be avoided. A skilled divorce lawyer must also be adept at litigation in this area to ensure a fair and equitable outcome in an area that is so emotionally charged.
In this area in particular, a good divorce lawyer must be experienced, adopt a responsible and caring approach with respect to the best interests of the children and always understand the emotional forces at work and the financial constraints of the parties.
Finally, a good divorce lawyer must also be a skilled negotiator. Sadly, poor divorce lawyers often find themselves unable to deliver on promises to their clients. The ability to do so depends on the experience of the divorce lawyer in properly assessing the bigger picture in the early stages of proceedings and advising appropriately.