Judges often look down upon divorce; I've seen one judge refer to family court as the kiddie court. Why? Because divorces are messy, complicated and emotional. People often become totally irrational during a divorce. It is therefore up to the lawyers to make sense of the process. Here are 11 things all good divorce attorneys should know:
1. A divorce attorney must know the law regarding divorce, child custody and all other aspects of family law where he or she practices.
2. The attorney should not only know the laws related to this area, but should also have an understanding of basic tax laws, especially as they impact upon property division and alimony.
3. A good divorce attorney should know real estate and understand issues involving real estate both with regard to commercial and residential property, as well as issues regarding mortgages and other encumbrances. This is especially true with so many houses having a negative equity.
4. A good divorce attorney should have some knowledge of issues with regard to corporations, especially closely-held, family-owned or small corporations, which are often evaluated and become a key component of many divorces.
5. An understanding of businesses including partnerships, professional practices, such as medical, dental, CPA, and law practices, can be important in many cases as well.
6. Having a good knowledge of discovery can be important. It is important to be able to represent your client fully. Having a complete picture of the assets and liabilities is critical because if something is missing, your client will be short-changed.
7. It is important for a good divorce attorney to know the judges, the legal system, and the workings of the court where your case is occurring. Every court has its own way of doing things.
8. Another issue to be mindful of is domestic abuse and domestic violence. Too frequently this comes into play in many divorces. These issues should never be ignored.
9. It is important to have some understanding of psychology and human relationships because in family law, there is a huge psychological overlay that makes this area of the law so difficult. No one gets married thinking about divorce and sadly, too many marriages end in divorce. Thus, a client coming in is unhappy in the first place at the beginning of the divorce, especially if it is something that he or she does not want. At the end of the divorce, the client is often more unhappy because he or she will be receiving half or less of the assets. People often end up with huge liabilities, and this is especially true in these tough economic times where so much real estate is down. The client will often still owe attorney fees. This is not a happy time, and a good divorce attorney recognizes this.
10. It is important to have a knowledge of child custody and the law regarding custody, parenting time, and any other aspects impacting the child or children.
11. A good divorce attorney understands all of these factors and should be a good negotiator as well as a good listener.
Family law covers so many issues that are exacerbated by the tremendous amount of emotion, anger, resentment, and unhappiness that clients have. Many clients refuse to deal with these emotional issues as they go through a divorce. This is why practicing family law can be very difficult, to say the least. It can also be very rewarding because a good family law attorney knows that he or she is helping someone through some of the most difficult times in his or her life.
By: HENRY S. GORNBEIN
Family Law Attorney & Legal Correspondent
40900 Woodward Avenue, Ste. 111
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304-5116
248/594-3444; Fax 248/594-3222