Educational Resources

Your Roadmap to Success in Family Law: Tips for Clients

Lawyer and client shaking hands
Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

Recently we wrote a two-part Blog post about how You Know You Have a Bad Family Lawyer When….  (Part I) and You Know You Have a Bad Family Lawyer When….  (Part II).

Now we will turn the tables a little and ask:  What does it take to be a good Family Law client?

If you are in the midst of a Family Law dispute or litigation, the answer to this question might benefit you. Because a good lawyer-client relationship is an integral part of getting the best outcome – whether it’s as simple as negotiating a good pre-nup, or as complex as a full-out courtroom battle to get the best resolution in your divorce.

Here are our Top 5 tips for avoiding the title of “bad client”, and for making sure you have a productive and positive working relationship with your chosen Family Lawyer:

1) Have Clear Expectations

Whether it’s relatively straightforward, or bafflingly complex, your Family Law matter is unique. It will have its own set of issues and challenges, its own timeline, and its own optimal outcome.

If you’re like many people, you might have unrealistic expectations about how your matter will turn out. You may overestimate what you stand to gain from the legal process, and underestimate how much the whole thing will cost.  This can only result in your frustration, disappointment, and disillusionment.

Make sure you engage in open dialogue with your lawyer to understand the likely scenarios, and the potential costs for each avenue of remedy.

2) Be Open to Advice

Your Family lawyer’s job is to offer expert advice based on their knowledge and experience in the field.  As a client, it’s certainly appropriate for you to question your lawyer’s strategy, so you can understand it.  But there must also be a healthy and respectful rapport in place.  Consistently dismissing or challenging your lawyer’s advice counsel is counterproductive.  Remember:  They are not the enemy.  They are there to help you.

Trust and mutual respect are the cornerstones of every lawyer-client relationship.  If you lack confidence in your lawyer’s abilities, consider reassessing your choice as to who you want to represent you.

3) Understand the Fees

Legal proceedings are intricate. The way your lawyer charges for their services can be confusing.  Make sure you understand how your fees are going to be calculated.

With that said, avoid fixating solely on costs.  The old adage “you get what you pay for” can be relevant even when hiring a Family lawyer.  The most experienced ones are naturally the priciest – but they might also be the ones who have the knowledge and practical savvy to quickly get an outcome that addresses the best interests of everyone involved.

4) Communicate Respectfully

Anger and frustration are common emotions during Family Law disputes. Depending on the nature of your conflict (not to mention the personalities involved) the entire process can feel overly formal, complicated, unfair, biased, needless, costly, and frustrating.  You might also be harboring intensely negative feelings towards your spouse, as you lumber towards a divorce you may not have wanted.

In short:  You may be feeling hostile towards a lot of things. But it’s crucial to communicate respectfully with your lawyer.  Avoid lashing out and perhaps directing some misplaced aggression at them. Keep the communication calm, and constructive.  This optimizes the likelihood that your lawyer can advocate effectively on your behalf.

5) Avoid a Vindictive Strategy

Finally, try to keep a cool head in general.  It’s tempting to take vengeance on your spouse, for whatever slights, bad behaviour, or disloyalty they might have been guilty of during your marriage or after separation.   It’s tempting to want to instruct your Family lawyer to take a “scorched earth” approach to any litigation, and to really make your spouse pay for what they are putting you through.

But – as those of us with hard-won experience in Family Law can tell you – this revenge-oriented approach rarely results in a satisfying legal outcome.  It merely amplifies the dispute, delays its resolution, and needlessly inflates legal costs.

Instead, you should ideally focus on reaching a fair, amicable and speedy resolution, especially if you have children.  Work cooperatively with your lawyer to achieve this objective, since it’s usually in the best interests of everyone involved.

Final Thoughts

Embarking on a Family Law case can be daunting.  Navigating through negotiations and litigation is inherently stressful. The whole process can bring out the worst in people.

However a good relationship with your Family Lawyer – involving open communication, realistic expectations, and mutual respect – will make you a good client with the best chance of a successful outcome in your case.

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.