I regularly field calls for a “price quote” on a divorce or child custody issue. Not every attorney in Mobile County will talk to you upfront about costs, but I do. Sometimes, it’s an effective way to have the tire-kickers move along, but other times, I believe I may be failing to communicate the value of the service I provide. Sometimes I don’t do a good job of pointing out the potential costs of hiring the lowest bidder or, even worse, trying to do it yourself.
However, there’s also the situation in which a couple tries to force a contested divorce into uncontested terms. One spouse hires the lawyer and then presents the other spouse with a take it or leave it scenario. Even though that lawyer has an ethical duty to tell the unrepresented spouse in plain terms that he can only represent the person who hired him/her, there are the less scrupulous among us who gloss this issue and “help” the unrepresented party by making assertions to them about the law.
I recently handled a case in which an Army wife caught her deployed husband in an affair while he was in Korea ten years ago. The lawyer he hired from Korea told her she wasn’t eligible for a portion of the husband’s military retirement because they had not been married long enough. Her husband also understated his income on the child support forms, while overstating hers, cheating their two daughters out of thousands of dollars of support over the last ten years.
She brought the issue of increasing her ex-husband’s child support obligation based on his two promotions since the divorce. We handled the child support increase going forward, but there was nothing I could do about the retirement account or the thousands of dollars she missed out on because she didn’t hire her own attorney. Given the time-value of money, this client has potentially missed out on $100,000.00 or more over the course of her life because she did not have someone in her corner when it counted the most.
I tell my children all the time, “I’m trying to help you avoid regret. It’s something, unfortunately, about which I know a great deal.” I know it from my personal life and past mistakes, but I also know it from situations like the one described above where my job is to try to help undo the damage caused by a failure to recognize the need for an attorney, or the failure to recognize the value of hiring the right attorney. Here’s a quick read on a suggested method for finding an attorney who’s right for you:
I may not be the right divorce attorney for you. However, you owe to yourself and to your children to hire someone to represent your interests in any family law proceeding, not just divorce. I’m not the most expensive attorney in Mobile County, but I’m not cheap, either. If you want someone to share your burden and help guide you through the tragedy of divorce, please consider contacting me at (251)445-0891 or firstname.lastname@example.org.