Divorce can be one of the most stressful ordeals a person can experience. It has been compared to the death of a close family member, but in some ways, it is worse. The problems seem overwhelming. The interpersonal conflicts, the loss of control, the feelings of insecurity, both emotional and financial, and the process seems to go on and on and on. So how should a lawyer approach the divorce?
A lawyer is a problem solver. How does the lawyer solve the problem of divorce? Systematically, yet comprehensively. The “system” is to break the problem down into parts and address each part in order of priority. For couples with minor children, the priorities are first, dealing with custody and parenting time, second, dealing with child support, third, dealing with spousal support if applicable, and fourth, dividing the property and the debts. For older couples with grown children, the priorities are condensed, yet each one is magnified. Here, the priorities generally are spousal support and property and debt division. These priorities can become magnified simply because our estates become more complicated and because as we approach retirement age, financial security becomes paramount. With young couples without children, spousal support is generally not applicable. The single priority is the division of property and debt in an equitable manner that allows each party to move on with their life.
The lawyer as problem solver not only approaches the divorce systematically, but comprehensively. To be comprehensive is to hear all of the client’s concerns and to also ask questions about the other party, to learn about their concerns and to anticipate potential problems. Comprehensiveness is also looking beyond the basics, and learning more about the individual circumstances in the lives of the parties.
Now the lawyer-as-problem-solver is ready to advise the client and present an initial action plan. The action plan is typically a three to eight point plan the lawyer makes for the client at the conclusion of the initial meeting. The action plan is structured by the systematic approach the lawyer has taken to solve the divorce problem, and individually crafted, in response to the lawyer’s comprehensive assessment of the problem. The action plan orients the lawyer and the client toward the end point of the case-resolution of the problem, usually by settlement, sometimes by trial. An action plan discourages fixation on process and the bogging down that comes with it, and encourages the focused march toward solving the problem. When a lawyer presents an action plan, stress for the client is reduced almost immediately. The lawyer and the client have a plan for working together that involves mental clarity and goal orientation. For many people, it is the first step toward regaining some sense of control and moving forward with the rest of their lives.
Article Written By: Peter C. Diamond, Warren Allen LLP
DISCLAIMER: The information contained herein is based on Oregon law and is subject to change. It should be used for general purposes only and should not be construed as specific legal advice by Warren Allen, LLP or its attorneys. Neither this website nor use of its information creates an attorney – client relationship. If you have specific legal questions, consult with your own attorney or call us for an appointment.