Us divorce lawyers (and lawyers in general) tend to guard our secrets, but I created my firm and this website to provide some transparency to those in New Jersey facing a divorce. Interested in learning some secrets of the trade from a local divorce lawyer? Then read on and learn my 'Divorce Lawyer Secrets.'
Divorce Lawyer Secrets of the Trade
I am currently celebrating my tenth year anniversary as a lawyer. When I was first starting out I was green---constantly fearful of making a mistake that may hurt a client. I "didn't know what I didn't know." Perhaps ironically, this was also the period of time where I would do anything I could to show no vulnerability to my clients. I wanted my clients to think of me as some type of magician, someone that could through alchemy turn their difficult case into something good and beneficial. Sometimes I performed miracles and sometimes results were not what my clients or I hoped for. But I kept a facade up that I was in charge and that my decisions and services were of paramount importance.
Now that I am ten years in, I know that is not true. What I realized a few years ago is that the single most important thing in the outcome of a case is the actions and attitude of my client. I am the same lawyer for all of my clients. Yet, many of my clients get outsized results and others get more average results. It can't all be explained by the quality of representation on the other side, by the venue of the courts, or by the weather. Divorce is so extremely personal and only about 1% of cases go to trial. Accordingly, about 99% of New Jersey divorce cases end in a negotiated settlement. Here are some of the inflection points of when a case ends:
- The parties work out a deal before hiring divorce lawyers. They then hire lawyers to finalize the deal. This can be done with or without the assistance of a divorce mediator.
- The parties hire a lawyer first and then prepare for mediation. The mediator drafts a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") and then the parties review these documents with their respective divorce lawyers.
- The parties have a four-way conference early in a case and work out a deal with the assistance of a lawyer. Or the parties attend mediation with their lawyers present and work out a deal.
The above would probably take a few months for a divorce to be finalized if everything went smoothly and would likely cost less than $10,000 for each side. For others, the process continues with:
- The parties file for divorce in court absent agreement. They begin to engage in discovery, sometimes extensive. They may or may not consider using experts as part of their discovery. There may be depositions as this is the litigation route. Although the parties are free to settle at any time litigation may go on for many months or even years and cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per side.
- The parties may be the 1% that require a divorce trial. This trial will be before a judge and not a jury and will likely cost each side tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in trial and expert costs.
Now, you may be thinking: "well sure, but those litigated cases are probably high net worth divorces." (and sometimes they are). But in many cases--especially in a suburban divorce practice like ours--there is very little or no substantive difference between the heavily litigated expensive cases and the cases that are handled more amicably.
How can this be?
The answer lies in personality. The answer lies in emotion. The answer lies in you.
Here is the biggest secret of New Jersey Divorce practice: the single most important factor that will impact the outcome of your divorce is you. I hate admitting this, because I am a divorce lawyer. Anyone who knows me can attest that I have a healthy ego (to say the least). I want to be the single most important factor. But after ten years in practice, I know that I am not. I will work tirelessly, honestly, and intelligently for my clients, but I can only guide them down the path and fight my hardest in court on their behalf. But I cannot stop them from posting something they shouldn't on social media. I can warn my clients about it, but they do not always take my advice. I can advise a client to not say anything disparaging about their spouse in front of their children, but I won't be present in their kitchen that evening when they do so anyway (potentially harming their case in the process).
Here is another secret: divorce law is not rocket science. Divorce law does involve some math and it does involve familiarity with the court rules and procedure (I would not recommend that people forego hiring a divorce lawyer)...but in my opinion divorce and family law in New Jersey involves more social intelligence than book smarts.
I wrote a book on New Jersey divorce law. It's called Happily EVEN After: the Guide to Divorce in New Jersey. I make it available in every library in the State via donation and if you read the book you'll understand most of the core concepts of divorce in our state. But the book also discusses the importance of controlling emotion in a divorce.
This is not easy. I get it. I am a hot-head at times too.
But working with your spouse towards the natural ending of a marriage can be a relatively painless process, or it can be hell on earth. You get 50% of the say in how that turns out.
That's not to say roll over, take a bad deal, and don't fight for your children. If your spouse is being unreasonable (or their attorney) then we'll fight "fire with fire."
But it does mean being methodical about the divorce process. It does mean understanding the costs involved in every decision. It may mean choosing not to die on a small hill. It may mean swallowing pride. It will definitely mean being informed about the process and understanding both your rights and your obligations.
After ten years in practice I know better than ever the types of clients I want to work with. I will be a tireless advocate and will fight a case to the ends of the earth for you if required---but I don't want the case to be more complex than necessary when the blame for that complexity lies at my feet. Our firm succeeds when we work with informed, reasonable, and involved clients who see divorce as an important business decision and not an excuse to use the court system to get back at someone. I know that when I work with those types of clients I will get the best results and our practice will look good. We'll make each other look brilliant and both benefit from that type of a relationship.
That's because the single biggest secret in a New Jersey Divorce is that a client's destiny is in their hands all along. You're the magician---I'm just a tactician.
Interested in learning more? Then click the below link for a free digital copy of my book. Or give us a call at 908-237-3096 to discuss working together.