Understanding Your Advocate: The Challenges of a Family Law Attorney

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I realize that the title of this article may seem overly dramatic and maybe even come off as whiny. However, the reality is that family law attorneys face distinctive challenges that can affect them personally and professionally.  After close to 18 years of practicing family law, I have come to believe that if our clients understood some of the challenges that a family law attorney faces in this job, this understanding could lead to not only improved attorney-client relationships, but also better overall expectations on how their family law case proceeds.

  1. Emotional Toll. There is a reason that when I inform other attorneys that I practice family law, they usually look at me with relief and say something along the lines as “Thank god someone does” or “Better you than me.”  Most family law attorneys chose this area of law because they wanted to help people.  Yet, new family law attorneys quickly learn that in each family law case, you are dealing with many more people, and consequently, each of their personalities, other than your own client.   Family law cases frequently (if not always) involve heightened emotions. Typically, there is ongoing high-conflict in divorces, “custody battles,” domestic violence injunctions, etc. Your  family law attorney is investing time and empathy in helping you through your difficult time.  What your lawyer wishes you understood is that each of their clients is going through their own difficult time and experiencing the ever-shifting emotions common in family law cases such as fear, anger, hostility, and sadness.  Thus, although it may appear to you that your family law attorney is not being as empathetic as you believe they should be to your situation, please understand that this compartmentalizing is actually beneficial to both your attorney and you.  Imagine the lack of progress and the increased costs and level of conflict in your case if your attorney, instead of engaging in problem solving, became completely enmeshed in your emotions and the emotions of each of their clients.  It is  important to recognize that your family law attorney is human and here to help you as much as possible through the legal process. Their help would not go very far if the expectation is that they should feel exactly the same way as you do with regard to your family law case.
  2. Balancing Advocacy with Objectivity. Compartmentalizing the emotions and turmoil of their clients also leads to another thing your family law attorney wishes you understood regarding their job: Your family law attorney is advocating for your best interests but they can only really accomplish productive advocacy if they remain objective.  Thus, your family law attorney wishes you explicitly understood their role.  Their primary responsibility is to provide you with thorough, sound legal advice.  This advice is intended to benefit you and your life.  The attorney may push back and may not agree with your decisions or actions.  However, understand, ultimately you are making the decisions because it is your life and your future.
  3. Legal Battles can be expensive. Family law cases can be expensive. Family law attorneys (at least the good and reputable ones) wish their clients understood that they are trying their best to keep their clients’ expenses low.  Nevertheless, the amount of your family law attorney’s fees depends on many different factors —most of them, out of the attorney’s control. Clients need to consider how the other party, the opposing counsel, and their own actions can affect the amount of legal fees.
  4. Reputation is Important. Much of your family law case will be impacted by your family law attorney’s reputation.  As indicated in other blogs, the reputation of family law attorneys is paramount.  A family law attorney that problem-solves rather than causing more problems, treats their cases objectively rather than subjectively, advises their client intelligently rather than emotionally, advocates for their client rationally rather than advocating for whatever their client wants, is most likely a family law attorney with a good reputation.  A family law attorney with a good reputation because of the above characteristics will result in an overall more efficient and acceptable resolution of the issues in your case.
  5. Value of Collaborative Law, Mediation, and Settlement. Lastly, family law attorneys wish clients knew about their job is that they really want to resolve your case in the most beneficial manner.  Your best resolutions are going to be through the collaborative process, mediation, our other methods of settlement.  Thinking that “a judge has to decide this,” is, in reality, your worst option for getting a resolution that will be acceptable to you.

The practice of family law can take a significant toll on attorneys, both emotionally and professionally. Understanding the challenges your attorney faces can produce a more productive and empathetic attorney-client relationship.  By recognizing these things, you will be able to work with your attorney to navigate the family law system effectively and reach the best possible resolution for your case.  If you would like to discuss how Artemis Family Law Group can assist you in your family law matter, please schedule a consultation today.


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