I see it more based on what they want from the divorce as opposed to anything that’s gender related. Just as many men, for example, will tell me as women, “The most important thing for me to get out of this divorce is custody of my children.” I hear that equally from both sexes.
Other times I’ll hear “I want to get out of this divorce paying my spouse as little as possible.” It really depends on the needs of the individual. I really don’t see a big difference in what men and women want out of a divorce, it is very individually based.
I’ve had some women, not many but there’ve been some, who have told me that they’re not really concerned about custody, they’re concerned about freedom. That’s a stereotype that you hear about men a lot of times. I try to ignore stereotypes and find out what the individual is hoping to get out of the divorce.
Do People Prefer Litigation or Do They Go For Counseling First?
The first thing I do is I ask people if they have considered other alternatives such as marriage counseling, or maybe talking to a pastor or a rabbi. If it involves something where they really need some type of intensive help like substance abuse that always needs to be addressed first in some kind of clinical setting before people can work on their marriage. Anything like that where somebody needs attention of a physician; we encourage them to take care of that first.
By the time people get to me, I am the final resort. They’re coming to me because they’ve exhausted all their other options. Sometimes they say, “Well, there’s no point in going to counseling because I really don’t want to save the marriage, I just want out.”
Sometimes one person might want to try counseling but their spouse tells them they’re not going to do it. There’s not much that can be accomplished if one person goes to marriage counseling and the other person doesn’t, so again, they find themselves at my doorstep.
How Does a Jury Trial Generally Affect A Divorce Case?
A jury trial is what you would want to ask for if your case is assigned to a particular judge. For example, if it’s assigned to a judge that is known for being hugely stingy on alimony and you believe you have a very good case for alimony, such as when you’ve got the type of spouse that has stayed at home in support of the other spouse’s career, or the spouse has no marketable skills of his or her own.
Let’s say that you have that type of scenario and you’ve got a strong case for alimony but you’ve got a judge that is just known to not want to give alimony in his or her bench trials. That’s when you want to take the issue to a jury because you’re going to have a better shot at convincing a jury of a claim for alimony than you would this judge who has been on the bench for many years and apparently has a set way of thinking about that particular issue.
The other time you might want a jury trial is if you have a unique area of the law that you want to try out with a jury. That’s another good time to have a jury trial, where basically you’re trying to see if you can make new law or to clarify the one that is maybe a little cloudy. Typically, we don’t advise people to do jury trials unless there are a lot of assets at stake because they’re expensive to do.
Does Each Person Need a Separate Attorney?
First of all, it is against ethical rules for one attorney to advise two people whose interests are adverse, even in an uncontested divorce where you have both people that say, “These are the terms that we’re in agreement on, this is amicable, we both want this.” Legally, their interests are still adverse and so I will not meet with both parties. There are many attorneys unfortunately out there that will do this, and that is a gross ethical violation. It amazes me how many attorneys will do this.
Now, in an uncontested divorce, if one person doesn’t want to get an attorney, they don’t have to. They can basically represent themselves and just sign off on what their spouse’s attorney prepares for them. We have situations arise all the time that involve us representing one spouse and the other side has no representation. It’s actually become more common even in contested divorces because people decide that they think they can handle it on their own.
Certainly in contested cases it is very wise for those spouses to have their own attorneys, but with an uncontested divorce, if one person does not want to have an attorney and just says to their spouse, “Let your attorney drop everything and I’ll sign it,” that’s certainly fine and that does happen frequently.
As long as the person that does not have the attorney realizes that by signing off on what the opposing party’s counsel has prepared that they’re not being represented by that attorney, and our agreements always contain that language that alerts the other party when they’re signing of that I represent their spouse, I do not represent them and that by signing this agreement, they agree that I have not given them any kind of legal advice other than that they have the right to seek their own counsel.
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