A seasoned professional with integrity will do so, and I endeavor to do so from the start of the case. After practicing law for nearly twenty-two years, my opposing counsel often wind up being friends of mine, and it is easy to be cooperative with a pleasant counsel on the other side. On the other hand, I have also dealt with some very obnoxious attorneys and it is more challenging to work cooperatively with those folks but the clients on both sides generally benefit from an amicable and productive working relationship between the two counselors.
Some clients get suspicious when they see attorneys being friendly with one another because they think that may compromise their attorney’s representation.
If the attorney on the other side is a friend or someone I had worked with before and liked, I let my client know that the friendship in no way influences my duty to my client or the job I will do for them. My loyalty is always with my client, not the opposing party’s attorney or anyone else. While settlement scenarios may be broadly discussed between counsel, no official offer is ever made or accepted without the client’s explicit permission. No client will be the subject of a “back room deal” with my office.
The client should learn the basics, such as how long the attorney has been in practice and whether or not the practice is primarily devoted to divorce and family law. They should look for someone who specializes in that area of law, as opposed to just the generalist or the lawyer who engages in “threshold law” (any case that walks through the door). The attorney should be prepared to provide references to a potential client from previous clients upon request. If your case is particularly complicated, it doesn’t hurt to ask if the attorney’s current caseload can accommodate an additional time-consuming case.
Some clients assume they need to hire an attorney whose office is located in the county where the case is pending. While that is not essential or even necessarily tied to the success of the case, it is beneficial if the attorney regularly practices in the county and particular court division. An attorney’s familiarity with a judge’s leanings and procedural preferences can go a long way towards advising and guiding the client through the process.
Preparing To Fight a Custody Battle
The more time there is to prepare, the better. That means seeking legal counsel immediately when you first begin contemplating for a divorce or custody modification, even if you aren’t sure if you should move forward. An initial consultation with a knowledgeable attorney can answer a lot of the preliminary questions the client may have in order to plan for and understand “the big picture.”
One key factor is heavy involvement by the parent in the life of the children and hopefully the client is already actively participating with their children before they step foot in the office. It is not uncommon, however, for a parent to suddenly start becoming unusually involved with or interested in their children, when that hasn’t previously been the norm. If you are experiencing difficulties in your marriage and your spouse begins to show sudden and unusual interest in the children for no apparent reason, this could be a sign that the wheels could be in motion for a court action.
A parent should know everything they can about their child. This may sound very basic, but I have seen litigants in court fighting for custody of their children but on cross-examination cannot name their child’s teacher, identify the classes the child was taking in school or their favorite subject, or state when the child last went to the doctor.
Of course, there can be logical reasons a parent may not know some details. A parent who works full-time and is the sole support of a family will naturally be at a day-to-day disadvantage but that parent should still know basic information. If a client came to me and did not know such information, I would tell them to start familiarizing themselves very quickly. The parent should also start talking to potential witnesses who may be called to tell the court about their parenting skills and their relationship with the children. The court will often rely on the testimony of unbiased third parties to draw conclusions or make a determination about custody.
The parents should be very careful about what they say to or around their children, especially with regard to upcoming divorce actions. They should also be very careful about what they say to their spouse, because in Georgia anyone can tape another person to whom they are having a conversation without revealing that they are being taped. If a person tapes another who is talking to a third party, and the “taper” is participating in the conversation, however, that is known as eavesdropping or wiretapping and it is a violation of state and federal criminal law.
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