Once you decide you need a divorce, your next step will likely be to choose an attorney. But how? What should you look for? If the law is always the same, what makes one attorney different from another?
The truth is that it’s not enough simply to know the law. Every attorney has at least a fair grasp of the law, but some are better listeners. Some are more tenacious. It’s true that some lawyers are happy to take your case, process it quickly and move on. But others will do more to help you meet your goals. To this end, a creative application of the law can prove invaluable.
Creativity within constraints
First, an important distinction: Taking a creative approach to the law is not the same thing as abusing or distorting it. There are many reasons you want to avoid any attorney who would try bending the law for you. For example, anything you might gain by doing so at trial could be lost on appeal.
No, the challenge—you could even say “trick”—is to find a way to find room to be creative without crossing the lines you shouldn’t cross. To look for ways you may achieve your goals. It might be helpful to consider an analogy. If you’re in Tallahassee and want to get to Atlanta, there are different roads and highways you could drive. They’re not all the same. Some may serve you better. Or you could fly.
Similarly, you have goals for your divorce. Maybe they relate to custody. Or the house. Or your portion of a retirement account. But you want to get there. A skilled and creative attorney may help you consider:
- Whether you might be better served by mediation. And, if so, how you might enter negotiations from a point of strength.
- How to approach property division. Florida law states that couples need to distribute marital property equitably during a divorce, but what does that mean? There’s a lot of room for creativity, here, as you look for the values of businesses or balance assets against each other.
- How to approach child custody. The courts always put the child’s best interests first. But before the judge awards custody, he or she needs to understand your child’s situation. In a way, this requires storytelling. Based on the facts, of course, but presented in a way to make a real impact.
- Whether you can draft a parenting plan that does more than the basics. Can it help facilitate smoother communications and transitions?
- What arguments you can expect to hear against you and how you can respond. This is an act of imagination. The arguments haven’t happened yet, but they’re likely. Will you be ready for them?
- What you can afford to give up or lose in order to reach your higher-priority goals. Sometimes the most creative approaches are the ones that cut through the noise.
Naturally, there are more chances for creativity than just these. Nearly every aspect of your divorce offers some room for creativity. That’s why it can be disastrous to work with an attorney who doesn’t consider—or see—the options.
Pursue your goals
Any family law attorney can help you get divorced. Many may even do a decent job. But is decent good enough? You have goals, and you deserve a real shot at meeting them.
This is where your choice of attorney can make a big difference. A good attorney will take the time to listen and understand the specifics of your case. Including your top goals, your medium goals and the nice-to-haves. And then? A good attorney will look for ways to pursue those goals—and may find creative approaches that other attorneys could overlook.