I thought it might be helpful if I could walk through a few of the most common questions that I hear at my office.
Often, when people ring me, or come in to see me, in the course of chatting there will be some version of “So, Kathryn, I just really want to know where I stand”.
But is there really only one answer to that question?
Textbook 101 of LawSchool says that a lawyer answers that question with “so, if you went to Court, I think that the outcome for you will be this”.
But it is really easy for a lawyer to leave out the “so if you went to Court” part of the answer. Because, we assume that you know that legal advice is really that. For all of us, the more often we do something, the less we mention it, because it becomes “just obvious”.
But, is it really that obvious? I’m not sure that it is.
And even if it, does it really answer the question that sits underneath the question. Which is probably less of “where do I stand” and is more “what can I do next”.
If the legal advice you get is based on what might happen in Court, how relevant is it, if you don’t want to take your case to Court.
After all, do you really want to ask a Judge to decide for you when you will spend time with your children, whether or not you will continue to live in the family home, and what finances you will have to start you on your newly separated life?
After all, the “where do I stand question” …. is ACTUALLY ……”where would I stand if a Judge was going to decide this”.
And early on, that can be a difficult thing to predict.
Because, particularly, in their first chat with you, the lawyer simply cannot know everything they need to, to properly answer that question.
Your lawyer might assume that you can’t refinance the mortgage and that you will need to sell the house. But in fact, you might have a parent or a sibling who wants to help you keep the house.
Your lawyer might assume that you can vary your work hours so that the children live with you every second week. But, in fact, you might be locked in to earning the income you have in a job or a business that is not really that flexible.
Your lawyer might assume that you want to fight for every dollar you could get, when in fact, you want to be able to get along with your ex, and that you would
happily willingly give up a few dollars if it meant that you could retain the capacity to talk with each other in the future.
To answer the question about where you stand, your lawyer needs to know
- where you have come from
- how you have got there
- where you want to go.
That is why short (and often free) legal advice sessions can seem appealing, but often don’t actually hit the spot.
It is also why, at Integrated Family Law, we’re always happy to have a brief chat with you on the phone to begin to steer you in the right direction, but we won’t give really be able to give you any advice until we have had the chance to sit with you and listen. Specifically to hear from you about what has happened for you along the road that brought you to the question, “So, Where do I stand”.
ps – I’m sure you already know that anything covered here is general information. It is not legal advice.
You should ALWAYS get specific legal advice, before you decide to do anything, or not do anything, about your legal matters.