It’s a fairly regular thing for a client or potential client foruncontested divorce or a Joint Petition to Modify to ask me to call his or her spouse or to send a letter to the spouse on the client’s behalf. The client usually believes that the request will mean more coming from me, I guess because I have J.D. behind my name. I won’t do this. Because I get the request often, I decided to add this page to explain why.
First, it’s not a good buy. I charge $100 per hour. At that rate, most people want to use me only for what only I can do. You want me to advise you about how to negotiate with your spouse, how you can craft an agreement that makes sense to you, and get it filed and handled by the court as quickly, quietly, and uneventfully as possible. That’s what you should pay me to do. Calling your spouse or sending documents takes a telephone, a speaking voice, and (perhaps) a word processor. Frankly, I’m good with those things, but so are you. Why pay me $20 (.2 hour times $200 per hour) to pick up the phone and make a phone call? I’d rather see you make the call yourself and use the $20 for . . . well, you probably know better than I what you would do with an extra $20.
Second, it’s been my experience and observation, honed and refined in the processing of thousands of divorces, that it usually doesn’t help. You and your spouse may be able to deal with each other quite comfortably, but when your spouse hears from your lawyer or receives a communication from your lawyer, your spouse’s defensiveness level skyrockets. Just like I’m pretty good with a telephone and a word processor, I’m also pretty good at talking with people and negotiating with people, but that’s not enough. It’s about the role I play. You may think it’s awkward for you and your spouse to talk about all this, but trust me, unless you are an unusual couple indeed, your chances of a calm, dignified uncontested divorce are higher when you and your spouse deal with the issues than when you turn it over to me.
Last, I am charged with the ethical obligation to avoid giving any advice to the spouse who is not my client. This means that, while I can chat comfortably and even joke when you and I are talking together, I must play a different role when talking alone with your spouse. I must carefully avoid substantive discussions about the case, and I must guard every word I utter. This would easily make your spouse believe that I’m trying to be tricky or to hide something, when I’m really just trying to do a good job for you. In the end, though, it doesn’t matter what I think or why I do something. If if it interferes with your ability to negotiate with each other, I don’t want to do it.
I hope you understand.
Because this page discusses my legal practice, I need to say this: No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.