I like to explain to clients that my practice is based on investing in them, not their outcomes. While it is against a lawyer's professional code of ethics to promise a certain outcome in court, in family legal disputes, outcomes are not nearly as important as the process of getting there. Also, the time before making the decision to either stay in the relationship or leave, is extremely important as it can influence whether a person's journey through divorce and beyond is toward the amicable end of the scale, or at the ugly/nasty end. I have found that clients who work with me while they are just starting to think seriously about separation have the best opportunity to control their journey and to keep their legal disputes out of the court. Or as I like to say, in North Carolina, except for getting an absolute divorce, it is up to you as to whether to invite the state into your family business. I once worked with a client for two years before she was ready to move out of the marital home. When she did, the cards were stacked toward a fair settlement even though she was forced to file multiple issues in court. Once her preparation and plan were made clear to her spouse, all issues settled in short order.
Transitions in life are almost always hard, even if the transition is for our highest good. One of the main reasons I chose to leave private practice in 2000 was because I was pregnant with my second child and had a two year old in full-time care. At this time in my life, I did not want to be surrounded by so much anger and unhappiness. Oh, don't get me wrong. I loved working with my clients and more often than not, enjoyed negotiating with the other party. What I didn't like was the litigation process and how destructive it was to everyone's life, and especially to children.
My current transition allows me to move from a macro level of family advocacy back to an micro focus on individual families. I consider it a privilege, walking on sacred ground, to work with clients who are often at the lowest point in their life. It is my responsibility to use all of the tools in my bag to support clients through this transition. I rarely see an obstacle that cannot be overcome, even when it seems self-evident to others. I help clients organize their issues so that they can make clear distinctions between the resolution of their personal business—the emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of choices—and their family business—dividing the property, creating individual budgets to establish financial independence, and mapping out the logistics necessary to parent children in separate homes. I believe we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Whether true or not, this world view enables me to see the possibilities that each of us have to create different experiences that serve our highest good. Our choices are vital to our well-being. And while it might not seem like it, when you or your spouse choose to take your family dispute into the legal arena, you do have choices at every juncture. With compassion, I can assist you in making the best personal and family business decisions, even when there seem to be no good choices available.
Please know that I am strongly biased against adversarial litigation for family disputes. If there is absolutely no alternative but litigation, I might refer you to a good trial attorney. I am a good trial attorney. I have the skills and experience, but I don't enjoy trying family disputes. Because I have limited time and resources, I choose to put my efforts into crafting settlements rather than preparing for trial. This does not mean that preparing for trial isn't important for settlement or that attorneys who litigate domestic disputes do not settle them. In fact, the opposite is true. The majority of family legal disputes that are prepared for court settle before court. Often, settlement occurs on the day of trial which is referred to as settlement "on the courthouse steps." Family law attorneys work very hard to help clients resolve their legal disputes outside the courtroom. Because I can be choosy, I prefer to work with families who have the same bias as me that adversarial litigation creates undue emotional, financial, and physical hardships for families that are not easily remedied.
So, should you stay or should you go? I will invest in this process with you until you get to the place where you know inside of yourself what is right for you. No one can make this decision for you, but I can help you get there.