Home > divorce, divorce modification, family law general, law general, paternity/child custody > Personalities and Payment (or, Just because you refuse to have reasonable expectations doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay.)

Personalities and Payment (or, Just because you refuse to have reasonable expectations doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay.)

During the time I was practicing law, I had a wide range of client personalities to work with.  They ran the gamut from the Terrified & Will Do Anything I Say As Long As I Hold Their Hand; to the Super Organized, Gets Me Everything I Need Before I Need it Just In Case and It’s Organized and Tabbed to Boot; to the I Don’t Trust a Damn Thing You Do and Won’t Sign Anything Even Though I Already Agreed to It Because The Internet Told Me That You’re Wrong.  It’s this last category of personality that I’d like to speak to right now.

Unreasonable Woman

Not helping.

My goal in all of my cases was to instill in my client reasonable expectations regarding the outcome of their case, so that they would not be disappointed with the (inevitable) outcome.  Some were not going to end well, and that was known from the start.  There are statutory limits on how things will go down, and I do my best to minimize the damage to my client, but that doesn’t mean worst case scenario won’t happen to you.  Further, in a lot of divorce cases (most of them) that I handled, the parties did not have enough combined income to maintain anything that remotely resembled the lifestyle that they were accustomed to, because they were barely scraping by before the divorce. The court will generally not order one party to live the same lifestyle to the detriment to the other.  Divorces are between the married parties, NOT the kids, and so division of assets only considers the couple. There is absolutely nothing your lawyer can do to create more money/assets/stuff where none existed in the first place.  And thinking that he/she can is just setting yourself up to be let down. In a BIG way.

It goes without saying that the marriage wasn’t the best; there may have been issues that involved getting protective orders put in place.  That doesn’t mean there would’ve been sufficient evidence to get a criminal conviction, and even if there were, I can’t control how the other party’s defense attorney and the prosecutor on that (totally separate criminal case) will work together to resolve the criminal charges.  I can’t do anything there.  I can only work with my part, the divorce action, and do the best I can from there.  A divorce is NOT the place to prosecute domestic violence allegations, especially ones that the criminal process determines are not cut and dried.  So realistic expectations are needed in those situations as well.

I had clients who wouldn’t listen to a thing I said; who refused to sign off on things they’d already agreed to in mediation; who created conflict with their estranged spouse at any time they could (for the benefit of the children, of course), then screamed at me

Unreasonable Man

Still not helping.

because I couldn’t get them their own way; and who wouldn’t even listen when the court told them how it was.  These were the clients who were abusive during the course of my representation of them, and who were livid in the end when it all happened like I said it would.  To these clients, I say this:  I do not work for free.  You knew that up front; there’s a clause in my retainer contract that says you pay me even if you don’t like how it all ends up.  Just because you don’t like how your life turned out, does not mean it is either my fault, or that you are absolved from a responsibility to pay your bill.  Would you honestly expect any other person providing a service to you to work for free if you are even marginally dissatisfied with the service?  No.  You wouldn’t.  And if you failed to pay them, you’d get sent to collections.


Which is how it works with me, too.

Medicine for the dead

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