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Question: I have heard next to nothing from my lawyer since I met with him before divorce proceedings began. Even when my husband sued me to get custody of our children, I talked only briefly with his paralegal, who told me that he had been busy. I am sure there are things that I should be told, but no one is telling me anything. I work two jobs and don’t have time to read books. I have had to turn to friends and neighbors to advise me, but I am getting conflicting advice. Can you help me?

Answer: While your lawyer cannot be expected to tell you everything or be available to take all of your calls, he or she should at least tell you about the basics and get you prepared for your case, especially when a custody dispute is brewing. Based on the facts as you recite them, limiting your communications to a paralegal and not getting you prepared is inappropriate behavior. Because the outcome of your case will affect your future and the future of your children, monetarily and otherwise, we think that your lawyer’s cavalier approach to the court system is not in your best interests.

Quality preparation is essential in creating and implementing a plan to address your marital problems – and this requires quality attorney time and client input.

Court proceedings allow judges to use their common sense and discretion in making decisions about your case. Your credibility and demeanor, the manner in which your case is presented, and the credibility and demeanor of your witnesses are all important factors. Obviously, a common sense decision must be based upon a common sense presentation of your case. This means that your behavior, both socially and financially, is very important and relevant. You can do little about what may have occurred in the past; from this point forward, however, you should be in a position to provide a stable and systematic picture of your activities.

That said, it is a cardinal rule not to rely on those who "have been through it," and not to gauge what you think you should receive based upon what a friend or neighbor tells you happened in his or her case. These comparisons are very dangerous because two judges could make two different decisions based on the same facts. The fact that your lawyer has not given you this elementary piece of advice tells us that you might want to seriously think about getting better representation.

We suggest that you call your lawyer’s office and demand an immediate meeting with him, not his paralegal. Take a list of your questions and concerns. If you are not given a relatively fast appointment, given the exigent circumstances, we suggest that you seek an appointment with a lawyer who handles matrimonial cases regularly. If you change lawyers, make sure you have a clear understanding of your relationship with your new attorney. The person who is better prepared is the person who, all other things being equal, generally obtains the better result.

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