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Separating from your spouse, for whatever reason, is an emotional experience. As a Family Law Lawyer, part of my job is to try and ensure that my clients make logical, informed decisions, and that negotiations are conducted in a reasonable manner. To facilitate this, I need to make sure that they are not overly influenced by the emotional side of what is often the most difficult time of their lives. This is easier said than done.
What sometimes complicates the situation is the over-involvement of extended family members in the post-separation negotiation process.
Don’t get me wrong – I am someone who puts family first, and I certainly appreciate the need for someone to keep their family informed about what is going on with their spouse in the context of a separation – particularly when there are children involved – however; problems begin to arise when the legal advice I am retained to provide and the strategy I am retained to employ is ignored by the client because they prefer to proceed based on the recommendations provided to them by a family member, friend, or even co-worker. Unfortunately, even when my clients do not do this, their spouse might. It may also be the case that – for example – each spouse’s parents are involved, either by giving them advice or by communicating with the lawyers directly. In certain instances – depending on the issue at hand – this can be helpful. Usually though, it is not, as the perceptions and opinions of people who have no prior experience dealing with separation/divorce are generally based on their own personal beliefs about what is “just” and “right” and not on what might be the current state of the law.
In my experience, when somebody separates from their spouse, all of the sudden everyone they know becomes an expert on Family Law. Unfortunately, the reality is that they are not experts, and the “advice” they are providing you with is more likely based on something they saw on television or something they overheard about someone else’s separation, which would not necessarily apply to any other case, as the facts and circumstances surrounding each separation tend to vary – usually significantly.
The real problem is that it often creates second-guessing on the part of the client, which in turn increases the time and cost associated with resolving a dispute (whether about a particular issue, or all outstanding issues). As my job is to look out for my client’s best interests, I have to identify time and cost savings mechanisms when I can. One of those mechanisms is knowing what everyone’s role is when it comes to your separation and then ensuring that they act in that role only. To that end, my role is to provide legal advice. The role of your friends and family may be to provide you with a place to stay, a shoulder to cry on, or something to do to take your mind off of your legal issues. So long as things remain that way, it will be easier to get a full and final resolution of your matrimonial dispute.
For the Feldstein Family Law Group, I’m Nick Slinko.