Most people have heard the thing about the ostrich sticking its head in the sand supposedly out of fright. In fact, they’re just turning their eggs in the holes where they are nested. So it’s actually perfectly reasonable for the ostrich to stick its head in the sand. But sticking your proverbial head in the sand is not an advisable legal strategy for your divorce case.
And, yet, so many clients try the “head in the sand” strategy when their lawyer asks them to do something for their own divorce case – whether it’s to return a phone call, provide their attorney with documents or come to the office to sign a paper or have a meeting.
If you find yourself doing this, maybe it’s because you’re in denial that the divorce is really happening. Sometimes it’s avoidance of the divorce itself or it’s hurt or anger directed at your spouse. Sometimes it’s just plain laziness.
Regardless of the reason for not actively participating, you need to do so. Your lawyer needs you to be active and responsive or he or she won’t be able to do their job. Sticking your head in the sand is not a viable option.
Expect Some Legwork (and Some Computer Work)
Don’t be surprised when your lawyer asks you to do some work on your own case. Of course you will need to sign documents, come to the office for appointments and have phone calls with your lawyer. You will also need to gather some papers, including financial information and documentation going back several years, which can be time consuming.
Some of the things your lawyer may ask you to provide include:
- Personal and business tax returns
- Credit card/loan account statements
- Bank statements
- Investment account statements
- Retirement account statements
Playing by the Numbers
Financial information is an important contribution you can make to your case. Get it to your lawyer as soon as you can. Your lawyer needs proof of your financial numbers for settlement and the court. They are crucial for asset and debt division and, if you have children, for child support calculation.
- Your attorney can’t propose a settlement to the other side without the financial information he or she needs to determine what to offer. Likewise, your attorney can’t advise you whether to accept a settlement offer if he or she doesn’t have an accurate picture of your financial situation.
- If you have to go to trial, your lawyer needs proof of your finances so he or she can provide it to the court to “prove up” your side of the case and convince the court to award you what you are asking for.
The Consequences: More than Sand in Your Ears
If you ignore your attorney and repeatedly don’t do what they ask – like coming to appointments, returning phone calls or providing the documents they need — you risk the outcome of your divorce case. You could end up losing money, property and some of the parenting time with your child you could have enjoyed. You could even lose your lawyer.
The information your lawyer asks you for is crucial. It is the ammunition they need in court to present your side of the case. If they can’t get it, they can’t fight for you.
The chances are very good that without your participation your lawyer may end up in court with their hands tied behind their back while the opposing attorney paints the court a more effective picture of their side of the story – with their version of the evidence – while your lawyer is unable to effectively represent you.
Many lawyers will not stay on a case under these circumstances and are likely to withdraw from representation. The client who stuck their head in the sand is likely to end up unhappy after the final order because they didn’t get what they wanted as a direct consequence of their own choices in not participating in their case – despite the lawyer’s best efforts and warnings.
This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts.