Family Law

How a Divorce Lawyer Can Help You Deal with a Contentious Spouse

By Kristina Otterstrom, Attorney

Divorce is rarely fun, but a contentious spouse can make it plain miserable. An angry spouse with an aggressive lawyer can turn what could be a fairly civilized process into an all-out battle. The last thing you want to do is make your spouse angrier, but how do you know when it’s a good idea to hire your own attorney?

By hiring an experienced divorce attorney, you might be able to remove some of the conflict from your divorce. Attorneys are experienced in conflict resolution, and a good attorney can keep your divorce from turning nasty.

Mediating with Your Spouse

Attorney mediators are a great resource and can help minimize tension in your divorce. A mediator is typically a family law attorney, acting as a third-party neutral facilitator, who helps spouses reach their own agreements. A mediator can’t give you legal advice though, so it’s important to hire your own attorney who can give you advice and ensure your rights are protected. In some cases, you can even bring your attorney to the mediation sessions, if all sides agree to that. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and the impact of certain issues in your divorce.

Mediation can diffuse conflict in a divorce. Some spouses discover at mediation that they weren’t so far apart on reaching a resolution. An experienced mediator will help spouses communicate and resolve issues on their own terms. Don’t worry about harming your case at mediation. The mediation process is completely confidential and a mediator is prohibited from taking sides or testifying at a divorce trial.

A “Collaborative Practice” Lawyer

Not every attorney wants to drag your divorce through the court system. In fact, there is a growing trend among divorce lawyers to work together to settle cases outside of court, using a process called “collaborative law.” Attorneys and divorcing spouses sign an agreement to work together to settle all issues in a divorce and avoid a trial. In many cases, couples are able to reach an agreement without ever setting foot in a courtroom.

Collaborative divorce keeps lines of communication open between spouses and their attorneys. In cases where one spouse is difficult, a collaborative practice attorney can help the spouse see things reasonably. Moreover, a collaborative practice attorney wouldn’t be motivated to draw out your divorce.

Finding the Right Lawyer

When efforts at amicably resolving your divorce case don’t work, it’s time to get an experienced attorney involved. A contentious spouse may sometimes use an aggressive attorney to bully an unrepresented spouse in court. You need an attorney of your own if you’re being bullied by your spouse’s attorney.

Be diligent in researching potential attorneys and find one who has substantial experience handling divorces. Many attorneys focus on one or two areas of the law. For example, it’s probably not a good idea to hire an experienced patent law attorney who has no experience with divorce.

Also, it’s especially important with a contentious spouse to hire an attorney who won’t fuel the fire. In other words, you need an attorney who fits your personality and will handle your case the way you want it handled. When you meet with potential attorneys, ask them questions and find out their strategies for working with a difficult spouse and their legal counsel.

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