Divorce & Family Law Column By:
Chadwick M. Layton, Esq.[i]
Harvey Waddell & Layton, P.A.
SETTING CLIENT EXPECTATIONS IN DIVORCE
Many times in life people want to be given advice that matches their own goals and viewpoint. Divorce is not a good time to for this type of advice.
After handling divorce for more than 10 years, our staff and I have developed a system that is focused on meeting client expectations. The precursor to meeting and exceeding client expectations is to first set reasonable and attainable goals.
This process sounds straight forward. However, it can become murky when dealing with the varying facts of each marriage and the pressure to agree with a prospective client.
I recently sat down with a prospective client/husband for an initial consultation regarding divorce. The husband had been served with a petition for dissolution of marriage. The attorney representing his wife is a colleague of mine in the Family Law Inn of Court. This attorney is someone whom I respect and I have no doubt will do a good job representing the wife.
The husband and I discussed the length of the marriage, the age of the minor children, the standard of living established during their marriage, assets of their marriage including retirement assets, and the income of each spouse. The husband earned double the income of the wife. The marriage lasted over 12 years and produced minor children. The wife sought alimony.
The husband did not want to pay any alimony. Furthermore, he wanted a divorce attorney that would confirm his goal of not paying alimony. This is where ethics and knowledge are put to the test. The husband made clear that he wished to employ our law firm and was willing to pay the required retainer.
However, he wanted to receive legal advice that his goals were realistic and in line with my legal opinion of his case. We reached an impasse and ultimately did not enter into an employment relationship. I and our entire staff wished him the best.
This consultation was a success. Our firm was able to avoid setting a client up for failure. This case will result in the husband paying some form of alimony to wife. I have very little doubt of this outcome. The amount and duration of the alimony will very likely be determined based upon the skill level of the attorney whom represents the husband.
The definition of success in divorce should be defined early on between the client and the attorney. Once this important step is accomplished, the task of working to reach those goals becomes clear to both the attorney and the client.
[i] Chadwick M. Layton is a partner and shareholder at Harvey Waddell & Layton, P.A., located in downtown Lake Worth, he is also a member of the Florida Bar Family Law Section and the Susan Greenberg Family Law American Inn of Court of the Palm Beaches, further information is available at www.LaytonLawOffices.com or (561) 585-4631.