If you are considering divorce, whether here in Florida or elsewhere, and you are doing online research about family law attorneys, you will come across many firms that describe their attorneys as “aggressive” and “ready to fight for you.”
You will not find that type of language on Family Diplomacy’s website, as we believe that spouses should not be pitted against one another, and family issues should be resolved via the collaborative process in private offices rather than public courtrooms. And yet, we concede that our approach may not be for everyone.
So, when should you look elsewhere for an “aggressive” divorce lawyer?
You Are In Fear For Your Safety
If there is ongoing and severe domestic violence, and you are in fear for your safety or the safety of your children, then you may need an aggressive lawyer to obtain a domestic violence restraining order (called an “injunction”) and advocate on your behalf in court.
However, if domestic violence has happened in the past, or if it happened recently but you are not in fear, then the use of the interdisciplinary collaborative process might be right for you. In the collaborative process, both spouses have their own attorney to advise him or her. It also involves a neutral facilitator who is licensed in a mental health profession. The facilitator ensures that power imbalances are addressed and keeps an eye on both verbal and non-verbal communication during meetings. Meetings can happen “caucus-style,” where the spouses are in separate rooms and the facilitator or other professionals moderate between the rooms. The domestic violence victim in a collaborative divorce will not be put on a stand, and so he or she will not be subject to cross-examination and feel re-victimized.
You Need A Judge To Tell Everyone That You Are Right
Some people need their “day in court.” Some people are so angry during the divorce that they need a judge to let everyone know that they are right and their spouse is wrong. If you need to be validated by a judge, then you should probably get an aggressive divorce attorney.
And yet, you are still likely to be very disappointed. Court is not therapy, and it is very rare to find any type of catharsis from the rulings of a judge. The judge does not tell families who is right and who is wrong. He or she only establishes a parenting plan, divides property and debts, and makes ruling on alimony and child support. As judges oversee hundreds of cases and give you very limited time in front of them, if you insist on telling the judge everything that your spouse did wrong during the marriage, he or she may admonish you and even sanction you for continuing to bring up legally irrelevant information.
The collaborative process, on the other hand, has been known to create a space that is safe for both parties and even allowed the opportunity for one spouse to apologize to the other. The fact that collaborative meetings are confidential means that such apologies cannot be used against the spouse later in court.
Your Spouse Has A Severe Psychological or Personality Disorder
If your spouse has a severe psychological or personality order and it would be impossible to reach any agreement with him or her, then you may need an aggressive divorce lawyer.
However, you should note that those with such personality disorders are likely to abuse the process, filing frivolous pleadings and motions and spending years fighting in the court system. If an agreement is possible (the spouses may need to go through a psychological evaluation to make that determination), then it simply makes sense to use the collaborative process with an involved mental health professional. In some cases, it may even make sense for both parties to each have their own aligned mental health coach, as the parties may need more individualized mental health help than a neutral facilitator can provide. Further, a neutral financial professional can be employed to ensure full financial transparency and allow each party to “trust but verify.”
If you are not in fear for your safety, if you don’t have the need for a judge tell everyone you are right, and if your spouse does not have a severe psychological or personality disorder, then your family should work together outside of court to constructively restructure via the collaborative process rather than to battle it out in court. Further, an “aggressive” divorce lawyer is likely to cost a lot more money and drag out the divorce for many years, as he or she will be in and out of the courtroom, engaging in extensive opposition research and depositions and witness preparation and case law research and battle planning, and the opposing counsel will likely respond in kind.