Choices can overwhelm. But overwhelm is itself a choice. A choice born of indecision. How to get out of this loop? Get informed. Make a choice. Retire the overwhelm.

It was said as an aside. During a phone call with two litigators, one of them relayed to me her experience at a recent hearing.  “The judge essentially stopped me about two-thirds of the way through my cross-examination and said I was finished! Can you believe that? He essentially said to the woman on the stand, ‘That attorney basically destroyed you. You might want to settle.’”

If you are facing divorce and in the height of the emotional whirlwind that can overtake your life, it might sound appealing to have that kind of lawyer. “Well, yeah, “ you might say. I DO want an attorney who will destroy soon-to-be ex-spouse who has wronged me so deeply. S/he deserves to be punished.”

It’s a conundrum as a lawyer with a lot of years of practice behind me. I have seen that approach taken with two basically decent, but flawed parties, who walk away from their divorce trial decimated. I have also seen cases where a lack of appropriate advocacy and protection for a client hurt the parent and the children involved who needed protection.

Here’s how we have resolved this in our firm.  We really listen first.  We understand that your situation likely looks quite different from the person’s we met with an hour ago.  We never assume, going into your initial consultation, that we know you need any particular approach. We don’t assume that you need a peaceful, respectful collaborative process with the assistance of a divorce coach.  We also don’t assume that you need aggressive, gloves-off advocacy and litigation because without it you will lose rights important to you and the children.  Each of those approaches is entirely appropriate–for the right case.  What matters is that we choose the right approach for you

In our firm, I do primarily collaborative law and mediation. I am largely working with two well-intentioned parties who are at times deeply hurt and sad and at other times so angry they can barely remain at the negotiation table. But, in either mediation or the collaborative process, they are given time, space and opportunity to not just act on those very strong emotions, but rather to express them productively so they can be processed and factored into settlement discussions. The goal for these folks is almost always to come out on the other side of their divorce process with peace and the ability to move forward into the future with a settlement that works–and with kids who aren’t further pained by their parents’ divorce than they already will be. When people remain committed, I often see couples, with tears in their eyes, hug one another at our final signing session. Had they utilized a traditional approach to their divorce, well, let’s just say I’ve never seen anyone leave a courtroom and hug each other.

However, those approaches aren’t right for every family.

The litigators in our office work with our clients who may be well-intentioned themselves but perhaps married to someone who’s not. In those situations, much can be lost if you don’t have a forceful advocate. We recently had a situation where our client was offered a settlement that, when fully analyzed, would result in her receiving about $600,000 less in property than what a straight 50/50 division would have given her. She had no idea that this was the kind of proposal her husband was presenting–and she almost accepted it. It sounded so fair when he said it! We also recently had a situation where our client was told that her baby couldn’t spend overnights with her and before meeting with us, she was essentially taking whatever time as her husband would “allow” her. While she was prepared to do what had been the pattern in the marriage–simply accepting whatever her husband said–we helped her recognize that she had other options and that her baby needed her mother as much as the baby needed her father and, with strong advocacy, we now have an equitable parenting time arrangement.

So know your options–as early as possible. I’m always a fan of using as little assistance as necessary. Couples who do not have children and little by way of assets may just need some advice on the side while they DIY their divorce.  We’re happy to assist those folks in the minimal way that works for them.  Some are at a cross-roads, so flooded by emotions they can’t think straight, and need some simple explanations and advice about what a fair divorce looks like. Sometimes people have been shut out of home, finances or children and need immediate intervention and representation. Each of these cases would be poorly served by simply employing a cookie-cutter approach and being offered the one and only tool in an attorney’s tool box. You don’t want to approach a dragon with an olive branch and you don’t want to kill a fly with a cannon. We are committed to never simply informing our clients that “this is the way we do it here” because, well, we do it a lot of different ways here and there’s one that’s right for you.

I say it often: The most important decision you will make is the kind of divorce you choose. See this article for questions to help you think about which approach is best for you and your family

If you would like to explore your options with an attorney, click here to call to schedule an in-person or video initial consult and inquire whether you qualify for a no-charge consultation.  We look forward to helping you sort through the options available.

Wishing you wisdom,

Deborah Bennett Berecz



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Berecz and Associates PLC | Attorneys, Mediators, Collaborative Lawyers | Grand Rapids, MI | Saint Joseph, MI

Disclaimer: The purpose of this site is to give you information about our practice and about areas of the law that may interest you. Everyone's situation is different, and nothing here should be treated as legal advice for your case. For your own legal advice, contact us.

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