The potential client should have an idea of what assets and debts are in the marital estate and the income of the parties.
Name three questions women should ask a potential attorney:
1) What is their fee/retainer (or, in general, how they bill)?
2) How long have they been practicing Family Law?
3) What is a reasonable expectation on the duration of the case?
What can a client do to make the best use of their time with their attorney?
The client should understand that time is money. When the answer is simple, or common sense, it is not a good use of your retainer to ask these questions. When you are meeting with your attorney, you want to discuss what needs to be done, what do you need to provide, and what are we waiting for in order to move forward.
Can you explain the danger of a client acting emotionally rather than logically?
By acting on emotion you run the risk of engendering animosity where none is needed, or expected. “You get more flies with honey than vinegar”. But, this doesn’t mean roll-over and take whatever is offered, but acting on emotion will likely end up in more hearings, petitions, and motions instead of actually moving towards a reasonable settlement. In most cases, spending time with the non-custodial parent, for example, is a good thing. Because the spouse may have cheated on you is no reason to prevent a good parent-child relationship.
What do you see as being the most common fight of high-conflict couples?
The most common fight is about money – hands down. One parent is paying “too much”, and the other is getting “too little”.
What advice would you give clients to get a divorce with the least possible conflict and pain for all of those involved?
Do as much as you can to realize that most of what you want to fight about is silly – and, really, most of the time people are fighting over silly things (spice racks, cookbooks, etc.) Do not sweat the small stuff, give and take, and DO NOT act on emotion.
What advice would you give a woman who states she has a physically abusive spouse?
Simple: get out. You are not alone and there are a whole host of resources available to help you get out of an abusive situation. Most women who are in an abusive relationship do not realize that they can leave. They assume that if they left, they forfeit or abandon certain things.
How do you help a client determine what she should fight for and what she should let go of?
If you can live without it, replace it, or get a better version – leave it. These are items like dishes, tvs, silverware, dvd/cd’s, etc. . .
If the item is irreplaceable, one of a kind, then you fight. These are items like family photos, antiques handed down through generations, a sentimental quilt, etc.
Do you recommend meditation to your clients? Why or why not?
I recommend mediation only when the parties believe they are capable of negotiating back and forth. If not, if one party has the idea that this is MY money/property/child, mediation is not going to work.
What is the best divorce advice you have to offer women who are just beginning this journey?
Be patient. This is not going to happen overnight.
Don’t rely on your brother’s girlfriend’s best friend who went through a divorce – their divorce is drastically different from yours, and you know only one side of the facts.
Steven R. Koense
25 West Second Street, Media, PA 19063
Years in Practice: 16 years