Sunday, September 1, 2013

What's My Worst Possible Outcome?

In almost every attorney-client relationship, there needs to be more and better communication. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), attorneys can't read their clients' minds.  We can sometimes anticipate questions, but we can't always provide reassurance and information without being asked questions.

At some point in almost every case, a client will wonder what the worst outcome could be for their case.  Some people think if they know what the worst is, they can prepare for it, while hoping for a better result.  They don't want to be surprised.  While it seems like a reasonable question, it's really the wrong question.

What's the worst that could happen in a divorce?  You could lose all your assets, including things you inherited or had before the marriage; you could be saddled with all the debt; you could lose custody of the kids; you might have to pay exorbitant child support;  you might have little or no visitation; and you might have to pay everyone's attorney's fees.

What's the worst that could happen in a suit to modify a prior order?   Your request could be denied; you might end up with an order limiting your time with the children, paying exorbitant child support and owing money to the other party.  You can also be ordered to pay everyone's attorney's fees.

What's the worst that could happen in an enforcement case?  You could go to jail.  You could owe the other parent a lot of money.  Your access to the child could be restricted.  You could owe everyone's attorney's fees.

Do you see the trend here?  Asking for the worst outcomes will get you some very scary outcomes.

The better questions are something like: 
  • What is the realistic range of options for what can happen in my case? 
  • Given the facts of my case, what is the Judge likely to do?
  • What can I expect if I go to Court?
  •  How does a case like this usually work out in this Court?
  •  What do you think you can work out with the other attorney?
After you get information from your attorney, follow up with questions about what can be done to get you closer to your objectives.

Finally, keep up the conversation as you go along.  Don't make this a one-time request.  Outcomes may change as the facts change or are developed.  Keep in touch with your attorney so he/she can better help you.  Good Luck!

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