What happens during a divorce when abuse is present? How do you safeguard yourself and those you love during those tough times? Divorce can be an incredibly difficult experience, and it gets even more complicated when abuse is involved. With the help of Susan and Tracy in this episode, you’ll learn how to safeguard yourself or your loved ones during these tough times. Knowing the signs of various forms of abuse could prove vital for protecting both yourself and those around you from further harm.
Avoiding Client Mistakes to Help Your Attorney
Join Susan and Tracy as they talk about mistakes clients make that make their attorneys’ job more difficult.
Susan Reff: I’m Susan Reff here today with Tracy Hightower-Henne, thank you for listening to the Lady Lawyer League podcast on today’s podcast. We’ll be talking about things that family law clients do to make our jobs as their lawyer more challenging.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: And then we’re going to end with the five things that you can do to be a good client
Susan Reff: In our office. Man, I just feel like it’s been kind of a little bit of a hamster wheel the last week just kind of like task after task after task. Nothing major,
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Though. Well, I got my second vaccine on Saturday, so you know, I’m feeling pretty good. I didn’t have a lot of side effects, so that’s great.
Susan Reff: That’s good. Which one did you
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Get, Pfizer?
Susan Reff: Well, I got the Johnson and Johnson, so I got it exactly two weeks ago. And now I’m, you know, they’re like, Watch out. Maybe you might get a blood clot, but only six out of seven million people.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: And our problem now is since it’s been two weeks, you have the antibodies.
Susan Reff: Yay, yay. Antibodies. Yes, it’s very exciting. I went, I drove up to North Dakota and I stopped a lot and I mentally made notes of people wearing masks. And so I stopped in South Dakota and I stopped. Obviously, I ended up in North Dakota, and South Dakota doesn’t seem to do masks right. Everywhere else was pretty good. I was pretty impressed in Fargo, too. But in Omaha, I think a lot of people are still wearing masks.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Well, it’s still the law in Omaha, right?
Susan Reff: Yeah, it wasn’t the law in North Dakota. They cancelled it. But people still were. A lot of people were still wearing the masks. So interesting.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: So what are some of the things that clients do that make your job challenging?
Susan Reff: I think a major one that really I mean, the really is difficult is when clients don’t follow the advice that we give them.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: The thing that they do to hire you is they hire you to give them advice, right? They they don’t follow it, right?
Susan Reff: They hired us to give them advice, what to do. And they do the exact opposite sometimes, right?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: What do you do when that happens?
Susan Reff: You know, I try to get to the why behind it. I ask a client, you know, like, Well, I thought we chatted about this and you were going to do something different than what you did. And sometimes circumstances have changed. And so I give them room to explain why. And if it seems reasonable, then you know, it makes us change our game plan, I think going forward.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Sometimes the advice that we have to give our clients is that you have to follow the court order, right?
Susan Reff: Well, yes, I think we always have to give our clients that advice.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: And then when they decide not to follow that advice, I think that makes their job very challenging. I remember the one case that we had in our office, one of our attorneys left. The hearing was just a temporary hearing, and I think it had to do with custody and our client didn’t get the parenting time that she really wanted or something like that. And she said to our attorney, I’m not going to do that, and our attorney said, you have to do that. The judge just made this decision. And I think that was an interesting moment for that attorney client relationship and can make our job really challenging.
Susan Reff: Right. So what do you do when the clients say or do something that’s against your advice?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: You know, I try to be really clear with the client in the beginning and say, you know, OK, here’s my advice. I’m going to give you these other options and you can decide which one you want to do, but I’ll tell you the risk of reward of each one. So I really try to have our clients feel empowered to make a decision if there is choices, right? But sometimes if it’s just you only have one choice and this is advice that you have to take, sometimes it it means we may have to withdraw if the client isn’t following the advice that they hired us to to provide right.
Susan Reff: And we say that in our fee agreement at the very beginning of the relationship, we say if you don’t follow our advice or if you don’t follow a court order, we could withdraw, right? So they’re on notice, right? That that’s an expectation.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: And I think for clients and as far as the trust goes between the attorney client relationship in our office really starts on day one with the consultation. When I’m meeting with a client in the console, I’m often in that first time telling them a lot of things they don’t want to hear because I think that’s what our job is and that’s what they’ve reached out to our office to get. Experience that we have. And if they want to hear what they want to hear, there’s a lot of other attorneys that’ll do that, right, right?
Susan Reff: Yeah, I think that’s good. That’s a good way to set up a client for a successful relationship at the beginning is just kind of set some expectations. And the idea that you know, you hired us for your legal counsel and we’re going to give you advice and we want you to follow it because it’s based on our experience and expertise. Right? So is there anything what’s another thing you can think of that is. A challenging part of our job when clients do something,
Tracy Hightower-Henne: The other thing that really comes to mind is when our clients think that we can also play the role of a therapist and an an attorney. And oftentimes we’re called a counselor. Right. That’s not the the what they mean by attorneys at law. Right. And I think often, you know, especially going through a divorce, it can be traumatic for a client and sometimes having that other professional helping our client is really important. And we’ve talked about this a lot that during the consultation, we may tell a client, you know, think about also starting a relationship with a therapist throughout this. And you know, those clients that were those potential clients that get really upset sometimes when we tell them that right? That’s frustrating.
Susan Reff: Yeah, I think I think sometimes people don’t realize how stressful their divorce the process will be on them and that it’s OK to reach out and ask for help from someone, you know, especially some of the therapists who really work with couples or or people who are going through divorce. I think it’s good to enlist those people to help you so that you’re not putting that on your lawyer as well.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Right. And we’re just not trained to be therapists, either. I think most of our attorneys in our office have some pretty high compassion, but we’re just not trained to provide that therapeutic advice. I think we can be good listeners, but that’s about it. And therapists are not only more efficient at what they do, but also probably less costly, right? Right.
Susan Reff: I I think too, if a client weighs or puts too much of the emotional part of the case on the lawyer that could really cloud the relationship, and it could make the lawyer maybe not be as effective in the long run because they’re getting caught up in the emotional side of the case versus the factual, the legal, you know, the strategic part of the case where they really need to. You need to keep your head as an attorney in that part of the game as opposed to supporting your client emotionally. I mean, we definitely have to do that, but it can’t be our primary focus of the case.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Right. And when we ultimately go to court to we, we talk often about how the court system is not set up to handle emotions and is not set up to talk through those difficult things that have happened maybe during a marriage or the day to day decision making that happens or, you know, a judge having to make those small decisions. That’s just not what it’s set up for the time that we have in court. We often have to hone into what the the facts are, and sometimes it makes it very difficult to explain to a client why we didn’t get to tell a certain story for them in court.
Susan Reff: Right? Yeah, that kind of leads to another thing that I think about when. You know how when clients make their cases more challenging for us and thinking, you know, to pivot a little bit from that when they say, well, my sister’s case was, you know, she she it was very similar to mine and she had this outcome. So that’s exactly what I want.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: And our client has five kids and her sister has zero
Susan Reff: Right and lives in California and and we’re five businesses where things are very different. Yeah. So when when clients compare their case to someone else thinking that their case will go exactly the same way,
Tracy Hightower-Henne: That happens a lot in child support calculations, right? We I mean, the child support calculator is so nuanced that you make one more dollar per year it could change the entire figure at the end. Right. And we often hear clients that say, Well, I talked to my neighbor and my neighbor’s child support isn’t as much as what you’re telling me mine is. And it’s almost like laughable in that moment that we have no idea what Neighbor Joe’s child support calculation is and how how that was derived.
Susan Reff: It’s almost I’ve explained it to clients like this. People can make the same amount of money, but you’re going to pay taxes differently or you’re going to take home a different amount of money just because your situation is so personalized. So that has helped me explain it to clients, sometimes in a way that’s a little more clear.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: But maybe neighbor Joe’s lawyer had no idea what they were doing to maybe neighbor Joe was representing himself.
Susan Reff: And, you know, maybe the sister’s case was 15 years ago, right? I mean, there’s that issue too. Like the courts do change over time and things, you know, become like, there’s trends, right?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Well, the child support calculator January of 2020 itself changed, right? That changed for the different tax implications. And so that by itself could have neighbor Joe paying a lot less or a lot more than you, and it has nothing to do with your situation.
Susan Reff: And I sometimes think when this is happening, I envision the conversation. You know, you bump into an old friend at the grocery store and you say, Oh, and they say, What’s new? Oh, I’m going through a divorce. Oh, you need to, you know, you need to fight for every penny. And I got I got $5000 a month in alimony and, you know, $2000 a month in child support, and they don’t know anything about the case. They only know those numbers and then people get fixated on that.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Are people really talking about how much they get in child support and alimony, like in the grocery store?
Susan Reff: I don’t know if they do in the grocery store, but I know they talk about it because I’ve heard clients come in and say, Well, this is the number that I think I should get because that’s what I’ve heard other people are getting. And so they’re talking to somebody. I don’t know where
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Google, they’re talking to Google. Ask Jeeves, they’re giving. I don’t think you.
Susan Reff: I don’t think that’s a thing anymore.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yeah, it is. I think it is. You think, OK, let’s find Siri. Yeah, they’re asking for child support.
Susan Reff: I don’t know. We should try that. So, yeah, I think I think that that’s another way to say, like your case is specific, you need to, you know, you need to listen to what we’re telling you, not what so-and-so is telling you, right?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: And on that same note to one other thing that comes to mind is, you know, the client who threw out the entire case maybe does trust you and is following your advice and you’re getting down to a final settlement. And oftentimes, I think it has to do with the the scariness of the finality of something. And while you think the settlement is pretty fair and and equitable for them, all of a sudden they now start talking to their family and friends about the settlement at the end. Right. And they then come back and say, Well, I’ve been talking to my family about this, and they don’t think that the house is worth that much, for example. And you’re like, Whoa, hold on a minute. We got an appraisal on this like 10 months ago and you were OK with it
Susan Reff: With a professional appraiser who, you know? And this is again, like listening to a friend or family member, right? Say my, you know, in my divorce, right?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: So I think it’s, you know, for clients that want to have their family and friends provide support, that’s one thing. But for them to then interject their opinions and they’re not lawyers. And even if they are lawyers, they aren’t practicing family law because if they were, maybe they would just represent you. I think that makes our job really difficult when we have to all of a sudden sort of rewind go back through the entire conversations we’ve had with our client in the last 10 months to remind them. Where we’ve been.
Susan Reff: Yeah, and you’re saying like, remember when we had the conversation about the house, when the appraisal came in and we talked through what it meant and we moved on and there was no concern, there was no issue. And now it’s an issue. You know what’s changed? Right? So that’s the conversation I always have is like, is to say directly to the client kind of challenge them like, well, what has changed since then?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Right? And I think a lot of it has to do with emotions and has to do with that again, being scared of the finality and and there isn’t any change that you can make to it once it’s final.
Susan Reff: Yeah, and and that’s another to loop back to the therapy thing. You know, if you knew your client was working with a therapist, you could say. You know, you could maybe say, are you are you are you ready to move on, you know, to the next stage of your life because this is about to get done right?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: I often have the client, the conversation with the client about the value of the things that don’t have monetary value, right? The value of being done, the value of not having to testify about the other person’s parenting time or the value of being able to go to a birthday party of your kid without hating the other person because of how you treated them in court. So all of that goes into settlement discussion, right?
Susan Reff: Yeah. The. The value of. The value of settlement, that discussion is where I think a lot of these issues come up, whether it’s, you know, on a temporary issue or at the final issue or the final order where people start to do some of these things that we we’ve been talking about, you know, they they get really nervous, they get really scared, they start backtracking, they start, you know, going back on some of the things that they’ve talked to you about, they start, well, I don’t know if I can do that. You know, that’s where that fear comes from. The fear of, yeah, of well, first of all, to like making those like benchmark decisions in their case, too.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yeah, it’s all the emotions. And it’s it’s funny because we think about the clients too that just can’t wait to be done, and they’re almost willing to give up so much and they just want to get it done. They don’t want to do any discovery. They don’t, you know, ultimately, they want us to maybe half ass our job a little bit and we have to be really careful with that, that we want to make sure they’re we’re reviewing all the information and we’re not leaving debts, you know, that might be in their name, unmentioned in the decree, but just every client is so different and where their emotions are, when they’re coming to us too.
Susan Reff: Exactly, exactly. And I think that’s one thing we’re really good at, though, is determining for our clients, you know, from day one, you know what? What’s your goal? What’s your end game? What’s the most important part of your case to you? Is it your kids or is it the house? Is it a retirement account? What? What is it? And then kind of keeping that top of mind and keeping that in the front of our heads as we’re doing settlement negotiations or we’re prepping for court hearings to know this is what’s important to my client, some of these other things we can maybe compromise on. But this is the one thing that our client does not want to compromise on or is willing to compromise the other things to get this one thing right.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: There’s a strategy behind that. Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s one of our questions in our intake paperwork is what’s your goal in this case in this divorce and this custody case, right?
Susan Reff: What what do you want? And sometimes people don’t
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Know, right? And then you have to have a conversation. I think that’s part of our job is to have a conversation with them about what different goals they can have. And sometimes how about how about the clients who say, you know, you’re having a conversation with them about how to split debts and assets? And, you know, there’s maybe a couple of options and they say to you, Susan, what would you do?
Susan Reff: That’s really favorite. Your favorite, really?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: I’m being facetious, OK?
Susan Reff: Because it’s really hard for me because I haven’t walked in that person’s shoes, right? I haven’t lived that life. I haven’t been faced with a divorce with their situation, so I don’t know how to answer that a lot of times. So kind of like what you said before I go back and I kind of do the pros and cons. Well, if you decide this, here’s the pros and cons if you decide you know this way, here’s the pros and cons and just lay it all out there for them. And sometimes I will say things in that conversation like, Well, if the kids are the most important, I would probably make the decision that. You know, doesn’t compromise your your parenting time, but maybe compromises some of the other things over here. But I don’t ever like black and white say I would do this unless it’s like, would you follow the court order? I would always say yes, I would follow the court order black and white. Yes, even if I didn’t like it
Tracy Hightower-Henne: When clients asked me that, I just say, I’m not going to answer that right? Period. And then and then we probably go into that comparison of risk and rewards for each decision. But I just don’t think that’s our position to answer that question, right?
Susan Reff: Sometimes I say to clients, too, I feel like one thing is a more sure like there’s more a surety with a certain decision, whereas some other decisions leave a lot more things in the gray area. Right. And so I say to people, Are you comfortable with? The unknown, the unsure, nice feeling. And if you are, then that decision is going to come with that feeling. So if you’re comfortable with feeling that way, that’s one of the things that comes with making a certain decision that comes up in criminal cases. A lot that. Are you a gambler or not?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Right. Well, and often if you pose a question to the client, I ask clients all the time, if you make this decision in five years, are you going to look back and either wish you had more information or wish you made a different decision? Because if the answer is either one of those, then we then either need to do some more discovery, get more information or, you know, look at making a different decision.
Susan Reff: I like that. I don’t say that. And maybe I’m going to start saying that to kind of reality, test it with people say down the road, are you going to be happy if you made this decision, right?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Because I do think people often will look back right, the decisions they have to make, they look back and wonder how that could have changed their lives differently. Exactly.
Susan Reff: Yeah. So other things, are there other things that clients do that that really make our jobs hard and your your opinion?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: I think the client that is really dead set on arguing over the principle of something. You know, it’s not a factual thing, but they want to just argue, just to argue. I often tell clients, straight point blank, you want to argue about the principle of something that becomes expensive and you’re also not going to get anywhere. The court system doesn’t care about the principle of things. The court system is going to identify the facts and make a decision they’re not going to argue over, you know, potentially why something is someone’s fault. And I think a lot of that comes into, you know, how people spent money during a marriage to yes. While some of that is really relevant, right? Did someone spend down assets in anticipation of filing for divorce? That can be really relevant. But if we start getting into the pennies of how money was spent during the marriage, that gets expensive.
Susan Reff: I had that happening in a trial and the judge was really exacerbated. Both sides were doing it, including me. And he kind of just said. We were in his chambers talking about something else in the middle of the trial and he said, Oh, and by the way, I don’t really care that they kept their money in separate bank accounts. It’s marital money and you both know that. And so the opposing attorney and I were like, Yup, but it’s not needed to hear it. Thanks, Judge. Yeah, it’s not working. So we’ll back off that argument.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yeah. So I think it’s interesting when we’re in court, too. And you know, that might be. Well, it’s likely the first time that the client has seen the judge and. Yeah. And the judge is sitting here making these comments that we have to immediately shift into a different argument. And you often don’t get the ability to tell your client what’s happening in that moment. So a lot of that comes in with trust, right? Which is another thing. I think that’s really important for the client to have.
Susan Reff: Right. But I think to talk a little bit more about your the clients that want to fight about principle or they they get so dead set on one part of the case that they feel that the judge really needs to hear that we’ve determined. Isn’t going to determine the outcome of any of the substantive issues of the case. I weigh in my mind. Well, if it comes up, is it going to be? Is it going to hurt the client’s case? Is it going to? Is it going to just be part of the story so that the client feels they got to say, or they got to tell their story to the judge? And then they don’t always know what the judge considers when the judge makes the decision, or is it going to backfire and make the judge? Not like my client, I mean, that happens, right, judges sometimes go into a trial and there or a case and they decide they don’t like a client because they push an issue, right?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: So it can totally backfire.
Susan Reff: So I think that that’s that’s hard and that’s where at the beginning, we have to set those realistic expectations about the things that judges really do want to hear.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: I think the other thing too, is every time we talk about again, the value of a settlement, sometimes clients have the idea in their mind that they want to go to trial. They want their day in court. Absolutely. And I don’t know if that comes from TV or what, but I think the majority of people understand trial is expensive and you often both sides often leave without having any decision that they like and are happy with.
Susan Reff: I actually had a judge say that it was some. I don’t recall what the hearing was, but we were in court in front of the judge with our client’s present, and the judge said something along the lines of like. You know, I think we were getting ready to start mediation, and I think the judge said something like, OK, now you’re going into mediation, I know this was a really tough hearing. I think, you know, mediation is a good refresh restart of your case. And he said, you really don’t want me making those decisions. So, you know, really give mediation a really good shot because it’s the best way for both of you to to have input on the decision versus having me make the decision for you, right? I really appreciated that. I’m not sure the clients heard it, but I think the lawyers all were nodding their heads
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Right and that that comes from the idea, though, that the client’s going to have to give some concessions as part of any sort of negotiation. And I think that’s the difficult thing for a minority. A small amount of clients don’t want to make any concessions.
Susan Reff: Well, especially if they’re stuck on this principle of they have to win one thing or they have to prove something about their ex, right?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: I just had a case settled not too long ago that the judge told us, and the issue was what school was the child going to go to for kindergarten? And these parties had already agreed that they would have joint legal custody, which means they’re going to make these decisions together. And the judge, this was the final issue for trial, and the judge said, I don’t think I’m going to make that decision. They’ve already decided they’re going to make these decisions together. And I don’t want this to fall back on me later if I somehow make a wrong decision. And so you also find that some judges are just not willing to make decisions.
Susan Reff: Well, and that’s probably a like wake up call to the clients who’ve agreed to joint legal custody. They’ve agreed to make decisions together. But then there’s the decision they can’t make together, right? So either they need to revisit whether they should have joint legal custody or they need to take a step back and maybe sit down and talk about the school thing so that they’re both being heard. You know, they both feel they’re being heard and maybe there’s a common ground there somewhere.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Right, judges, we’ll just order you to go back to mediation. Resolve it there.
Susan Reff: Or the judge could strike the provision from the case that they have joint legal custody, right? I mean, that’s possible, I suppose.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Right. And those are the discussions that we have with our clients, right? Here’s your here’s your risk, right?
Susan Reff: The risk is that the judge could think that you can’t agree. So why would you have joint legal custody, right?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: What else do you have that clients do that make your job challenging?
Susan Reff: You know, I think the last the last one that I think about a lot is and I think we’ve kind of touched on this a little bit, but in the in the settlement world, you know, where we go into a discussion and the client has told me, x y z is what they want for settlement. We propose that they’re in agreement. The other side comes back and agrees with X and Y and not Z. So we’re only talking about Z, right? We’re trying to figure out that last little piece and then the client goes back and says, Well, those other things X and Y, I don’t agree to those now.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Are we talking algebra now?
Susan Reff: I was just trying to use an example. Ok? So they agreed on the house and the cars, but not the retirement accounts. And then they change their mind about the the house, right? And we’re, you know, we’ve put that to bed. I thought, like, we’ve agreed on the house. The other side has accepted our
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Offer and we probably told opposing counsel X and Y are good to go
Susan Reff: Right? And. So I think, you know, setting those good expectations of the client, like if we if you say you’ve agreed to it, I’m going to tell the other side. And then we’re going to move on. That’s how you have to handle that, but.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Right. Having the full having one issue hinge on the full settlement, right? So sometimes it’s called a global settlement. And I think as far as strategy goes, when you’re discussing settlement, you may say to opposing counsel, we don’t have an agreement unless everything is agreed upon, but we kind of know that’s not how this works, right? Because the other option is we go to court and you have too many risks on all these things that we’re potentially already settled.
Susan Reff: And the client is spending money to litigate issues that probably would have been able to be settled right instead of just litigating the few issues that they couldn’t reach a settlement on.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Isn’t it true that I mean, we’ve had these discussions in our office, the clients that go to court are less happy than the clients have. They have a settlement.
Susan Reff: Well, I think that that’s absolutely true from just my own experience clients who let someone else make. I mean, think about it when you go to get ice cream, you want to pick out your ice cream flavor. You don’t want some random person to pick out your ice cream flavor that doesn’t even know you like maybe you. You really like chocolate and you end up with strawberry. Like, that’s not even close
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Unless it’s in a banana split. Feel like it’s OK then.
Susan Reff: Well, that’s like the variety pack, right? That’s the sampler platter of ice cream. But I tell clients that all the time I say, You know, your case has been open for six months a year, 18 months, and we’ve been discussing it, this judge. They’re not following
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Along, and the judge is going to give you 10 minutes about those 18 months that you talked
Susan Reff: About. The judge doesn’t follow your case. The judge isn’t tracking our conversations. The judge doesn’t know all the, you know, ins and outs and. We have a very specific format of how we have to present a case to we can’t just go up and tell stories. That’s not how it works, right? And bring in every wonderful person to say how great you are. So, you know, to leave it up to the judge to decide. You’re a it’s a gamble. Right? I mean, it’s a I cannot predict what’s going to happen at a trial
Tracy Hightower-Henne: And if you could, that would be your superpower. It would be. I’d be
Susan Reff: Rich. I’d be in Vegas.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: But if we wouldn’t have trials, then
Susan Reff: Right, I’d be doing other things with my prediction powers. But the judges, you know, I mean, we’ve seen it where one side wants X, the other side wants Y, and the judge picks one side. Right.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: That happens and gives you Z.
Susan Reff: Or yes, the judge comes up with their own concoction and then nobody’s happy. That’s what usually happens. I think if both people are reasonable and they’re asking for their side. But I mean, we’ve both seen it where the judge picks one person side and the other person gets nothing right.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: So and then we get a bad Google review.
Susan Reff: Yeah, that happens, too.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: So then when we talk about all these things that make our jobs difficult, what are the top five things that clients can do that can help us and be good clients?
Susan Reff: Well, I think one thing that the client can do is try to get clarity for themselves on what they really want and then communicate that to us. Right? You know, what is something that you really couldn’t compromise on or what’s a position that you really want to take regarding a part of your case? You know, and I think some of our clients are really good at saying that to us, you know, like a lot of our clients have thought about their divorce for a long time and they kind of have a little bit of a plan and they tell us their plan. And then I think from their little plan, we can pick, OK, well, financial stability is important for this client and you know, from what I know about them. You know, how can I help them reach financial stability, right?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: And so maybe always checking in with the client to to see if their goals have changed?
Susan Reff: Yeah, that’s a good one.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: I think number two is having professionals on the case with you if necessary. So if your client needs the help of a therapist to work through their emotions, that that’s really important and being open to that idea as a client.
Susan Reff: Yeah, and I think it’s we’re really lucky, I think we we know we’ve worked with some therapists, right, that we can refer clients to. So we know personalities and, you know, I think that puts clients at ease to to say, you know, we’ve worked with this person before. They’ve really helped some of my clients in the past. I think you’ll like them.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yeah, and it may not have to be a long term relationship either, just short term to help through these things that they need to be mentally healthy for during their divorce. And the other thing, too, is just because someone seeing a therapist doesn’t mean they’re going to be involved in the case. It’s almost rare that a therapist is ever going to be involved in a in a court case
Susan Reff: Right there kind of outside the circle person just supporting
Tracy Hightower-Henne: The client, right? And maybe even the opposing party doesn’t need to know.
Susan Reff: Oh, sure. Yeah. I don’t think they do. So that was number one and number two. Number three, I would say, is don’t compare your case to other people’s cases. And that includes Google, right? Like or Jeeves or yeah, whatever electronic device, movie, book. Anything outside of, you know, the four corners of your case is not very helpful.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Right? I think most movies and shows about divorce are either take place in California or New York, so that definitely doesn’t apply. But yeah, have your family and friends be or support people, but not, you know, your comparison of the case? Yeah.
Susan Reff: So number four, what do you think? What do you have for number four?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Well, number four definitely might be the most important one, and that’s just having trust in your attorney and following the advice that your attorney is giving you or ask questions, too. What other advice is there? Maybe there’s, you know, you can come up with some different things if the client’s goals have stayed the same, too. But I think following your attorney’s advice is probably the most important thing in any attorney client relationship, right?
Susan Reff: Have you ever? Done. Have you ever said I told you so to a client?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Hmm. No. Out loud, no. In my head all the time. Have you?
Susan Reff: Yes, but not in those words. It was one of those clients that really wanted to get the case done like fast. And it was a high asset case, and I threw up some, you know, caution signs and said, I think we need to slow this process down and and she didn’t want to. And so we signed the offer and everything was good, and then she came back. I don’t know quite a while later, like more than six months later and said, I think I should have gotten more. And so at the end of that gal’s case, I had written a very long letter to her explaining everything that the settlement offer entailed so that she and I think for her, that helped her also know because she liked to look at things, you know, she knew what she was getting.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Did you send it in the mail with like a red flag attached to it?
Susan Reff: I don’t know if I sent it in the mail or send it on email, but she definitely got it because when she came back in to talk to me, she had it with her, with notes on it. And, you know, she was the one who at the end of that conversation was like, Well, you didn’t. You haven’t said I told you so, but that’s what kind of what you’re saying.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yeah. So what’s a better way to say I told you so? Remember that time we talked about X, Y and Z, and you wanted a B and C? Yeah. All right. So what’s number five?
Susan Reff: I think the number five one is, is, you know, don’t don’t get so caught up on like. That principled thing, whatever that thing is, that you want to prove unless it’s something that your attorney has said. If we can prove that it will increase your spousal support or if we can prove that you know, the judge is likely to award you more money from a retirement account. But if it’s just something to win or get one over on the other side or create a feeling in the case, it doesn’t it doesn’t actually do anything right, so there’s no use in it.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yeah. And often if you’re wanting to win on those one things that have nothing to do with your goals in the case, you’re just wasting time and money.
Susan Reff: Yeah, I do. I do always allow clients to tell those stories to me, and I listen and I try to, you know, be empathetic and then I try to wrap it back into, you know, these judges, they have dockets of, you know, six hundred and eight hundred cases, and it’s not all just divorces. So, you know, you think what you’re telling me is really bad and that would sway the judge to think this person’s really bad and never give them anything. But they like, try murder cases so
Tracy Hightower-Henne: They don’t have a lot of sympathy for your one principle issue. I’ve had a lot of judges say to me, too, that sometimes our job as lawyers is to not bring a case to trial.
Susan Reff: I definitely think that’s our job. I would agree with that. Yeah, don’t bring bad cases to trial, right?
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Yeah. So great. Five ways you can be a good client. Yeah.
Susan Reff: Five, I mean, there’s probably a lot more, but I think we covered some really good ground talking about these five five things the clients can do to. It’s going to make their case go smoother, right? Right. It’s going to court. It’s going to save them money. They’re going to have a better relationship with their lawyer. They probably will feel better about the outcome of their case in the long run. Right. So I think that those are all really great takeaways from today’s podcast.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to the Lady Lawyer League Podcast. Be sure to like and subscribe. Anywhere you get your podcasts, if you would like to learn more about our firm, Hightower-Reff Law, please visit our website at HR Law Omaha.com. We’ll see you next week.
Ever wonder what happens to your stuff after you die? Well, it turns out that the court has a say. Enter Tosha Heavican: Death Esquire – she’s here to give us an inside look at Probate and Estate Law. In this episode, we’ll be discussing all things related to probating an estate. From understanding how the process works to figuring out who gets what when all is said and done. So listen up – Tosha is about to drop some knowledge! Let’s get started!
What happens after a divorce? What are the different judgments and how do they impact you? In this episode Susan and Tracy cover all of those post decree tasks you need to know when your divorce is final. Once the divorce is final, there are a few things you need to think about. You’ll want to make sure that all the necessary judgments have been issued and that you understand them. Property division, alimony (if applicable), child support/custody—these are all important pieces for your post-divorce life.