Most family law attorneys use a well-worn script for their client intake process. But do they ask the right questions? Years of experience have taught Eva Kogut that there is a better way.
The Typical Aproach
When a client meets with an attorney for guidance on divorce, the discussion often centers on the facts regarding the process and possible outcomes in court. The attorney is trained to immediately present and explain various legal strategies for divorce.
While all of this is very useful, the client may need or want to talk about issues in their family structure that are triggering the divorce. Frequently, there is more to the story, and those extra details could uncover points and circumstances that lead to more favorable legal outcomes for the client.
A New Approach Part I: Open-Ended Questions
Encouraging a client to share more than just the facts can shed further light on the situation. What is important to them? What are their goals? What are their biggest concerns about the process? When an attorney asks open-ended questions and talks less, the client can share more personal information which enables the attorney to better crystalize the outcome and develop the most productive path for getting there.
For example, the client says, “I have a house in Chicago and really want to keep it.” In a traditional consultation the attorney may probe whether the client will be able to afford the house without financial support and deliver this response, “Maybe it’s not such a good idea to keep the house.” With this conventional route, the attorney goes directly to providing an opinion.
A more effective way to react to the client’s desire to keep the house would be to ask, “What about the house is so important to you?” The client’s answer, “The kids are struggling with the divorce, and we need to have a constant during this transition,” is more authentic and provides context that will help shape the legal strategy.
A New Approach Part II: Explaining the Different Paths to Divorce
Mediation, the collaborative process and traditional litigation are three paths to achieve a divorce. These ADR approaches use various methods of conflict resolution to settle outside of the courtroom.
In the collaborative process, trained mental health and financial professionals join with clients and their attorneys to work out arrangements without the threat of litigation.
For any of these divorce strategies to be effective, both parties need to engage fully and be willing to candidly talk with one another. Only by listening to the client, an attorney can determine which approach would better serve the divorcing party, thereby potentially saving time, money and heartache.
Legal Strategies After Q&A
Once armed with this better understanding of the client’s needs, goals and preferences, attorneys can recommend the best path to reaching divorce, whether it be litigation, mediation or the collaborative process.
Kogut & Wilson can provide guidance and support on all types of family law matters. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with one of our attorneys to help you choose the right strategy when divorcing.