I recently found this article at the Georgia Family Law Blog. Its an insightful look at divorce from the perspective of a seasoned divorce lawyer. Here it is in its entirety:

1. What behavior of clients still surprises you?
That couples who did not get along during their marriage expect a divorce judge to suddenly make them cooperate with each other.

2. What determines how fast a divorce can be obtained?
The psychological point the parties are at. Some are ready to end it, get on with their life. Others use the process as a catharsis to re-live their entire marriage, vent their frustration and assert blame.

3. What is the best advice to give to a non-custodial parent?
Be polite and kind to the custodial parent. They control access to your children. Regardless of your visitation, the custodial parent has tremendous control. You may be rude behind their back but never to their face. It’s a game you need to learn to play well or you could lose something greater than your pride.

4. What is the best advice to give a custodial parent?
Let your ex have the children as much as they will take them. You need a break. They are the perfect babysitter. You know they will take care of them and if they are around the children alot, they will be more sensitive to their needs.

5. Does joint custody work?
It can. Some people are naturals at it; others need a little help. A child psychologist can help those who don’t realize they have damaging behavior. Putting the child in the middle and parental alienation are classic problems in joint custody.

6. What is the worst fear of most women?
That their spouse will fight them for custody.

7. Do most men fight for custody?
There are two categories of those who do: Men who honestly want custody. Men who want to scare their wives into accepting less child support provided they later relinquish the fight.

8. How can you tell the difference?
From the obvious. Those who never spend any time with their children prior to the divorce being filed; those who travel and are never home; those who have girlfriends. These guys don’t want custody.

9. Any way to control those who are insincere?
For the ones who are just using custody as a fear factor, you should call their bluff. Offer them custody and watch them run.

10. Does guilt play a part in the outcome of a divorce?
Yes. Usually the party that seeks the divorce is willing to take less. Men who want the divorce and have children are willing to pay more support and often give up the house to the wife and children.

11. Does mediation work?
If you have an experienced mediator, you can usually resolve some of the issues. The mediator’s experience should match the sophistication of the parties.

12. As an attorney, what do you learn from the mediation even if the divorce doesn’t settle?
It’s a great way to evaluate opposing counsel and their client. Most clients and attorneys reveal the strength of their case at mediation because they are trying to influence the mediator. It’s a great way to find out everything that is going to be presented against you at trial. It is also a good way to find out what the opposing counsel knows about your client.

13. As an attorney, can you influence a mediator?
Usually, but you should do this when you are alone with your client and the mediator. You can ask the mediator to present issues a certain way. They will hold any information confidential that you ask them to. You can explore all types of settlement offers to find the give and take.

14. Is it advisable for the attorney to be aggressive at mediation?
I think you should save your best arguments and evidence for the Judge. Their opinions are the only ones that matter. If the opposing side hears damaging evidence prior to the trial, you can bet they will have a good prepared response when they hear it at trial.

15. Does the personality of the parties influence the Judge?
Yes. I like to find out what question I need to ask to make their spouse mad and that is the first one I ask.

16. How do you prepare your client for trial?
I prepare and go over their questions and answers in advance. That way they know at least 50% of what is going to happen.

17. What is the best advice you can give your client in the courtroom?
The judge determines everything. Although the judge doesn’t ask the questions, you should look at the judge when you answer. It is his courtroom. Get him involved. Read the situation. If he looks bored or disinterested, make your answers short. Be respectful. Don’t argue with the opposing attorney and never, never argue with the judge.

18. What practical considerations should a party consider when testifying?
The judge makes a decision based on a very limited view of the situation. In doing so, perception becomes reality. If one witness is better organized, more articulate, the judge can understand their testimony. For someone to make a decision, they have to be able to understand the facts. Unorganized testimony is difficult to follow. Also. perception gives credibility. Witnesses who are neat and clean and speak in an even tone without anger or bitterness are received as more truthful. Arrogance is a certain loser. Create advantages. If no one believes you, your evidence and testimony loses its importance.

19. Can you tell us if there are any tactics opposing counsel use that in your opinion have been unnecessary?
When they refuse to concede they are wrong and force the issue before the judge. These include filing a petition in the wrong county; asking for the non-custodial parent to pay for college when the law does not provide that they have to; denying their client had an affair when the client has had a child with their girlfriend/boyfriend; asking for support which exceeds the non-custodial parent’s income; demanding personal property for their client which was the pre-marital property of the opposing party; asking for half of spouse’s retirement when 75% was accumulated prior to the marriage; demanding visitation with their spouse’s children by a prior relationship. The list can be endless.

CLOSING THOUGHTS: I am assisting people at a very difficult time in their life when they are called upon to make major decisions when they are not emotionally prepared to make them. I try to give them a sense of control over a situation that appears out of control. I try and give them feedback on how their behavior will be perceived to the Court and suggest directions which reflects more favorably on them. I strive to narrow the issues to the best settlement possible so they can determine if it’s a settlement they can live with or whether they would rather take their chances with the decision of the Judge. Often times, a Judge will be more fair than the person you have been married to.

ORIGINAL SOURCE: DivorceNet

Jim Jeffries | Mobile & Baldwin County Attorney

Jim currently is a member of the Alabama Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Child Support Guidelines and Enforcement as well as a statewide committee that has been tasked with reviewing and making recommendations for possible revisions to Alabama's version of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). Jim was also recently appointed by the President of the Alabama State Bar Association to a serve on a committee whose purpose is to review and comment on Alabama legislation regarding joint custody for a proposal to the Alabama Legislature for possible changes in this legislation.

Jim has attained a Peer Review Ranking of AV from Martindale-Hubbell® - The highest an attorney can be ranked by his peers.

He continues to lecture to attorneys across the state regarding family law issues.

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