Read the transcript of this video below.
From the very beginning, there needs to be a divorce plan, and the lawyer needs to get a handle on the issues right away. This can be done in the initial consultation depending upon how much the client knows. But if not done then, it’s accomplished shortly thereafter. The lawyer should know the procedural steps and how to position the case right away. That’s the procedural aspect.
And then there’s the substantive aspect: what are the issues and how is the court likely to divide them? From the beginning, there should be an approach that will help the client understand where we’re going and what we need to get there. There is the discovery process where financial information is either obtained from the client or from the other side. And once that is done, then there needs to be a chart or divorce plan.
In our cases, we have a community property balance sheet and a separate property balance sheet that families should have and which usually businesses have. Once it’s filled out, the balance sheet will pinpoint where the holes are, where the issues are, what needs to be understood, and what is needed in order to either present a case for a settlement or for trial.
And if there are businesses involved, the business has a balance sheet; the client needs to understand that this is needed to get a hold of the case. And once you proceed to a settlement or trial, the client should actually have as good information both procedurally and substantively as the lawyer knows, because if there is a trial, the client is going to be testifying. The client will know the case just as well as the lawyer does if there is a good preparation.
Tom Montoya is a shareholder with Atkinson & Kelsey and he has practiced family law for over 30 years. He is a frequent lecturer, author and educator. He has taught more than 45 continuing education programs on family law for other lawyers. He has lobbied for more than 30 legislative enactments in family law and testified before the New Mexico state legislature over 60 times. Mr Montoya’s also the Chair of the State Child Support Guidelines Committee and Past Chair of the Supreme Court Civil Procedure Domestic Relations Rules Sub-Committee, which created statewide rules of procedure for domestic relations and domestic violence cases. For more information about Thomas C. Montoya and his firm, please visit www.atkinsonkelsey.com.