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How to Improve Your Chances for a Satisfactory Settlement

By Sari M. Friedman, General Counsel
Fathers' Rights Association, LI and NY

Everyone understands the importance of having a good lawyer in matrimonial litigation. But everyone does not realize how significantly your chances for a good settlement improve when you are a good client. What does that mean?

How to Be a Good Client

A good client/attorney working relationship based on truthfulness is key to achieving the best possible results. To be a good client you should:

  • Give your lawyer all the facts in the case as you know them to be
  • Reveal, where possible financial information affecting the case.

Supply documentation if you can

  • Be honest with your attorney. Failure to honestly tell your attorney of both positive or negative facts mitigates his/her ability to give you realistic advice
  • Prioritize what you want to achieve in this litigation, listing priorities in order of importance. When constructing a settlement that will best meet your needs, your lawyer needs to know what he/she can negotiate away in order to win in those areas of primary importance to you.
  • After you tell your attorney what your priorities are, listen to your attorney if he/she tells you some of these priorities may not be achievable in court. You've chosen your lawyer for his/her expertise in the area of law that is of greatest concern to you. Listen and take the good advice offered to you.
  • Restructure priorities based on your attorney's recommendations.
  • Avoid insisting on unrealistic priorities that your attorney warns are not achievable. Insisting simply drags out negotiations, adds to cost, and will leave you dissatisfied with the results.
  • Refrain from devoting your financial and personal resources on matters not achievable. That course of action will leave you financially and emotionally drained. For example, why would you want to fight over furniture that you might love when you can settle for part of the furniture and replace the rest.

If you do not understand something or have questions - and who doesn't? -- during the procedure, speak up and ask. Don't expect your attorney to be able to read your mind.
After you have reviewed the adversary's motion papers,one of the most effective ways to communicate with your attorney is to fax him/her a concise note on your position. The key word here is concise. You're going to be handling a lot of emotion but, try to remember, your attorney is not your therapist. He/she wants only facts that can be used in drafting a response.

Long drawn out explanations or tirades are counterproductive and will only add unnecessary expenses. Your attorney wants and needs your input for a response. Writing it concisely and factually will produce the best possible results. Ideally, the good client will work with his/her lawyer on a strategy that will achieve the client's most important priorities. For example, your biggest concern might be satisfactory custodial and visitation rights. Assumedly, you have chosen a lawyer with good experience in this area of the law. So go for it. If you've established a good attorney/client relationship, and your goals are legally realistic, you should be able to get what you want.


The goal of this article is to help you establish a good working relationship with your attorney by being a strong, honest and dedicated partner in your litigation. We cannot stress enough how important it is to be a good client. The outcome of your litigation depends upon that. Following these suggestions will enhance your chances for success.

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