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As a client in a divorce or custody matter, everything is personal. It feels like every pleading, process, meeting, mediation, or court date has the potential to harm or help you and your family. As a result, it’s extremely important to retain an experienced family law attorney when you are involved in a divorce, custody, modification, or enforcement matter.


However, an experienced family law attorney has seen hundreds, if not thousands, of divorce and custody cases. An unavoidable consequence of seeing so many cases is that very few situations feel new or unexpected. You might feel like your attorney just doesn’t ‘get it’ or ‘believe in you’ because they aren’t reacting as a normal person should react to the intense, awful, and surprising things that you are experiencing. However, it’s important to understand why your attorney isn’t reacting, and how that might actually be a good thing.


In fact, you should proceed with caution if you observe your attorney being especially reactionary or overemotional about your case. Attorneys need to maintain objectivity to competently represent you. When you say, “This is what’s happening,” your attorney needs to be able to say “Does the evidence support this?” or “Could something different actually be happening?” If your attorney questions you, it may feel like they don’t believe you or believe in you, but if your attorney doesn’t question you, they aren’t doing their job.

An attorney that is too emotionally involved in your case cannot maintain objectivity. They cannot think critically. They cannot anticipate opposing counsel’s arguments or the court’s observations about your case because they are taking positions based on feelings instead of facts.

The dichotomy between a client’s experience and a competent attorney’s experience is never more apparent than when an opposing party files an affidavit about you in support of their case. Reading your ex’s (or soon to be ex’s) allegations, assumptions, and sometimes outright lies about you is painful. Any rational person would feel violated, defensive, and even fearful. However, your attorney is not reading that affidavit like you are. A good attorney reads an affidavit like a doctor reads a medical history or lab report. They engage in legal analysis, or “issue spotting.” If they are experienced, they are not only analyzing how the law applies, but how your specific commissioner or judge might interpret what was said, and they are determining the best way to respond.


That said, a good attorney will absolutely demonstrate empathy when you are afraid or confused or frustrated about your case. They should also be knowledgeable about and sensitive to power dynamics in relationships, trauma, communication styles, the impact of personality disorders and addiction on families, child development, coping mechanisms, and all of the emotional aspects of family law litigation. You should feel like your attorney is listening and that they believe you. However, a good attorney will absolutely question and challenge you.

They will not react emotionally to pleadings and papers filed in your case. They will never scream, cry, or act in ways that are unprofessional with you or anyone else involved. You should absolutely feel as though they care about your case, but you should feel as though they care enough to maintain boundaries, perspective, and objectivity.

Would you like a consultation with a team of Salt Lake City Family Law Attorneys who balance professionalism with compassion? Just Law Utah is here to act as your legal guides, courtroom and mediation representatives, and moral support. Call 801-274-7000 or fill out an online contact form today to learn more about our legal services and your options during a family law dispute.

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