Needless to say, divorce attorneys expect to be paid for all those court appearances as well as the time they spend consulting, researching, preparing motions, and writing letters.
If they’re being paid hourly, the meter normally starts running from the time they leave the office to go to the courthouse. And it continues running while they’re waiting for the case to be called, for witnesses to appear, for the other attorney to make arguments, and for the judge to make a decision. Only you can decide whether your eventual reward will be worth the time and expense of a trial. In making that decision, balance your passion with cold-eyed realism. And make sure you understand the pitfalls you’re likely to encounter.
Attorney Mark Baer identifies the main risk in going to trial: “You can’t predict what a judge will do,” he says. “You don’t know for sure what the result is going to be.” Only one result is virtually certain, according to Baer: “You’re not going to see two people walking out of the courtroom happy. You’re either going to see one person happy and one person unhappy, or you’re going to see two people unhappy.”
Richard Vogl is a retired commissioner in the Superior Court in Santa Ana, California, who now volunteers for legal aid programs. During his career of over forty years he observed a wide range of human motivations in the courtroom setting. He mentions: you may have a situation where everybody’s taking a position and they’re not going to budge and you get the attorneys involved and the attorneys can either help you reach agreement, or they can litigate. And every case is different, depending on the personalities of the parties and/or the attorneys.
As Vogl notes, it’s not always the divorcing parties that drive the process: you may have the parties that want to resolve the cases but maybe their attorneys do not, for whatever reason. So the case takes on the personalities of the attorneys. And sometimes litigants are motivated by an unreasonable desire for vengeance: you may have a person [who says], “I know that it’s going to cost me $100,000 to collect $110,000 or $90,000, but I don’t care. It’s the principle of the thing. I want to do it.” It’s because they’ve been wronged in some way, or they feel they’ve been wronged. So now they’re going to make the other side pay.