(The following content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to create a lawyer/client relationship between the author and the reader)
Dealing with issues outside of your comfort zone can be very daunting. Legal issues – whether it be for separation/divorce, transferring real property, dealing with an estate, traffic violations, taxation law, incorporations, criminal charges, etc – are even more terrifying. Just like you wouldn’t have an ear doctor perform heart surgery on you, choose a lawyer who is skilled in the area of law in which you need representation.
This kind of advice applies to anything and everything. Deal only with people who have the expertise you require. If you have to walk through a mine field, follow in the footsteps of the person who has made it to the other side, the person who knows what to watch out for and has the tools to get you to the other side safely. By trying to save money or by dealing with someone without the proper expertise, just because you know them, is a surefire way of creating collateral damage.
An example of collateral damage could be missing proscription dates (i.e. timelines mandated for commencing claims or answering claims), or failing to ask for what you are legally entitled to have. By using a generalist who attempts to negotiate a settlement on your behalf, you may be prejudiced if the other party relies on compromising statements made in those negotiations, to your detriment.
Collateral damage invariably includes the damaging of a previously amicable relationship – one where an acceptable agreement could have been reached. Lawyers are sometimes responsible for making an otherwise amicable relationship very hostile. Therefore, choose your lawyer wisely. Everyone knows that when emotions come into play, reason goes out the window.
Another example of collateral damage is damage to your credit rating. If your name is linked to a debt, your credit is at risk. Therefore, regardless of who should be responsible for paying the debt, you may just want to pay it in the meantime or take steps to ensure that the creditor does not place the bill into collection. You can always attempt to recover your payments ultimately from the person who is responsible for the debt. On the other hand, once your credit is adversely affected, it takes years before it can be repaired.
Perhaps two of the biggest collateral damage in family law are to your mental /emotional health and to your relationship with your children. Separating/divorcing parties need to seriously ask themselves if “winning” is more important than their emotional/mental health and the well-being of their children.