Be careful how much authority you give to your attorney.

Posted August 2nd, 2016.

Categories: Custody Tips, Family Law.

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An attorney can only go so far. If you ask your lawyer to negotiate on your behalf in a child custody or visitation dispute, he or she can only make such offers as you authorize in advance.

The general ethical rule among attorneys is that an attorney may not make an offer he has not been authorized to make; he may not accept an offer he has not been authorized to accept. Moreover, an attorney must advise you of every offer, response or counter-offer made by an opposing attorney. This means that an attorney cannot substitute his own judgment for yours. He can’t settle your case and then tell you about it after the fact.

Therefore, you must be crystal clear when you direct your attorney to negotiate on your behalf. Advise your counsel what your bottom line is, and tell him that he may (or may not) reveal your bottom line while the negotiations are underway. Of course, you may benefit from hearing what your attorney recommends, and it may be quite helpful to solicit his advice, based on his experience with such kinds of cases. An attorney can also tell you what a judge is likely to do under a particular set of circumstances. Still, do not dispatch your attorney to negotiate on your behalf without expressly and explicitly discussing how much authority he has.

Example: “Feel free to make any deal that gets me vacation time with my children for at least half of their Christmas break and for at least four weeks each summer. That’s my bottom line, but shoot higher at the outset..don’t tell them what my bottom line is yet.”

You need not micro-manage your attorney, but it is important to keep some level of control over the terms of the negotiation.

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