If you want to give yourself the best shot at trial, focus on the things in your control that you can do to make your case stronger without spending a dime. Here are six easy ways to improve your case.
1. Journal every day. Keep a log of every communication with your spouse, every difficult encounter and every time your spouse refuses to be reasonable. You want to show the Judge in your case that you have a trustworthy, reliable historical record that will serve as the blueprint at trial. And you want your journal to show that you have consistently done the right thing in all of your interactions with your spouse.
2. Always take the high road. This one is more difficult to explain to clients. It's easier to give a few examples. When your spouse sends you a vicious text message accusing you of something, taking the high road means you don't engage. Simply redirect to what you should be focused on, such as your children, and leave it at that. Don't participate in a long, back and forth, email mail or text message exchange with your spouse that only proves you are both immature, angry and unable to focus on your children. When your spouse resorts to name calling, don't strike back. Ignore it. When your spouse threatens to ruin you, get you fired or call your boss, ignore it. That's taking the high road. Don't engage in low level communications; don't threaten; don't attack your spouse; don't make your sole objective to harm your spouse.
3. Be transparent. Not disclosing all of your assets is illegal and will lead to trouble. Full disclosure is required. Do you really want to pend tons of money on attorney's fees fighting necessary disclosures? Not revealing key facts to your lawyer can also hurt you at trial. If you've had an affair, admit it. Don't try to pretend otherwise. Your lawyer only knows as much as you tell him or her. Concealing information will not improve your chances of winning. Lying will definitely hurt your case. Don't leave out the facts when dealing with your spouse or your lawyer. It is far better to confront issues openly and honestly than to cover them up.
4. Be consistent. Don't sit down with your lawyer and map out a strategy only to pursue a different strategy when dealing with your spouse. You need to work as a team with your lawyer and stick to your guns. Being wishy washy and repeatedly flip flopping will not only cost you more in legal fees but will get you less of what you want in negotiations.
5. Be organized. Being organized can significantly help minimize your attorney's fees. Delivering all of the financial records to your attorney in a neat and correctly labeled stack will help streamline your case. Responding to discovery as soon as it is sent to you without your lawyer having to send fifteen follow up emails will also save you money. Going one step further and creating Excel spreadsheets and charts or other summaries will reduce the amount of time your attorney spends doing these tasks. Anything you can do to organize your case will help you zero in on the issues and minimize fees.
6. Be flexible. In real life, we all have days when we are running late or unexpected issues arise that require a change of plans. Be flexible when your spouse asks you to be. Don't rigidly adhere to a parenting schedule or exchange time when your spouse has a conflict beyond his or her control. Showing that you are flexible is one way of convincing a judge that you are committed to doing the right thing.
You can build a strong foundation in your case even if you don't have to have a lot of money by following these tips.