Last-Minute Calls in Divorce and Family Law Cases

I get lots of calls from potential divorce and family law clients who have, for one reason or another, waited until the last minute to hire a lawyer.    By last minute I mean they have waited until a week or two (or less) before an important trial or hearing before calling on me.

I’m not talking about situations where there is an emergency case filed (like emergency child custody or a request for a domestic violence protective order); here I am talking about situations that have been developing for months and the potential client calls just before something big is going to happen in his or her case.

Understanding the Last-Minute Phenomenon

As a naturally inquisitive person, I always ask the question, “Why did you wait until now to call me?”  The answers I get are all over the place. Here are just a  few of the actual answers I have heard to that question:

Reasons Behind Procrastination:

  • “I don’t know.”
  • “I thought we could work it out.”
  • “I thought I could handle it and it’s, well, complicated.”
  • “I just found out he/she hired a lawyer, so I guess I need one too.”
  • “I don’t want to be sanctioned by the judge!  What does “sanctioned” mean?”
  • “I’m scared to go to court alone.”
  • “I don’t want to go to jail.”
  • “My _____ finally convinced me to get a lawyer.”
  • “I did not have the money to hire a lawyer.”
  • “I’ve been on vacation.”
  • “My previous lawyer just fired me.”

Consequences of Last-Minute Approaches

From there, the exchange usually goes like this:
Me: “So what has been done to get your case ready for trial?”
Them: “Umm, nothing, but I do have a big blue Rubbermaid container that we tossed our bills and junk mail into for the last couple of years.”
Me: “What about your mandatory disclosure?
Them: “I read about those.  I think that’s what the motion for sanctions is about that came in the mail yesterday.”
Me: “So when, exactly, is your alimony trial?”
Them:  “Next Thursday.”
Me: “You’ve got a problem. “
Them: “I know, that’s why I called you, I hear you know how to handle this kind of thing.”
Me: “I’ve already got a hearing next Thursday.  I’d have to drop everything to take care of this for you.  I can’t drop everything to handle this for you.”
Them: “Well can’t you do my case too since you will be at the courthouse anyway?”
Me: “No, that won’t really work.”
Them: “Why not?”
Me:  “You have to understand, it’s not only the time in court.   I have to learn everything about your case, pull all these documents together, and fix whatever can be fixed that you’ve muddled up over the last few months.  What you are asking me to do is give up my time off this weekend with my family and work on your case.”
Them: “OK, when can we get started?”
About half the time I end up agreeing to take the case because I want to help as many people as I can.  However,  for reasons which should be clear if you’ve read this far, you should not want to be that last minute caller.

"Representation Matters"

"Scott was wonderful throughout the long process and it was clear to me that Scott was knowledgeable of case-law and the Wake County Court system, as well as being especially strong in court. His representation resulted in additional parenting time following the temporary custody trial and since the case proceeded to a full trial, I was ultimately awarded the custody arrangement I was seeking. My daughters reside in Wake County and now if my ex-wife chooses to relocate, I’ll have full legal custody of the girls. Throughout the process, Scott was responsive, provided extremely helpful advice, and genuinely cared about the outcome of my case. I would strongly recommended Scott’s representation for custody matters."

Jon H

"Cared About My Situation"

I was out of options and Scott was there to help. I have spoken to or met many attorney's in Wake County and Scott was the only one that REALLY actually cared about my situation. It sounds cliche' but it's not. I could clearly tell that Scott had given a lot of thought to my case. Scott has extensive knowledge of the law. That knowledge coupled with his cerebral approach and courtroom presence were a savior. - Ken

"Secured My Life"

"Scott Allen and his team were sensational during my divorce proceedings. They kept me well-informed of the procedures, requirements, and options. They took the time to explain to me at every step of the decisions and options as we moved forward in my life. Their support, knowledge and presence were comforting in my time of need and help me get through the ordeal. While no divorce is pleasant outcome they help me secure my life and begin a new chapter with a fresh start. Their extensive knowledge of the law and arbitration and negotiation skills were invaluable in getting a good settlement and resolution. I am very pleased that I selected Scott and his team to represent me. I would emphatically recommend Scott and to anyone who is facing a divorce or possibility of a divorce."

Steven D

"Fought for My Rights"

I wanted to go to court and he went with it. During the initial hearing and all the subsequent hearings he fought for my rights and presented my case diligently and proved the claims by the other party to be false. Most of the lawyers, will tell you settle as it saves them and the court time, but it might not be always in your best interest. Scott is not those lawyers, he really cares about his clients and is not afraid to litigate or fight for his client’s right in the court. - Susan

"I Began to Sleep Better at Night"

Scott Allen took my divorce case after my first lawyer failed to stand for my rights.Scott took the case and I began to sleep better at night. My marriage ended from abuse so I was very weary. - Felicia