At least one news service reported that, during a purportedly heated and prolonged custody battle, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt had a secret meeting to resolve their child custody differences. It seems the timing of this meeting followed on the heels of Ms. Jolie changing counsel, which, one could speculate, had an impact on the meeting taking place at all. And whether the report of the meeting is actually true, and whether a new attorney caused the change of trajectory, the lessons are important. Because litigating a custody battle can serve a purpose, but being able to resolve custody issues amicably and on terms everyone can agree to is often the best option.
There are certainly times when litigation is warranted and necessary, but those times are not as prevalent as many may think. I have represented clients in high conflict custody disputes for years in cases involving mental illness, substance abuse, or verbal, emotional, or physical abuse, cases in which an agreement between the parties will not happen and is likely not in the children’s best interest. But for those parents who simply don’t get along, or whose hurt or anger blinds them to what the future could be and should be for their two-home family, a lengthy battle will not often provide the outcome they want, but will be costly (emotionally and financially).
So, in choosing an attorney, while an aggressive style may be immediately appealing, be mindful of the potential unwanted consequences of that choice. While many of us “aggressive attorneys” know when to turn down the heat, know when to advise our clients to stop and think, or know when to ask for a meeting or push for an attempt for a meeting of the minds, an attorney who is aggressive for no other reason than because that’s what they think you want, or because that’s the image they want to project, may not be the right attorney for your family. “Winning” is an elusive goal in a “battle” over the care of children. Instead, clients are rarely happy because of the damage these battles will inflict, both at the time of trial and, often, for years to come. Making a choice for an attorney who can tell you when to fight and when to negotiate is always the right choice, for you, for your children, and for your future.