Divorcing? Do You Want Your Attorney to be a Problem-Solver or a Troublemaker?

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser—in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.

–  Abraham Lincoln

As a collaborative attorney and mediator, I’m trained to be a peace-maker and problem-solver. I am always on the lookout for ways to help clients come to an agreement that is safe and secure for both of them. My goal is to help them focus on the future, as opposed to traditional divorce attorneys or litigators who are sometimes more focused on the past and who did what to whom. I keep the focus on solutions instead of blame. I try to make peace instead of more trouble.

If you and your spouse seek out peace-making and problem-solving attorneys instead of trouble-making attorneys, you can have a better divorce. Consider the differences between problem-solvers and troublemakers.

  • Trouble-making attorneys look for weak spots. They’re going to focus on the weaknesses of the other party, or in his or her position. They’ll dig deep into the couple’s personal lives in the hopes of finding those weaknesses and try to pull the parties apart.
  • The problem-solving attorneys will focus on strengths in the relationship or in the client and try to build on those strengths. These attorneys may advise the client to talk about important issues face-to-face if it’s going to be a productive conversation and will provide advice about how to make it so. More than once I have said something like this to a client, “So you had a great conversation with your spouse about the future parenting schedule! That’s great. Keep it up and let me know if you need my help in any way.”
  • Trouble-making attorneys are going to tell the client what they want to hear, even if it’s an unrealistic outcome:
    • “Oh yes, you’re going to get lifetime support. You’ll never have to work again.”
    • “Yes, you’ll end up with 50-50 custody. Don’t worry.”  
  • A problem-solving attorney is going to be honest with her client with a dose of tough love:
  • “You’re going to have to go back to work. You’re only 43 years old and your kids are in school full time. Let me refer you to career coaches who can help you”
  • “50-50 custody doesn’t work for every family. Let’s focus on getting a schedule that is best for the children and still provides you with the quality and quantity of time that allows you to be the parent you want to be.”
  • Trouble-making attorneys are going to encourage distrust based on past performance. If the opposing spouse has been unfaithful, the trouble-making attorney is going to use that as an excuse not to trust him or her.
  • The problem-solving attorney is going to say, “Okay, somebody made a mistake, but past performance doesn’t indicate future results. So how can we find ways for you to trust each other again? Let’s start by building smaller agreements.
  • A trouble making attorney is going to make threats when the parties don’t easily come to an agreement.
  • Problem-solving attorneys are going to try to find productive ways to bridge differences.  They will seek common ground and look for ways to get closer to where the other spouse is.

I have to admit that I liked making trouble as a child (didn’t most of us!), but my clients aren’t hiring me to act childlike. They hire me because I am helping them to solve and avoid future problems in a mature and thoughtful way. I’m able to provide a more positive experience for my clients because I encourage and support them to be at their best during this incredibly difficult time in their lives. In the end, it is much more satisfying for me as a lawyer—but more importantly, it is much more satisfying for my clients and for their children.

Andrea Vacca

570 Lexington Avenue, Suite 1600
New York, NY 10022
avacca@vaccalaw.com