Behind The Scenes Of Divorce Proceedings (Ep. 14)

In divorce proceedings, half of the battle is behind-the-scenes, when attorneys gather information and build the right strategy for each circumstance. 

In this episode, Justin Sisemore and Andrea Jones focus on the process behind divorce proceedings and how attorneys function as a team to build your divorce strategy. Justin shares how he stays in constant communication with the client and ensures they are confident in the team.

Justin and Andrea discuss:

  • The first step in starting a divorce proceeding  
  • How technology has made communication easier for attorneys and their clients, as well as between attorneys
  • Why compartmentalizing personal emotions is essential for clients when in court and facing their spouse
  • How your actions reflect on future relationships
  • And more!

Connect with Justin Sisemore

Connect with Andrea Jones:

Read the Show Transcript

[00:00:00] Nobody wants to end up in family court, but if you do, you want an honest, experienced family law attorney by your side to help minimize the stress, mental anguish, and legal costs that divorce and custody matters. Bring Welcome to In Your Best Interest. Texas divorce attorney and entrepreneur, Justin Sisemore of the Sisemore Law Firm entrepreneur, Andrea Jones, freelance writer Mary Maloney, and guests share insight on what to expect and how to handle family law matters, the changing landscape of family law, and living the entrepreneur’s life.

[00:00:36] Now onto the show, if you haven’t been through a divorce or child custody case, you may be wondering what to. You may also wonder what steps you and your legal team should take to negotiate your case effectively. We’ll answer these questions and more like what happens behind the scenes during a divorce on today’s episode of.

[00:00:58] In Your Best Interest. [00:01:00] Thanks for joining us for this episode of In Your Best Interest. I’m Mary Maloney, and today, attorney Justin Sisemore, entrepreneur Andrea Jones and I will peel back the onion on the divorce process and provide insight on divorce negotiation tactics. Justin, people who haven’t been through a divorce or custody battle, don’t know what to expect, right?

[00:01:20] So can you shed some light on how the process gets rolling from. You know the point where they get in contact with you and kind of the initial steps that they take from there. I think probably the clearest way to start the process of a, finding an attorney and b, kind of getting your strategy together.

[00:01:38] Uh, obviously you have family and friends who have, may have been through this process, and so the first step is the people that you trust. If you have, uh, a good referral network of somebody that has been through the process and not just a very simple divorce, but more of a complex divorce, if they have some good referral sources for you.

[00:01:58] That’s a good place to start. [00:02:00] Um, obviously, you know, with the age of the internet and Google, uh, and things like that that are out there, it’s also important to do your background home homework. Um, I think the consumers are much more skilled in finding A, the reviews that, that are really heartfelt. I, I’ve seen plenty of reviews out there that just, it kind of looks like they’re a little too automated.

[00:02:21] It’s important to have some negative reviews too. Um, you’re gonna have negative experiences. You know, inside of divorce litigation. Um, and it’s important to read the context of those. Uh, I I think the consumer very much understands that. Some people you just can’t please and if you see everything negative and, and they’re very limited to cost or structure that.

[00:02:42] Doesn’t involve real complaints. You know, they didn’t, they never communicated with me, well, what does that mean? You know, in, in the divorce process, what, what we do a lot of is the behind the scenes work. Um, and so the research and, and the feeling that you have found somebody that you really trust, uh, it’s [00:03:00] a home.

[00:03:00] It’s a, it’s a, it’s a conversation. In the initial consultation, that consultation, if you don’t have a good feeling leaving that consultation, it’s just like anything else. It never gets better. . So I’m very big on making sure that in the beginning of the consultation, after the client has done their homework and after they’ve got their information together, and sometimes they, they don’t know exactly what that looks like, and we’ve talked about that on other podcasts, but, but, but I, I really like to get the client talking and then really limit their q and a session to what my questions are.

[00:03:32] It’s important to start that, uh, in the beginning so that they understand when you get into a court room . And, and we have very limited time on these temporary orders, uh, that, that they fundamentally understand. I can only ask you the question and you give me the answer, and that sounds very elementary, but the reason that’s important is because we’re organizing trains of thought.

[00:03:52] Uh, it’s important that in the consultation, I am very structurally organized, um, and procedurally organized so that I can maximize the [00:04:00] client’s time they can get back to work in their life. Um, and it also shows that you’ve done this, uh, many, many times. If you don’t have a structure in the consultation, it just feels like this kind of long and loosey-goosey conversation.

[00:04:13] What you’ll find is that generally is the way that the representation is carried out. They don’t have clear process in place. The attorney, uh, may not have staff that can help with the behind the scenes. So that consultation is the tone setter in my opinion. The other thing that we’ve talked about before, but it’s important is personality fits.

[00:04:32] Uh, be yourself in the consultation. When you, when you’re doing your research and your homework you know, be yourself and explain what your issues are, um, and let the attorney pull that out of you. And if they don’t pull it out of you or you feel like you haven’t wrapped up. Something that’s really bothering you.

[00:04:47] Let that out. Let some of your personality out because one of the things that I do, uh, at the initiation phase of the consults is really pair up a team. Um, and I try my best to gauge the personalities based on the [00:05:00] communication. And I know it can be nerve-wracking when you’re first talking to a lawyer.

[00:05:03] Uh, we’ve found honestly that the ability to do zoom and phone consult. Has really changed and created more of a sense of comfort. You know, when you’re inside of my office, uh, in my layer, if you will, and you come and you fill out the form and you’re sitting there face-to-face, sometimes that interaction can be much more nerve-wracking.

[00:05:22] Um, and I’m writing down notes and, you know, when I’m on the phone, I’m typing, um, and, and really taking detailed information that I need. And sometimes that breaks the eye contact. So just the interpersonal skills that you, that you generally see, um, sometimes can be lacking in, in, in the face-to-face, which is surprising.

[00:05:39] So the consult again, is, is, is really the biggest piece of that. Um, and then, you know, I’ll lay out the, the structure and I never change. I’m the temporary orders, the discovery, the mediation, the trial aspect of it, and I break down each of those components. And I think clients sometimes have this misconception that this needs to be a long, drawn [00:06:00] out consult.

[00:06:00] I can literally, with. Very massive estates and very complex custody cases. Get the information that’s important, uh, out inside of 30 minutes. And, and the reason for that is I’ve structured it over the years and we’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years and really cultivated a way. And a process to really help you be able to understand the process and then really understand, um, kind of what we need, um, in each compartmentalized step.

[00:06:27] So, um, that, that’s effectively, and I know that sounds a little elementary to some of our listeners, but, but, but that’s really what you have to focus on in the beginning is getting that personality fit, uh, on, on both sides and, and really laying out what that plan looks. I would add to, like, for the consultation, I think it’s a, it’s a telling story.

[00:06:45] How does it lead up to the consultation? Is the process already when you get to the consultation, is there technology involved? Can you book your consultation online yourself? Do you get confirmation emails? Do you know what happens in the cons, uh, in the consultation? I think that’s, we [00:07:00] have heard it from other clients that there’s already a lack if you have to call three times to confirm an appointment.

[00:07:05] That kind of tells you already what the office is structured like. So if the process is streamlined, you should contact them online or via phone call. And then you should have the confirmation when your consultation is and what to do right away. Do they make you fill out a form? Because I think that’s important.

[00:07:20] Justin gets a lot of information. Before he ever gets on the phone, um, if there’s a case number, he can pull the case number out of the system and look what is going on in this case, and then he has the consultation and not be kind of blindsided by the client with all the information that comes in. I think that’s another step before the consultation happens to determine whether the law firm is a good fit for you.

[00:07:42] Yeah, it’s interesting on that too, Andrea, like one, one of the things that clients get surprised by is they, I’m, I’m asking, and I always say, I want to get it in my short form. And the reason for that is twofold. One, uh, when you’re filling out the information, sometimes you make mistakes. And two you know, these forms can be.

[00:07:58] A little bit tedious, [00:08:00] and I want to get it in a very short form so I can answer the questions exactly, uh, as I perceive what the questions truly are. So questions about the house, the finances, who refinances, when do we move out, when do they get served? How do they get served? All these questions are, are answered very streamlined and, and that’s why I get the information that they fill out.

[00:08:18] I use that for our backdrop, but then I pull it out of them in short form. And some clients get perturbed by that because they’re like, well, I already filled that out. Didn’t you read my form. Part of it is just getting people talking and having that sense of trust and, hey, look, let me, let me find out about the, the assets, the finances so that I can start to answer the quick, the quick questions about the temporary orders and what the courts may do.

[00:08:39] So I think that’s another important piece. . So from there, you know, Justin, not every obviously divorce or custody matter ends up in court. So can you give our listeners an idea of what kind of happens behind the scenes during the divorce process as the parties try to come to an agreement? Sure. I, I think, I think that the, [00:09:00] going back to the consult, a lot of what we do is we try to steer people to the right timing of the divorce as much as process.

[00:09:07] And, and the reason timing is important is if you are in a dire straits need where you don’t have your finances in order, and you have taken that ostrich approach to your marriage because you’ve been trusting your spouse, what happens is some people get into the. Consult phase and the temporary orders phase and they have no resources.

[00:09:27] Um, so I think it’s very important that if you’re thinking that divorce may be inevitable, Go ahead and start planning from the financial end, end, and go ahead and get your documents together, get your information together. Because the behind the scenes stuff, I don’t spend a whole lot of time in settlement negotiations, uh, behind the scenes.

[00:09:47] And I think clients get a little confused by what we are speaking to other lawyers about and what we’re not talking about. Uh, most importantly, I, I, I have a very clear mindset of exactly what I want in the case. [00:10:00] Nine times outta 10 from the first consult, I can kind of pin down what I think they need, uh, set up the strategic structure, uh, in, in line with that.

[00:10:09] And then when it comes to the documentation, what we’re generally doing is providing information to the other side. Sometimes just the other lawyer for the c y a approach so that they don’t commit malpractice. Uh, they have the inventory, the other spouse has the documents they need to back up the inventory.

[00:10:25] If it’s a divorce case or if it’s a child custody case and somebody files a modification. What are the grounds for the modification? Is there a material and substantial change? What are, what is the timeline and the history of events? How close in proximity are those events? And what evidence do you have to show, uh, what, what information is gonna be proven by clear and convincing evidence to show that that modification is necessary?

[00:10:47] Or in a child custody case? Uh, what evidence do you have to show that you have the primary and exclusive rights? And, and Andrea always gets on me. She’s like, stop with these legal terminology. I, I try my best. To [00:11:00] really make it very simple in the process, uh, while still letting you know that there is a massive amount of value that it comes with each one of these rights and duties.

[00:11:09] And so sometimes we’ll talk at higher levels, uh, not to try to sound in intelligent or intellectual in any way or not to confuse the client. But just to let you know, these are the focus points and there’s not a whole lot of complexity when it comes to rights and duties and the breakdown of these individual events.

[00:11:25] But there’s a lot of the behind the scenes, back to your question that goes into the information that you need to provide. The other side, I think of countless examples. Where we go to mediation and they don’t have a clear plan of what that, what those rights and duties look like. And they just say things like, I want primary or I want custody.

[00:11:44] And they don’t really know what the breakdown looks like. And the other attorney gets there and they really don’t even have a clear plan. And, and honestly, I hate to use the word mop the floor, but that’s why we mop the floor with people in temporary orders when, when they don’t have a clear plan because they get into court.

[00:11:59] [00:12:00] They, they just used the surface level peel of the onion there. Uh, with respect to what they’re asking for, the conclusions, if you will, uh, without really knowing any of the answers to the primary questions. I just had a massive sports figure yesterday. We finished up and, and that’s exactly how we were able through the temporary orders to get the mediated settlement agreement, which was probably.

[00:12:23] I would say in my career, the most favorable child custody mediated settlement agreement from a financial and visitation rights and duties in that I’ve ever had in my career. . Um, and, and that came because of these steps, and I’m gonna keep beating that into the client’s heads. You must compartmentalize because if you look at the hole and you don’t compartmentalize and you don’t do the behind the scenes at each step, you get overwhelmed.

[00:12:45] And, and so we have to really lay out a clear plan and then compartmentalize it to when you need to take action at each step. So that there will be lag periods, there will be time where nothing’s being done on the case. There will be times where you don’t need to wake up every morning and think, what is my attorney doing to get my [00:13:00] case over with?

[00:13:01] And so laying out that plan behind the scenes with the client in addition to speaking to opposing counsel in addition to information gathering, that is 90 to 95% of what we do to move the case across the finish line. and I think the information that you need or the lawyers need to go to court and to go to the temporary orders hearing is so vitally important.

[00:13:22] But when you are in the process, and I know for myself when I was in the process and you’re going to divorce, it’s, you are overwhelmed emotionally, and now you really have to take it back down to get documentation together. That is annoying. I can tell you it’s annoying and then organizing papers and putting stuff together, but it’s so, so important.

[00:13:41] To give your attorney that information to be able to, to win the temporary order hearings, to get what you want before you ever go to court. So you just have to be organized and, and put it together as hard as it is and as bad it is as, as you are in your mental state. You just have to do it. And again, the paralegals help you with that.[00:14:00] 

[00:14:00] Yeah, Mary, I mean, one thing that clients need to understand too is when you, when you build a legal team, and my name’s on the sign, I build a legal team to support the clients behind the scenes and, and I see a lot of confusion sometimes where the client thinks they have to talk to the lawyer. Or me, because my name’s on the sign the entire time, and I keep, I keep reiterating the fact we really do want to create value and save money and make sure that you have expediency in, in your answers and, and we do so much of just communicating.

[00:14:30] I walk around all day long with my EarPods in and talk to attorneys and talk to my paralegals regarding strategy. I’m hiring paralegals daily. Um, you know, because I, I, I know, I know what clients need and I know what’s important for them, and I know that a lot of this behind the scenes stuff doesn’t need to come with a $500 an hour rate.

[00:14:48] And so if you just trust the attorney and their process that you have and they really lay that out for you, uh, I promise you, you’re gonna end up with a much more financially beneficial result and, [00:15:00] And usually nine times outta 10, it speeds up the process and you get exactly where you need to be. It’s just hard to trust that because you’re going, well, I hired Sizemore and now he’s got so-and-so on this with him, and then he is got this paralegal and then I get, I call the case manager and then I’m getting bills.

[00:15:16] It takes a whole process to run this business effectively in bi, in a big business manner, and that is the behind the scenes and the best lawyers. , in my opinion, are ver vertically integrated, meaning they have the case strategy. They go through that with their attorneys, they have the support system, and they really put the pieces together as it goes along through the process for the clients so that they, the clients don’t have to think, this is already stressful.

[00:15:41] I need to take the thinking out of your, your, your mindset. That’s my job. So Justin, on, on that too. We’ve talked about this in the past as well, that it’s, Really a good idea to consider working with a firm that has those different layers to work with. Um, there’s a lot of divorce attorneys that’s, [00:16:00] it’s like a one man show or a one woman show.

[00:16:02] So can you talk a little bit more about that? Yeah, I, I, the old school way, I know because my dad and mom were both attorneys, brothers and sisters, all that. I guess we couldn’t find, uh, we didn’t have a trust fund or anything else, so we just figured out our path. But one of the things I see a lot of is, especially with some of the old schools, if you will, is they, they want to be extremely involved at all steps.

[00:16:24] And that sounds great, but what ends up happening is I can’t get responses that are needed real time. Um, because they don’t have a team, right? So their bandwidth is spread thin. Uh, they obviously have a, a long standing reputation in the community, and so clients feel, well, that’s great. I’m talking to my lawyer once every other month.

[00:16:43] Uh, and, and that person is doing all this work behind the scenes, but the reality is they’re just spread too thin. And, and with the ease of technology, uh, and, and the, the people like, uh, Andrea and, and everyone around you have to utilize these resources. [00:17:00] I mean, the, the technology, if you’re trying to be Johnny Lawyer every minute, You don’t even have time to look at the technology that can really assist the clients, the client portals, uh, the, the email communications, the constant contacts, the feedback that we’re building inside of a system that we refine.

[00:17:17] Literally, I think Andrea can attest to this daily. And, and, then you’ve gotta get your team on board. With, with refining those processes. So you have to have a, a good business sense. You have to be able to communicate that to your team, and then you wrap it up in a bow so the client doesn’t see all the shortcomings, and then you’re communicating with some, with a client who’s emotional.

[00:17:37] In the process sometimes, and, and you’re, you’ve gotta have all of these skill sets and, and it is just mission critical to get across the finish line, to have that whole team, have that mindset and really utilize them in a manner that’s effective for the client, not just, oh, I’ve got. The gift of Gab and my sales pitch and the consult, and then I’m gonna turn it off to Joe Blow.

[00:17:56] And I never talk to the client, or never th think about strategy again. [00:18:00] Oftentimes I, I don’t have to talk to the client because my team knows exactly what to do, and my client is just very comfortable with that. Uh, and I tell ’em all the time, well, sometimes we’ll have turnover right in, in the midst of litigation.

[00:18:12] Um, you know, and you have to switch lawyers, uh, out in the, in the case or sometimes the client fit doesn’t, isn’t exactly the way you thought it was at inception. And I tell clients, well, you didn’t know the first person that I put on. Did you trust them? Did you like them? That’s my job is to, is to put people in the seats that are servant’s hearts that really fundamentally love this profession and care about the clients.

[00:18:33] And if you do those things, then you can scale and become bigger as a firm. But I can tell you right now, I, I tell people this all the time. I’ll come shine your shoes for 500 bucks an hour, but you may not need me to do that. And I, but if you want to talk all the time and then you want to go through that, My phone is glued to my ear till nine o’clock at night.

[00:18:49] I have no issue doing that. I just really try to drive home the value. I think behind the scenes talking about behind the scenes what Justin just mentioned, there’s so much [00:19:00] technology nowadays in a modern law firm behind the scenes that even if the attorney is exchanged the next one because they might get sick or they whatever are on vacation, whatever it is, everything behind the scenes should be that dead well organized that.

[00:19:13] Any other attorney can step in, look at a dashboard, know what’s going on, and take it from there. If there’s a three hour conversation necessary with the former attorney or the paralegal, what happens? Then you have a problem. And those, those backend or the backend technology and, and clients, our clients can, can, can book a consultation or meeting with an attorney, uh, in their email, they can just say, Hey, I want a case update, and they book some time on the calendar.

[00:19:41] and then attorney makes himself available. No more calling five times and trying to figure out when do I get my attorney on the phone and then he might be in court or be delayed. No, I can look at the calendar. I book my time, I can pick up the phone. We talk for 15 minutes. I know where I stand and I can move on.

[00:19:56] So those things are very, very important. Even while you’re in a case, [00:20:00] make sure that you get that communication from your law firm as you need it. And how is their backend behind the scenes, how is that all structured and organized? And are they experts behind the scenes? . Yeah, Mary, on that point too, I, I have literally received, obviously we step in and fix a lot of problems that have happened with, with other representation, and I see clients come in with just boxes of notes and papers and just disheveled.

[00:20:23] And, you know, back in the day we, we weren’t always as streamlined. We used to have notes and papers and desks, our, our desk all cluttered and all that, and, It’s just not the way to do it, because what ends up happening is you’re having to touch the case and touch that information multiple times instead of organizing it and streamlining it.

[00:20:41] So the timelines, the case list, the next step list, the the calendaring, the, the clieos, the all these. All these softwares that are out there. Sometimes when you get the solo practitioner, they just don’t even have time, uh, to even understand what these things are. Much less they don’t want to use the resources.

[00:20:57] And when you’re trying to keep the money in your [00:21:00] pocket as an attorney, as a growing attorney, um, you know what you, what you find. Just like in any business, you really sell yourself short. You can’t scale yourself. You can’t scale the, uh, the case list. You don’t get better. You don’t adopt a technology because you know your paralegal may not like it or your secretary may not like, you know, this new system.

[00:21:18] And you know, I, I’ve learned through different forms of businesses that we’ve been involved with. You just have to adapt. You have to adapt to that technology because it is so much easier for the client. It’s so much easier for the lawyer. And then you can get down to what really matters. So it’s the working on your business and not so much in it every minute.

[00:21:35] Um, and then, you know, these conversations are much more meaningful when I can pick up my phone and be anywhere, uh, at any time. And a client, you know, has a, a very serious work. They have surgeons and all kinds of people that, that do very, very serious work in the community. They ca they can’t just, Hey Justin, you’re at your desk at 10 30.

[00:21:53] Let me, let me just jump on. So I have to be able to access that information, all the documents, real time, and [00:22:00] that that technology and the behind the scenes stuff is, is just. Absolutely massively critical to, to the success of the, of the case. So you alluded to some tactics earlier that you use in negotiation.

[00:22:11] Like you, you know, timing is, is critical. Can you touch on some other tactics that you use as an attorney during the process? The biggest thing to me in negotiation is knowing what happens at the end. Um, and my dad used to tell me all the time when I was, you know, a puppy lawyer. Uh, he used to say, you know, Justin, you, if you can go into a courtroom, if you can, if you can try a jury trial, if you can truly change the narrative of a client’s perspective, um, because.

[00:22:42] The, you know, what the end game looks like for you, and you have that confidence and you build that strategy backwards. Now you can negotiate, right? If it, it’s no different than if I’m a boxer and I’ve won 50 fights, like Floyd Mayweather and somebody’s coming in, you know, chirping. Uh, it’s real easy for him to go, okay, [00:23:00] keep chirping.

[00:23:00] Let’s go in there. I’m gonna make my money and get it done. So I, I guess the purest form of the negotiation is really understanding from the beginning what the client’s needs are. To getting their expectations in, in the form of reality because sometimes they think that they know what their needs are and sometimes they just don’t know what the future looks like.

[00:23:19] They don’t know how to co-parent in separate environments. They don’t know, um, that cash flow may be more important than asset in a house situation. And so from a standpoint of the negotiation phase, I have to take . My way of doing it, my process from start to finish and then I will end the consult even tell you exactly nine times outta 10 where we’re gonna end up.

[00:23:42] And I can’t ever say guarantees cuz lawyers aren’t allowed to do that. Um, but I can definitely tell you, okay, if I go to court and, and we land in this judge’s court or you have a petition already on file, I can tell you the personality type that we’re gonna be dealing with. I don’t spend a whole lot of time, honestly, Mary, going through.

[00:23:58] Negotiations with other [00:24:00] family lawyers, I’ve found that, uh, sometimes family lawyers are just not very easy to deal with, um, and they don’t understand business. Uh, they, they sometimes get very, very emotionally charged and sometimes. overly personal with their clients. And I think that’s a real disservice because if you get on the phone and start barking at me, I, I can tell you right now, and every mediator I’ve ever dealt with knows this, I will literally shut it down.

[00:24:24] There’s no more negotiations because I know exactly what I want out of a courtroom. And if I’m spending a bunch of time back and forth with you and you’re doing things that are not productive on the other side for the client. And, and it’s both clients. They’re a family. These we’re gonna be gone one day and you’re gonna have to raise a family.

[00:24:41] So if they’re not doing things that are outside the box that are really helpful in the negotiation phase, I know what the court most likely is gonna do. So I don’t even worry about how you feel or you’re barking like a little chihuahua. I don’t get mad or whatever. I just go in there and do what I do in the courtroom and I don’t, I don’t have any worry about.

[00:24:59] Um, the [00:25:00] clients, it’s nerve wracking for them, right? And so I try to take the litigation pieces out if I can, if I can skip temporary hearings because we can get agreements, we do that. So don’t hear me say we’re never negotiating, but I always have a stop gap. And it is, we have a hearing set on this day.

[00:25:15] If we don’t reach or see eye to eye on these terms, here’s what we’re gonna propose. And I don’t ask for things that are unreasonable. I lead the client in the very beginning to realistic expections. Um, and so from a negotiations tactic, I’ll just use yesterday as an example on that, on that big athlete case, um, you know, they were, they were very forthcoming with how it’s gonna go.

[00:25:37] Um, and just because I may know how it’s gonna go, I don’t ever say things like that. That’s arrogant. Uh, you know, I, a judges would get perturbed if I walked in and said, judge, this is how you’re gonna do this. They changed, they’re, they’re humans too, right? I mean, we never know every, every aspect of what the court’s gonna do in a given day or whether they’re gonna even be there.

[00:25:55] They may be sick. So, um, you know, as far as the negotiation yesterday, [00:26:00] One of the things I saw out of the gate was one of the lawyers of the six on the other side, just to let you know what I was dealing with. Uh, one of the lawyers was very open-minded and came up with a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, and I wish I could have just shut the other lawyers out of the room because they were trying to prove their worth to a very high net worth individual.

[00:26:19] And they don’t really think about, you know, in the grand scheme, yes, they may be right legally, but it’s a drop in the bucket for this guy. Right. And, and, and what this can create is a beautiful life for this child. And you know, if you’re, if you’ve just got your lawyer hat on, and I’m gonna win, win, win, win.

[00:26:38] And I want to go out there and beat my chest and show my client how tough I am. And if you have the client that wants that, You’re gonna end up, they’re gonna end up flat on their face. And if it’s not this case, it’ll be the next modification. When you took two pounds of flesh outta somebody and they can’t work with you or the other parent in the future, and they think that everything has to be scorched earth, that is a miserable way to live.

[00:26:59] So in [00:27:00] negotiation, thinking outside of the box and not just demeaning the other attorney or demeaning the other side, I mean, I, I gotta be honest, , and this sounds arrogant. Sometimes you deal with total morons, uh, in, in the legal profession, and I know it. And, and candidly, a lot of the lawyers know who those people are.

[00:27:16] Uh, but you always show a sense of respect because it’s the human decent thing to do, number one. And number two, you’re gonna be on the backside of the kicking mule with some bad set of facts one day. And nine times outta 10, you’re dealing with a lot of the same lawyers. So if you go score stir every, every at every turn, and you don’t allow for some opportunity for.

[00:27:36] People to heal and grow, uh, you know, the negotiation goes south. But, but there’s a lot of things we can do in the negotiation, in the mediation phase that really are outside of the box of what you read on Google, you know, about just, you know, the just and right Justin Wright division of marital estate, best interest of the children.

[00:27:52] We actually did some interviews the other day of these attorneys, uh, that we went through and Andrea and I, uh, were listening to them and [00:28:00] it was like they were reading this canned answer. And I think that a lot of people stick to this canned box, and that’s what makes them ineffective at really coming, uh, to a resolution that’s best for the parties and best for the clients.

[00:28:13] So, Um, I know that’s a long-winded way of answering the negotiation phase, but it’s very, uh, fact specific to Mary. I mean, when it comes to negotiating a house, um, or, uh, the, the child custody, visitation and access, they all have moving parts to them. So that’s at the consultation phase. That’s where we’re getting those pieces in place.

[00:28:35] So, you know, clients also need to do their part in order to make these negotiations go smoothly. Um, some insight from you on that, on what clients can do to smooth the process along. The shortest and fastest way is to be nice. I always say drop the sail, right? If you’re, if you’re in a sailboat and you drop the main sail, you know, if you got the sail up, what happens?

[00:28:58] A lot of times, you know, [00:29:00] the boat’s getting blown, whichever the way the wind’s blowing it, and it’s just like a custody case. If you just. Calm down. I know that sounds some, I hate some sometimes when people tell me to calm down. Uh, but if you just take a breath and just go, all right, I’m gonna be okay.

[00:29:15] God has my back here. He’s not giving me more than I can take, and at the end of the day, time will heal. This, it may not feel that way right now, but time will always heal these things. Um, you know, we’ve, we’ve gone at length in podcasts about what that looks like, uh, from infancy stages of the child custody relationship, uh, to their 18th birthday, to their weddings, to their birth of their children, to their marriage, to their, you know, now all of a sudden they’re taking care of their parents like I am.

[00:29:45] Your life changes. And, and when it comes to what the clients need to do is, first, they need to remember that they are not the only one that is affected by this. If, if you don’t have kids, you’ve built this life [00:30:00] together, you still have these assets. That have to be dealt with. They have to be sold, they have to be transferred.

[00:30:06] Sometimes you’ll run a business with your spouse post divorce. I don’t like doing that by the way, but sometimes you do those things with kids, you know, you have to, you have to strategically think. I like to just project when you’re, when you’re old and gray, uh, and you’re, you’re all these things are happening, your kids are getting married.

[00:30:25] What are you gonna be like at that wedding when you’ve been just scorched earth and, and not a, uh, not a good, decent human? And I know that sounds so elementary, but, but I, I see so much good in this world, but I also see so many people. That have an agenda because they’ve been wronged or, or they haven’t had people that they really trust giving them good advice or they haven’t had a good upbringing or they’ve been abused, or there’s been situations of financial abuse in the marital relationship.

[00:30:53] And my job, the only reason I do this job is to change the hearts of people. So they end up [00:31:00] being better people. Uh, that makes better. Kids that turn into better people and that if we can do that small little imprint on this world, I mean, what else am I doing? Am I dividing up your, uh, assets? I mean, you can take a calculator out and a monkey can divide up what that looks like.

[00:31:15] Am I dividing up a Tuesday? Well, there’s seven days in a week. You can figure that out. Am I dividing up the rights and duties? Uh, yeah. I mean, some of that too, that’s an important piece. But at the end of the day, what I’m doing is helping you understand, a, you have somebody that you can trust, a team that you can trust, and B, we’re gonna walk you through these issues and you’re not gonna always be on your best behavior.

[00:31:35] You’re gonna say some stupid stuff. You’re gonna do some things that without. You know, someone really that has your back, that you trust you, you’re gonna have to defend those in a courtroom. And so when I can get those skeletons and get out of their closet and get the clean hand client, even if we don’t get exactly what we wanted in the result, nine times outta 10, they’ll end up being where exactly where they want to be [00:32:00] in this case or the next modification.

[00:32:02] And I get a lot of thank you cards. 10 years down the road with pictures of kids and stuff, and that, you know, that’s, that’s, it’s such a rewarding feeling in a business that you don’t really want to pay your attorney. You don’t want to have the back and forth. You don’t really want to share your, your, your dirty, dark secrets.

[00:32:18] It’s embarrassing. You know, I, I, we live in Fort Worth and I, I can’t tell you how many times I go out to restaurants and my buddies always say like, Did you represent that one? Did you represent that one? I mean, we represent a lot of people here in Fort Worth and it’s, it’s, it’s embarrassing, right? You’re sharing your darkest times.

[00:32:33] And so I really try to let the clients know this is a relationship. And if you, as the clients start out in the beginning, Uh, with that mindset, then it’s really easy to know why you’re getting the documents together. Why I am asking you to put these things in a timeline. Why I’m not saying yes, let’s go set a hearing tomorrow just because you woke up hot and bothered that morning.

[00:32:53] Um, and, and, you know, it just makes you breathe. Uh, I always say, just go, just give it 24 [00:33:00] hours and just breathe, because tomorrow’s gonna be different. It may be worse, it may be better. I see on these podcasts all the time, they talk about, you know, the, the, you wake up in the morning and they say, Hey, your son’s coming to town.

[00:33:12] Uh, isn’t that great? Well, maybe. And then all of a sudden they go to war. Well, isn’t that, isn’t that terrible? Well, maybe. And my son broke his leg. Isn’t that terrible? Well, maybe now he’s not going to war. You know, you’ve heard all these, these analogies and, and. Really boils down to, it’s just about time and, and it’s all in a, a plan that’s part of something way bigger than the individual.

[00:33:31] And I know I sound preachy here, but it’s important that clients understand, especially if you’re coming to our firm. My mindset, I will not adapt to your, your, your needs. If you’re a venomous person. I will not. Um, you know, acquiesce to unreasonable demands or unreasonable people. Uh, you know, we fire clients for that very situation all the time.

[00:33:50] And it’s not because I’m trying to punish you, it’s not because I’m trying to make you, uh, spend more money. It’s because I want you to understand when you come here, this is a whole plan for [00:34:00] a lifetime. And that’s my small contribution to this world. So Andrea, as somebody that’s been through divorce, as we’ve talked before, from your perspective, can you kind of share some insight from the client perspective on your side?

[00:34:14] Yeah, so I, I wish I would’ve known all those things back then when I went through divorce, but, but Justin just, just said I can second that my kids are, my youngest are now 18 and, um, They all turn out to be okay. They’re great kids. All four of them, um, that I gave birth to, I have stepkids to, but all four of mine that went through this nasty divorce all turned out great and it is really all about, um, Time heals and what you think is a major thing now is not nothing big in a big, big picture.

[00:34:45] It’s not. And, and, uh, you have to have a gut feeling that you trust your attorney. You have to listen to your attorney. Um, you of course share what you would like to see. But like Justin said, it comes back down to the basic rules and what is that lawyer [00:35:00] creating for you in the long run, and what is the lawyer telling you to do?

[00:35:03] And again, listening to Justin, talking to clients now, he talked to me back then too, but I did not have all the information, all the knowledge. So that’s why I always say just keep your side of the street clean. Be a good human being, be a good parent, and everything else will work itself out. And if you have a standing in court, they’ll take you to court.

[00:35:22] But if they, if you don’t have a standing in court, don’t go to court. Have an attorney that’s honest with you. Something that’s major to you again, might be minor. It’s not important. So, Do your best as a parent, as a father, as a mother, and treat others like you wanna be treated. And think about that kid.

[00:35:38] What kind of example you’re setting for that kid, five years, 10 years down the road. You can talk a good game, but do they see your behavior? It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be emotional. You’re going through something bad, but. , but at the end of the day, they’ll watch you and if you do the right thing and and be the bigger person, I think that’s, that’s the biggest thing, be the bigger person for your kids.

[00:35:58] If you have kids involved, [00:36:00] it’s all gonna work itself out, work itself out. My kids are fantastic and they went through a nasty divorce, very nasty divorce, and they still came out fine on the other side. So just be the bigger person and be a good human being and a good parent . . Yeah. Mary, on that note too, I, I think it’s important to understand the attorney’s personal life.

[00:36:17] I, I, I like to share my personal life with clients all the time because, you know, I didn’t have the easiest upbringing. I had a single mom that, that did all the, you know, that did all the things that she had to do to, to get over these hurdles. And, you know, it was, it was challenging. Um, I had, I came from somewhat of a broken home, but, but we did the best with what we had.

[00:36:36] And I can tell you right now, I, I wouldn’t change it for the world, um, because it made me. Able to understand all the different personality types in the world. You know, I had every culture, every background, I was getting dropped off to nannies and my mom had to go into trial for three or four days. I didn’t even know their names sometime and you know, we didn’t die, I guess

[00:36:56] But now it’s different. Um, you know, and I understand the nerves that [00:37:00] go through the client’s mindset when it comes to, I’m not seeing my child today and I don’t know if that child’s gonna be okay in that other parent’s environment. And so really that line of communication. Uh, stems from how you are as a human.

[00:37:14] Um, because if you shut them down and if you’re just, um, you know, confrontational at every turn, what you’re gonna find is you’re not gonna have communication and you’re not gonna have input. And when you don’t have communication and input, that’s where you walk around with anxiety. And I have a client right now and I love her to death.

[00:37:31] But she is so anxiety ridden at every stage, and I, I talk her off the ledge. We have a great communication. She really trusts me and sometimes she calls Justin my anxiety meter’s up again. And, and what happens is, That bleeds to the children. Her kids have a very high degree of anxiety. Now they’re medicated.

[00:37:50] Um, you know, cuz you take ’em into the, the psychologist and when they get to a point of depression and anxiety and, you know, the, the psychologists are gonna do their job too. Um, [00:38:00] and, and I see it just getting worse and it’s this pattern of. You know, go back to getting positive. Go back to just getting distracted by good things.

[00:38:08] Not all the negatives in the world. Get distracted by, you know, working out, going and doing fun things with your family, um, you know, talking to the other party and if they’re just a turd, if you will, for lack of a better legal word. Then just set up the boundaries. If they’re narcissistic, which I hear 55 times a day, um, sometimes overdiagnosed, sometimes over utilized.

[00:38:28] Shut down some of those, uh, abilities where you blow up at each other and just say, Hey, look, I, I understand you’re, you know, we’re not seeing eye to eye on this situation. Help me understand, uh, what I can do better and just play that humble card because I’ll bite like a rattlesnake if I need to in a courtroom.

[00:38:44] But you gotta do those things up front so you have good evidence. and think about, I always think, I always use the analogy, think about brothers and sisters. You might have, they were able to push your buttons and if you responded, our kids at school, if you responded, they keep on pushing your buttons. If they can’t push your buttons anymore and you let [00:39:00] it roll off your back, whatever the other party is doing, they will stop at some point.

[00:39:04] They’ll write you nasty emails. You don’t respond. They’ll write nasty text message. You don’t respond unless it’s about the kids, and you have to respond. If you start. Acting like this and just not let it bother you. Keep it away from you. Have a boundary, they will dare stop at some point. Oftentimes it’s a, it’s a power thing also to get you to answer, to get you rattled up, to get you to have anxiety and be nervous.

[00:39:24] Just don’t respond when, remember this, the, the new stepmom or stepdad or other party when you’re starting to think you’re feeling ganged up on, just remember that other party is dealing with your ex. So they’re getting all the stuff you probably got. It isn’t cupcakes and butterflies over that house either.

[00:39:41] So before we go into that zone of, well, they just have this wonderful, perfect life. No, they don’t. Okay. So just don’t think that those stepparents are, are enjoying a life that is perfect now that you didn’t get to enjoy. Now all of a sudden, your life is hell. It isn’t that way. We all know that. It’s just, you can get, you can get pretty [00:40:00] jaded and compartmentalized when you just are feeling ganged up on.

[00:40:03] So that’s our job is to take you outta that mindset. Well, I thank you guys. That’s a great place to wrap up today. Uh, we covered a lot, so, um, if you’d like to get in touch with the Sisemore Law Firm, you can call 8 1 7 3 3 6 4 4 4 4 or visit We also invite you to follow the podcast and share it with friends who might find it helpful.

[00:40:25] Thanks again for listening. And have a great day. Thank you for listening to In Your Best Interest with Texas Divorce Attorney and entrepreneur Justin Sisemore. The content presented here is provided for information only and should not be construed as legal, tax, or financial advice. Click the follow button to be notified when new episodes become available.