Do not expect your lawyer to be able to save the day. First, your lawyer may not be well-informed about alienation. MOST are not. You must educate yourself and you may have to educate your lawyer too. Second, the smartest, most devoted lawyer with the best-prepared case can still lose. There are many factors that can work against you.
Do not depend on your lawyer for emotional support. Your lawyer is not your friend, not your counselor, not your confidant. And yet you must share intimate details of your personal life, your finances, your hopes and dreams with this person. Your lawyer will also hear terrible things about you from your ex or others, true or untrue, and will learn about your weaknesses and mistakes. Your lawyer will share with you some of the most intense emotional struggles of your life. You will depend on your lawyer to help you with critical decisions and choices that will have profound consequences for you and the people you love. And still your lawyer is not your friend, but a paid professional who will use his or her knowledge and experience to help you win your court case. It is reasonable to expect respectful attention and understanding from your lawyer, but to expect more is to invite disappointment. Make sure that you have friends to support you.
Do not expect your lawyer to crusade for the justice of your case. No lawyer could sustain the emotional involvement that clients wish they would feel and survive. You feel the horror of the destruction being wrought by the alienator, and the injustice, and the pain, but your lawyer has to remain a dispassionate strategist and can’t live it the way you do. For you it is your very life, for your lawyer it’s just a job.
How can you help your lawyer help you?
Document! Record with dates all significant happenings related to your case. Every time your visit is refused, your phone call ignored, your gift returned, your child’s school misinformed about your parental status, etc. Yes, this is exhausting and depressing at times, but it will serve you well as evidence that is hard to discount and deny. A list of specific incidents with dates reveals patterns of behaviour very clearly and is much more effective than simply describing the alienation in general terms.
Be well-organized. The more quickly you can find all the information your lawyer will need and the more coherently you can present it, from the financial to the evidence of the damaging of your parent-child relationships, the more money and time you will save.
Do your research and educate yourself. Read all you can about alienation, join online support groups, and meet in person with other alienated parents if at all possible. You can gather invaluable information from other people’s experience, especially if they live in your community and know some of the professionals in the field.
Be persistent and proactive. Don’t wait for your lawyer to take the initiative. He or she has other clients too and will get distracted at times. If, for example, you will need an assessor or a parenting coordinator and your lawyer doesn’t immediately know one who is both good and available, you can make those calls. Remember – acting quickly can make a difference. Don’t hesitate to be the squeaky wheel.
Take care of yourself and enlist help and support. Sustaining the strength you will need to be capable of all this is HARD!!!! In fact impossible, I believe, unless you make a deliberate effort to be kind and nurturing to yourself. Figure out what makes you feel energized and optimistic, and do those things; see those people. I find the best help I have found is from other alienated parents, because they truly understand. They won’t give you unusable advice, they won’t make you feel guilty. More about taking care of yourself in another post.