Which decisions about my case do I get to make myself?
Your lawyer is supposed to advocate for you and represent your interests in the case to the judge. Your lawyer can make strategic decisions on the case such as what evidence to present, which witnesses will testify, etc. However, you are the only one who can make decisions about what type of settlement to accept in the case. For example, if the other parent wants joint custody or unsupervised visits and you feel this is not in the best interests of you or your child, you do not have to agree to this just because your lawyer might want you to. You can tell your lawyer to refuse the offer and go to trial. However, oftentimes people agree to settlement offers that might not be exactly what they want in order to prevent possibly ending up with an even worse outcome at trial. Your lawyer should give you information and advice to help you make an educated decision about whether to settle or go to trial. Your lawyer can tell you the likelihood of winning your case based on what the law says and how judges tend to rule in your county. You should consider all of your lawyer’s advice carefully – but the final decision is yours.
Before your court hearing, you can ask the lawyer how s/he is planning to present your case to the judge. Remember that while you are in front of the judge, your lawyer is probably trying to sift through everything you have told him/her to pick out the things that are most important to bring up in court. If you think the lawyer forgot something or said something incorrect to the judge, be sure to let your lawyer know. You know the facts of your case better than anyone and you are an important part of your “legal team.” Don’t be intimidated by your lawyer. It is important to have a voice in the relationship with your lawyer.
Remember that while your lawyer has special expertise in practicing law, you are the one that has hired the lawyer and it is your case that s/he is working on. You will be the one who has to live with the outcome of the case long after your lawyer has moved on to other clients.