Category: judge

A Great Lawyer Knows the Judge

A Great Lawyer Knows the Judge

No, I do not mean that a great lawyer is also the judge’s best friend.  Obviously, if a judge and lawyer who appears before him/her have a close relationship, it creates a conflict of interest that would prohibit the judge from hearing that lawyer’s cases.  The same would be true if there was a high level of personal animosity between the judge and a lawyer.  I recently heard the story of a lawyer who was divorcing his wife, who was a judge.  This lawyer was actually bombarded with calls offering to pay him for the privilege of representing him in the divorce so that his future-ex-wife-the judge would have to recuse herself from all of their cases as well.

In a family law case, it is often vitally important that the attorney you choose is able to accurately predict how the judge assigned to your specific case may rule based on the facts of your case.  I routinely practice in front of approximately nineteen different judges across numerous counties in two states.  Each of those judges have different viewpoints, attitudes, and ideas about what is equitable or in the best interests of children.  There are some judges that regularly award equal timesharing while other judges are opposed to it and would never award it absent an agreement of the parties.  One judge is very generous in awarding maintenance while the judge in an adjacent county almost never awards maintenance.

Having an attorney who can anticipate how a judge may rule in your case can shape not only how your case is prepared for trial, but also possible settlement.  If the opposing party is making demands at a settlement conference that your attorney knows the judge is likely never to award at trial regardless of the evidence, it will inform your negotiation strategy.  Conversely, if your attorney is unable to predict the judge’s actions, you may wind up giving up more than necessary which could negatively affect your financial future.

During your initial consultation your attorney should be able to give you an idea of what you can expect from the judge who may be assigned to your case.  Keep in mind, some judges are easier to predict than others, but the attorney can discuss that issue as well.  If the attorney with whom you are meeting is unable or unwilling anticipate possible outcomes of your case based on different facts and variables, it might be a sign you need to hire a new lawyer.  Who you hire can make a difference.

Photo courtesy of Mike Licht

I’ve Been Divorced Before But My Ex Has Hired Counsel. I Can Still Go It Alone Right?

I’ve Been Divorced Before But My Ex Has Hired Counsel. I Can Still Go It Alone Right?

If you went through a contested divorce years ago, you probably learned a lot about the divorce laws that were in effect at that time.  Be very cautious about proceeding without legal representation.  As I have said before, you can amputate your own limb but it usually works about better if you have a surgeon do it.  You should also be careful that you are not thinking too much with your heart and not enough with your head.

One thing to keep in mind is that every divorce is different.  This marriage may be very different from your previous marriage.  The finances may be more complicated, it could be a longer-term marriage, or there might be children involved.  Additionally, if you had assets when you came into this marriage (e.g. from the previous divorce), you will surely want to make sure that they are protected during this divorce.  Even your age and health condition may affect the outcome of your divorce and are issues that a skilled family law attorney can discuss with you.

Another point to consider, is that, as I acknowledged, you may have learned a lot about the laws in effect at the time of your last divorce.  The problem is that laws change all the time.  That is especially true in the are of family law.  Every year there may be new statutes passed by the legislature, or new rules of procedure or even new decisions by the appellate courts.  All of these things can directly affect your case.  You may also be appearing before a different judge than in your last case.  One with much, much different attitudes about your particular factual situation.  A trained lawyer should be able to discuss all of these issues with you and explain how your particular situation fits in the current status of the law.

In some cases, you may be able to keep the involvement of an attorney to a minimum.  It may be limited to simply reviewing a proposed agreement and advising you about its ramifications.  On the other hand, the lawyer may realize that you are being taken advantage of and potentially signing away thousands of dollars or other rights that you did not even know you had.  It is up to you whether you will choose to be penny wise and pound foolish.  As a final point, I will remind you, do not ever operate under the delusion that you and your spouse can “share” an attorney.

Photo courtesy of Rob Walker

I’ve Been Told Not to Speak Ill of My Spouse to the Children, But I Know They Are Bad-Mouthing Me!

I’ve Been Told Not to Speak Ill of My Spouse to the Children, But I Know They Are Bad-Mouthing Me!

I always encourage clients to “take the high road” and refrain from making derogatory remarks about the other parent.  Part of it is strategic because if a party winds up looking like a jerk in court, the judge will usually make sure that things do not go well for that person.  More importantly, however, is avoiding the damage this sort of behavior can cause your children.  It can be devastating for your child to hear you running down the other parent.

Think about this from your child’s perspective and remember your own childhood.  There is a reason that there are cliches in movies and entertainment about not talking about another kid’s mom or that “my dad can beat up your dad.”  Your child needs permission to love each of you regardless of any bad behavior by the other parent.  Children strongly identify with their parents and rightly so.  Remember, it took both of you to make the child and half of them came from each parent.  Negative comments about one parent can reflect back on the child.

Although some level of disagreement is normal in this situation, finding a balance or a way to keep it from the child as much as possible is essential.  Your children will take their cues from you on proper behavior.  If you are talking behind the other parent’s back, your child will think that it is appropriate to talk behind people’s backs.  If every conversation you have with your spouse devolves into shouting and cursing, that is how you are teaching your child to communicate.  Keep in mind your child’s feelings and the stress they are experiencing and do everything you can to reduce their stress.  The best way to support youencourage a strong relationship with the other parent.  It is important to work to create a comforting and caring environment to help ease this major life adjustment, refraining from involving your child in your frustrations with his other parent. If his other parent talks badly about you, let him know that sometimes grown-ups act out when they feel frustrated and suggest he ask his other parent to stop, if it is bothering him.  Explain to your child that he does not have to choose sides.
r child during this time is to

At this point, you are probably thinking “This is all well and good, but my ex really knows how to push my buttons!”  I will leave you with the wise words of Mark Twain, “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”  If you have more questions, contact the Alford Law Office.

I Can’t Possibly Gather All of This Information for the Divorce Lawyers and the Court!

I Can’t Possibly Gather All of This Information for the Divorce Lawyers and the Court!

There are many demands for litigants to gather information for their divorce.  The discovery process is difficult.  From tax returns, deeds, bank records, pay subs, photos, credit card statements to medical records, authorizations, car titles, and contracts; it can be overwhelming.  I have clients routinely cringe at having to wade through all of it.  Don’t panic.

I am reminded of the old joke, “How do you eat an elephant?”  The answer, “One bite at a time.”  The idea is that even large tasks can be broken down into smaller tasks.  The smaller tasks add up and, before you know it, you have completed the large task.  In most cases, you have some time to get everything together.  Perhaps, you could set aside one afternoon to collect your tax returns or meet with your accountant to get copies.  The next weekend, you could sit down with your monthly bills and estimate your monthly expenses.  In this way, you can break the demands down into more manageable tasks.
You also should not feel like you have to do everything on your own.  Let other people help you.  Ask a friend who fancies herself as an organizational diva to bring her file folders over and help you get organized.  The more organized you can get your information before you turn it over to your attorney, the less time your attorney has to spend organizing it and the less you legal fees will be.  I cannot tell you how much I cringe when people show up with garbage bags and shoe boxes full of documents that we have to whip into shape.
Finally, do not forget that your lawyer and paralegals are there to help you.  A skilled family law attorney and staff can offer many helpful suggestions for completing necessary forms and getting organized.  At a minimum, they can help prioritize the information you will need to provide immediately and what can be provided later.  This can be a daunting and frustrating task.  If you have more questions, please contact the Alford Law Office.
Photo courtesy of Brian Snelson