Do unto others in family court
February 1, 2013
When a divorce or child custody case is filed with the court, it is a sad thing. No one wants to have to go to a judge to dissolve their marriage or figure out where their children should live. However, the family court is meant to help families navigate a divorce or child custody, especially when the parents cannot agree. Many clients can become aggravated, frustrated, or angry at the process, the speed (or lack of speed) at which their case is moving, and the other people involved in the case.
When I take on a family law case, I remind my clients that each of their cases is unique. There are specific issues that are relevant only to you and your children. Online research and friend’s advice often does not take into account your unique needs. As such, you shouldn’t compare what’s happening in your case to what you find online or what your friends or family may tell you. If you have retained legal counsel, your attorney gives you reliable information about the law, how it may affect the specific facts of your case, and the legal status of your case.
As part of your case, you need to be polite, courteous, and cooperative with any other person or professional in the case including your spouse, your spouse’s attorney, the judge, any Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), and any other professional (like doctors and counselors). You need to be polite, courteous, and cooperative even if you will not be treated the same way. When it comes to your ex, you need to act this way even if he or she will not give you credit for anything you have ever done or will do for him or her.
The opposing attorney may be very aggravating and frustrating to you because he or she may accuse you of things you have not done, may be litigious (wanting to fight about everything), may drag his or her feet with moving the case forward, or may be non-responsive to requests from your attorney. Just remember that you and your attorney cannot control how an opposing attorney handles his or her file or practices law. Just as you are expected to be polite, courteous, and cooperative, your attorney should act that way with opposing counsel regardless of how opposing counsel is treating him or her.
These recommendations may seem obvious to some, but many get overwhelmed by the emotion of their case and take that out on the people involved in the matter. To be overwhelmed and to take it out on your counsel, the opposing attorney, your ex, or any other person in the case, may be the worst strategic decision you make. In the middle of a family law case, everything you say – and the way you treat people – will be presented in court and may be used against you. The old adage, “Do unto others as you want them to do unto you,” is particularly true in family law. How you are perceived in court is paramount. There is no better way to make a good impression than to be impeccably polite, courteous and cooperative, even in the midst of very difficult circumstances.
Cassandra Jones is an elder law and family law attorney in Gardnerville. She can be reached at 782-0040.