Hello everyone! It's been a while since we've last blogged. Miss us? We hope that you had a nice relaxing Memorial Day Weekend. You are probably reading this post because you are bored at work. So sit back and enjoy. In this week's post, we will discuss the 5 things you should do if you are involved in family law litigation.
1) Get a Lawyer. Since an attorney is telling you this, it probably sounds self-serving, right? But seriously..if you are thinking about taking your -ex to court to litigate your divorce, child custody, or any other Family Law issue, you would be a fool for not at least consulting with an attorney before you go it alone.
I know a woman who decided to represent herself in her family law case. Meanwhile, her ex-husband had two (not one but two!) attorneys. Despite being a very loving and devoted mother and a pretty decent human being, she ended up losing custody of her child, who now lives across the country with the father. Did this happen because she deserved it? Hell no. In fact, just the opposite. She was simply outmaneuvered by her ex-husband's attorneys, who took full advantage of the fact that she knew nothing about the family law code, trial strategy and procedure.
Do me a favor. If you're going to represent yourself Pro Per in your family law case, be ready to hit the law library and dedicate countless hours to legal research and legal writing. Google is NOT the answer. Otherwise, hire a family law lawyer.
2) If you have a child, the best interests of your child should be your #1 priority. Family law litigation is fraught with cases wherein spouses take each other to court simply to get back at their -ex or to send a message. Mothers and fathers often unjustifiably lose custody of their children - not because they are undeserving parents - but because the other spouse drags their name through the dirt or takes advantage of certain legal loopholes that happen to favor them. You may have won your day in court, but has your child won or lost as a result?
It is totally understandable that you may hate your -ex. Divorce will do that to you. But if he/she is otherwise a good mother or father, he/she deserves to have a fair and reasonable amount of custody time with your child, irregardless of how you personally feel about them. Do not punish your child for the mistakes of your -ex. And lastly, what are your child's wishes? The truth may hurt. Assuming your child is old enough and mature enough to make up his/her own mind, you should consider your child's wishes.
3) Assume that anything and everything you say to the other spouse can and will be used against you in court. It is understandable that family law litigants may often become emotional or angry due to the other spouse's antics. There may be occassions when your -ex prevents you from spending time with your kid. But showing up at your -ex's house or work place unannounced and yelling obscenities at them is not the answer. Neither is stalking them or harassing them in any way.
In this day and age, you have to be especially careful about what you write in your emails or post on Facebook. Assume that anything you send to your -ex in writing could potentially become Exhibit A and used against you in a court of law. As such, any communications you have with your -ex should be concise and pleasant.
4) Do not hide key facts from your attorney. Your communications with your attorney regarding your family law case are protected by the attorney-client privilege. So you do not need to worry about the content of those communications being discovered by third parties. Conversely, withholding important facts - especially negative facts - from your attorney will often hurt you if opposing counsel brings them up at an important hearing or trial. Your attorney will know best how to mitigate the damage caused by any inconvenient facts. So don't be afraid. Speak up!
5) Ask the court to appoint an attorney and/or child custody evaluator for your child. Child custody litigation is often a constant he-said, she-said battle. Which parent should the judge believe? If you anticipate a bitter child custody battle, you should consider petitioning the court to appoint an attorney to represent your child so that your child's preferences can be communicated to the court. This tip is especially advantageous if you reasonably believe that your child's best interests would be better served if he/she spent more time with you, as opposed to your -ex. If your -ex is truly a good mother or father, you should never attempt to alienate your child from your -ex or tell him/her what to think or feel. Let your chld's attorney represent him/her and do not try to unduly influence your child's communications with the children's attorney.
Another option is to ask the court to appoint a child custody evaluation. Both options tend to be expensive but the Court usually splits the costs between the parties or if one party is in extreme financial straits, the other spouse will be asked to pay the costs.
Whether you are already involved in family law litigation or merely thinking about divorcing your spouse, I hope that you find these tips helpful!
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