When I was growing up, my family was engaged in a complicated and contentious legal battle that dragged out for years and practically tore my family apart. My parents who were, by their own admission, not "book smart" didn't always understand all the letters and pleadings they received from the attorneys. So they put them in my hands and said, "tell us what you think about this." Whether because they thought a 12 year old could understand and translate the legalese, or whether because they were grooming me for law school, I don't know. But I learned a few things over those years:
1. Lawyers are in the business of killing trees and selling paper. Why speak in plain English, when it's more profitable to write and confuse the common man with Latin and legal-speak?
2. Fighting in court over money benefits no one except the attorneys involved.
3. Family is more important than money. Always and without exception.
4. Navigating the legal system is difficult for attorneys, but practically impossible if you are overly emotional, uneducated, overburdened, or facing seemingly insurmountable personal hurdles (or any combination thereof).
5. Due process and resulting justice shouldn't cost money, but in the real world, they usually do, and no one should be denied them because they can't afford it.
6. Many attorneys are like mechanics, and if you don't want to get screwed, you better have taken auto shop before you entrust your car or your case to one.
I didn't go to law school because I wanted to be a lawyer. In fact, after moot court in my first year, I was certain I never wanted to represent a client in court (that's what happens when your partner flakes out on you at the last possible moment). No, I went to law school because I wanted to know the law, or at least how to find and interpret it. I realized that the "School House Rock" tag line was 100% true - knowledge IS power. I wanted to understand and be able to translate the law, and maybe even make it one day. Then I got my tuition statement, and realized I better figure out a way to pay my loans. So I took the bar exam.
However, those years of seeing my family torn apart by "officers of the court," along with the increasing realization that what so many attorneys do is simply help others make money (and in doing so, make money for themselves, but usually at a great cost to their physical and mental well-being), made me decide one thing that I maintain to this day: I want to use my legal powers for good, and not evil...that is, not for helping others make money, or for taking untenable or unreasonable positions "just for the principle of the matter." I wanted to help those who couldn't help themselves, or who would be at a disadvantage for doing so. More importantly, because of the complexities of the law, I wanted to help those who really needed help. And because I worked with children for 15 years before going to law school, and saw first hand in more than one of those children the vitriolic by-products of their parents' unnecessarily contentious divorce, family law seemed a natural fit.
I don't always like my cases. In fact, I don't always like my clients, but I take them on because I strongly believe that every family law litigant deserves representation when they want it. Some of them are in situations through relatively no fault of their own. That being said though, I strive to make each and every one of my clients recognize their own culpability and take some personal responsibility for their situation by reminding them "I didn't marry/impregnate/get knocked up by your husband/wife/baby daddy or momma, you did." More importantly, when there are children involved, I try to empower them to make "child-centered decisions," not whatever is convenient for the parent or vindictive toward the other parent (and if they insist on repeatedly not making child-centered decisions, I have fired them as clients). Children don't ask to be born, and certainly don't asked to be placed in the middle of nasty custody dispute. They are the innocent in the family law cases...and their parents need to remember that.
So that's why I do this...and because I've learned that in family law, more than any other area of law except perhaps criminal law, the truth can be more entertaining than fiction. I just can't make this stuff up. The purpose of my blog is three fold: (1) to tell the reader what NOT to do if they ever find themselves embroiled in family court; (2) to give me with a cathartic outlet so that I can continue to do this everyday without going postal; and (3) to provide a little schadenfreude (while maybe instilling a little contradictory compassion at the same time). So enjoy, and feel free to let me know what you think.
*Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Stupid (and the Innocent)
Family law is one of - if not the - most emotionally charged areas of law anyone can be involved in, either as an attorney or as a party to a case. Family law deals with the two things for which most people hold incredibly strong feelings - their children and their money (and sadly, not always in that order). With such delicate subject matter, one would assume cautious and restrained comportment is key, and sometimes it is. But alas, it is just as often, if not more so, not the case. I've never understood the depths of stupidity and vileness to which some people sink when placed in the family law context. We family law attorneys are not Miracle Workers - we can't change the circumstances which brought our clients to us in the first place...we can only seek to minimize the damage within the bounds of the law, and give our clients tools to avoid them ever needing our services again. The stories you read here are not fictional.*** These entries are all based on actual cases that have been dragged through court. Think of this blog as a "how to" only if you really want to mess up your family law case and assure that you'll be paying for your kid's inevitable therapy out of your 401(k).