Sunday, June 26, 2016
I have an absolutely awful, no good custody case, filled with bad actors, alienation, child protective services, police, the works. There is definitely a good guy and a bad guy. Yet, if you look at social media alone, you would think that the bad guy and the good guy were reversed. I hear you asking how that can be. It's all in the story and how you tell it. It's in what facts you include, what ones you leave out, and what ones about which you outright lie. It's also in only hearing one side of the story, and in having a personal relationship of any kind with the one telling the story you hear. None of us likes to think we're bad judges of character; it's sort of like Lake Wobegon, where our children are always the ones who are above average. Therefore, if we've decided someone is a good egg, we view everything they do through those glasses, and it takes a long time for us to believe that the "good egg" is really rotten.
I must let you in on a secret - lawyers are people too. As I've always said, for a successful attorney and client relationship, the attorney and client have to have some mutual respect, if not liking. Guess what? Our clients usually only tell us their side of the story. It is an extremely rare client who provides an evenhanded and accurate portrayal of the situation which brings them into the Trenches. In fact, for most of us who have toiled in the Trenches for any length of time, we are so certain we are only getting part of the story that we withhold judgment on the veracity of our client's portrayal until we hear from the other side. Still........, even when we hear the other side of the case, we discount it if we like our client. That's right, even seasoned professionals can be a bit deluded. It happens more often than you might think.
Does it matter in the end? Actually, yes. You pay us for our objectivity, not our emotional enmeshment. Although it feels really good to have your attorney like you, make sure it's not blinding them to the unvarnished truth. You want an attorney who recognizes they might be deluded, who tries like heck to counteract the feeling. You do not want an attorney whose feelings for you get in the way of their impartial judgment on your behalf. You do not want an attorney who cannot see how to help you resolve the issues in your family law matter because they're too concerned with your feelings to be honest with you. You have friends. What you need is a professional who can see all sides of the story, tell you the truth even when it's unpleasant, and be able to help you come up with solutions that meet your needs, but are not necessarily what you want. After all, it's impossible for all of our children to be above average, whether or not we live in Lake Wobegon. Here in the Trenches.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
I sat on my couch last Sunday, desperately trying to figure out how to save all of the photos off my dying cell phone before I traded it in on a new one. As I saved the photos, I came across Daughter's prom photos from her senior year of high school: May 23, 2010. Then, I saw the photos from Daughter's and my big birthday weekend (her 18th and my 50th): October 20, 2010. Featured prominently in both sets of photos was Office T, looking healthy and happy.....and alive. To look at us all then, no one would ever have known that less than two years later, Office T would be dead. Oh, and also in the birthday photos was Dad; who'd have thought he'd outlive Office T by over a year. Certainly not me. Office T had 60 more years to go, by my reckoning, and Dad, maybe 10 if we were lucky. Then one day, they just weren't there.
I woke up this morning to the news of 50 people dying in a nightclub shooting, with another 50 wounded. Last month, a man shot his estranged wife outside Son's school and then killed two random people the next day. They were there, and then they weren't. At the end of the day, does the reason really matter? All of those people, who others loved and cared about, are dead. THeir loved ones will never be able to tell them they love them, will never be able to make amends for wrongs they inflicted, will never be able to tell them they forgive them for the wrongs they suffered. Every day, then week, then month, then birthday and holiday will go by and their loved ones will miss them and cry for what they've lost. Yes, they will also remember the good times, the love and special moments they shared, but humans being humans, the anger, pain and the regret they feel first and longest.
Which is probably why some folks fight so hard here in the Trenches. Divorce is the death of a marriage. It is the death of a family structure. It hits people hard. They feel pain and regret. The problem is that their spouse is still there, serving as a constant living reminder of what they have lost. Some people overcome the pain and anger of the loss and can remember the good times and love. Others never do. Let's turn this around for a minute. If you were Office T, Dad, the people in the Orlando nightclub or the folks shot by that woman's estranged husband, would you want your last day or moment on earth to be consumed by anger and pain? Would you rather give others the benefit of the doubt, let go of your anger and count your blessings? I know which choice I make (sometimes with difficulty, but I make it every day), here in the Trenches.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
Here in the Trenches, when we talk to clients about the cost of going to trial, they think dollars and cents. Certainly, going to trial is very expensive, and the financial savings realized by settling a case is not insignificant. I tell clients there are other costs to going to trial and they need to be prepared to pay them. Some understand and internalize what I mean, and others, well, they just don't. Let me give you some examples of costs that are not financial.
1. Having family and friends come to court to testify, because everyone wants everyone they love to be inconvenienced and know their dirty laundry.
2. Having family and friends forced by the other attorney to appear for a deposition, because if there's anything better than #1, it's being questioned by the other attorney about things that may only be related tangentially to your case.
3. Subjecting yourself to cross examination by the other attorney (If you don't believe that is a cost, you've never been cross examined).
4. Having the negative emotions from your divorce, that you thought you had dealt with and from which you believed you had healed, come rushing back to the surface and overwhelming you.
5. Having to deal with the uncertainty of waiting for the judge's decision, weeks or months from the day(s) of trial.
6. Having someone who doesn't know you or care about you or your family decide your future, because by definition that's a judge.
7. Having no control over what happens because that's what it means to ask a judge to decide.
8. Frustration that the rules of court don't allow everything you know to be true to come into evidence, so there will be things the judge won't know.
9. Having you and your life placed under a microscope.
Sometimes, you have to go to trial. Sometimes, for a lot of reasons, a judge needs to make a decision. Most times, however, a reasonable settlement is possible. In deciding whether to accept it, the offer itself is not the only consideration; the costs of going to trial have to play a part in your deliberations. Here in the Trenches.