3 THINGS YOU MUST KNOW IF YOU ARE SERVED WITH LEGAL PAPERS REGARDING A FAMILY LAW CASE OR CONTEMPLATING YOUR OWN FAMILY LAW CASE
Family Law is a generic term used to describe cases that are handled by the Family Law Department of the California Superior Court. They include divorces, paternity cases, most domestic violence cases, Child Support cases, Spousal Support cases, Division of Community Property and Custody & Visitation cases.
1. Find a family law attorney and speak to him/her as soon as possible. Most attorneys offer a consultation, please take advantage of the consultation. Our office offers the consultations in person, over the phone, or via Skype (which is a free online video call, and which is growing in popularity).
I stress that the consultation should take place ASAP because there are time lines which must be observed which may have a substantial impact on your ability to have custody of, or to visit your children; or not observing the time lines could jeopardize your financial interests.
Above all, speak to an attorney who practices family law. I do not recommend speaking with a paralegal. This reminds me of a client I represented a few years ago. She came to me and told me that she finished her divorce about 4 years before meeting me, and that there was a BIG problem. She and her ex-husband had gone to the same paralegal to have the divorce completed and finalized. And she specifically informed me that she did not hire an attorney, because she felt she did not want to “waste money on an attorney”; and felt that her divorce was going to be straight forward. According to her friends and family, no attorney was needed.
Well, this decision ended up costing her about $350,000.00. In this case, she may have spent less than $8,000 for an attorney over the 18 months of the case.
The paralegal had drawn up the settlement and judgment papers It turned out, that the way the paralegal worded certain portions of the documents favored the husband regarding the eventual division of the proceeds from the family home. Although, she was able to stay in the house after the divorce, which was “all she wanted”, no clear discussion was made regarding refinancing the home in a declining real estate market. A trained attorney would have avoided this problem.
2. The next thing you must know is how to pick the right attorney. Here’s a couple of secrets you should now. First, all attorneys are NOT the same, in terms of expertise or experience. We all have licenses to practice law, but we are all different.
Let me give you an example of what I mean, in another professional service context. I have a close friend who has prostate cancer. He was being treated by a 14 year cancer doctor at a well-known facility. Things started off great for the first year, but after that things weren’t looking good; and his doctor (with 14 years experience) told my friend that it was time for him to start finalizing his affairs. Well, by sheer luck, my friend was referred to a doctor (with 30 years experience) at Howard University (in Washington D.C.) for a review of his cancer treatment here in Los Angeles. All of the friend’s medical records were sent to Howard. My friend flew to D.C. to meet with the doctor.
To his surprise, the 30-year doctor told my friend that the 14-year doctor (both cancer specialists) was treating him incorrectly and using the wrong cancer medications!!! The D.C. doctor called and spoke the doctor in L.A., and politely instructed him on how to modify the treatments and the medications. The modifications to the treatment and medications were made in L.A., and my friend’s cancer is in complete remission.
I’ve been practicing law for approximately 29 years. The expertise and experience I have is NOT the same as a lawyer who has been practicing 5, 10 or even 15 years. Do the younger attorneys know the law? Yes. Do they have the actual “in court”, court room experience I have? No.
So, when selecting an attorney; consider years of experience and other qualifications.
The second trick I will tell you is that a good attorney listens. Most attorneys don’t listen, they are too busy talking. A good listener not only will learn your individual story (not all divorces are the same), but he or she will use that skill in the court room with the judge; and with the opposing attorney. I can’t stress how important the skill of listening impacts your case at every level.
3. Spend several hours and prepare a “story” about your case. Do it on a computer using a Word processor. That way, you can always update and modify the story. Email it to your attorney for his/her review. This is rarely done by clients, and rarely requested by attorneys.
Believe it or not, the most important thing about your case is for you to communicate your story to the attorney. Without that, it’s like a general going into battle without the battle plan. Without that story, everything is done on the “fly” by the attorney and his office.
I generally meet with a client a few times to develop and review their story. A few years ago, I asked a client to work on an email and send me his “story”; and he of course, refused. He thought it was a waste of time. The case didn’t settle, and was proceeding to trial. About 3 weeks before trial, I met with him about 4 times to further develop his story and his case. On the last meeting, he told me something that had a SIGNIFICANT impact on his case, in his favor. I asked him why he had never mentioned this to me before, and he replied “I just hadn’t thought of, or remembered it.” This new information caused me to hire an investigator to interview several key witnesses and obtain their written statements. When I turned over these statements, the other side realized that they had to now settle the case on our terms.
I have to give credit to the client. He profusely apologized to me about criticizing my wanting to get his story. After the fact, he realized the importance of the PROCESS of story development in every case. All clients have a story, some just don’t know it.
If you have any questions or client regarding a family law issue, please don’t hesitate to call us. 888 888 6582.
Vincent W Davis
Family Law Trial Lawyer
888 888 6582