Your Emotional Reality May Not Fit the Law

Mace Greenfield Client/Litigant/Pro Se Information

In divorce and child custody cases, too often a potential new client wants to tell me his or her story and what he or she thinks his or her soon to be ex should and should not be entitled to, and why. It is not easy to get some potential new clients to understand that they know their life story, and I do not, and to just vent it all out to me. I cannot help them if I cannot follow their story. It is the same way at trial. The judge does not know their story and it must be spoon-fed, only a little bit at a time, or the facts cannot be digested clearly.

I have to get the potential new client’s attention, and force him or her to let me take the lead asking questions, and for him or her to only answer the questions asked, and not go beyond. This is also good practice in case of a trial or even just depositions. Otherwise you give the court the impression that you do not want to answer the question, just tell your story. This always irritates the court. When I question the individual, I am only seeking the factual answers for the facts that the law actually cares about in an orderly fashion that I can follow, or a judge can follow.

Once I finish the “interview” I am able to begin to formulate a legal opinion of what the best and worst a judge might do after trial on those facts and explain that to the person. I am able to also inform the person of what proofs would be needed to prove his or her case. This is the “no tickey, no shirty” part many have trouble with. I always hear, but “he or she knows it” referring to his or her soon to be ex spouse. But usually a soon to be ex spouse suddenly suffers memory loss, and the proofs are required at law. Too often with the passage of time, the proofs are no longer available.

But it is very necessary for the attorney to know the relevant facts from the perspective of the law, not form your perspective of emotion. You need to know your down side and risks to your case equally as much or more than the upside and positives of your case. If the right thing always happened, people would not need lawyers and there would not be appellate courts. There are lawyers and appellate courts, and most people still walk away complaining. So make sure you let lawyer do his or her job by focusing on the relevant facts based on the law, and not your need to vent.

Your case will be cheaper and faster if you let it focus on the facts alone. It is cheaper and there may be insurance coverage for you to vent your emotions in a therapist’s office or in a support group.