A Changed Perspective on Justice as a New Legal Assistant By Braxton Mounteer

After working in civil law for a short time (specifically, in divorce and family law), I think that many people have the wrong idea about justice and the court system. When someone is asked to explain justice, they would say that it is punishing those who have done wrong and the exoneration of the innocent. It is a far more complicated, difficult (and often disappointing) process than I’d imagined.

And in divorce and family law, justice is (or at least should be) aided through the application of equity. Unlike criminal law, divorce is not about whether one violated the law, it’s a matter of ensuring that the spouses and children are treated fairly in the process of dissolving a marriage and making single people of those who were married. It’s the process of trying to find an equitable way to disentangle themselves from each other.

The principles behind the application equity are expressed in what are known as the “maxims of equity”. There are 20 to 22 maxims, depending upon the source you may consult. Not every maxim of equity applies in a divorce case. Those that apply in divorce are:

Equity looks on that as done which ought to have been done

Equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy

Equity will not allow a wrongdoer to profit by a wrong

Equity does not punish

Equity is a sort of equality

One who seeks equity must do equity

Delay defeats Equity, or Equity aids the vigilant not the indolent

Equity imputes an intention to fulfil an obligation

He who comes into equity must come with clean hands

Equity delights to do justice and not by halves

Equity follows the laws

Equity will not assist a volunteer

Equity will not complete an imperfect gift

Where equities are equal, the law will prevail

Equity will not allow a statute to be used as a cloak for fraud

Between equal equities the first in order of time shall prevail

A complete list of the maxims of equity from the Wikipedia article on the subject (with a detailed, yet still concise, explanation of the maxims of equity can be found on Wikipedia here: Maxims of equity – Wikipedia.

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