Tag: divorce attorneys

Is there anything that can surprise a judge during a divorce proceeding?

Is there anything that can surprise a judge during a contested divorce proceeding?  

Of course.  

We’ve all read about cases where all of the circumstantial evidence indicated the defendant is guilty, only to be surprised in the eleventh hour some piece of evidence that conclusively proves he couldn’t be guilty, but that someone else is the perpetrator.  

We know, sadly, of people mistakenly or wrongfully convicted, which often comes as a surprise (because we hate the idea that the justice system can be and in such cases is corrupt at one or more levels): 

And we’ve all, unfortunately, learned of cases where the defendant was falsely accused, which surprises some. See: 

Of course. I will describe one common way a judge can be surprised (especially in divorce and family law cases): like all of us, judges have their own worldviews based upon their individual personal experiences, what they were taught as they grew up, their own beliefs and biases. A good judge tries to be as aware as possible of these things, so that he/she will not take a subject approach to the case but will follow where the evidence leads according to what the law dictates.  

One of the things that many subjective-minded judges tend to do in divorce and child custody disputes is believe the woman/mother to be: 

  • honest 
  • the better parent of the two 
  • financially dependent on her husband 
  • under the husband’s explicit or implicit control (whether that be financially, emotionally/psychologically, physically, or both) 
    • victimized in some way (whether great or small) by the husband, if the wife claims to have been. Extremely common examples: “He controlled all the money, wouldn’t tell me how much/how little we had, and wouldn’t give me any to spend,” and/or “He forbade me from having a job,” and/or “He physically/sexually/emotionally abused me and/or the children,” and/or “He forced me to engage in sexual acts that I found objectionable/humiliating,” and/or “He never shared in the household chores and childrearing.” 

Don’t get me wrong; many wives/mothers are all of these things, but not always. But 25 years as a divorce and family lawyer I can tell you that in my experiences some judges presume the women to be some of these things simply by virtue of them being women, and if the wife/mother makes claims to being any of these things, the judge will often treat such claims as “prima facie” established until the husband/father refutes/rebuts them.  

Consequently, it often surprises some such judges when a husband/father proves* that, while he is not perfect: 

  • he is honest and/or the wife/mother has been lying about him or on the subject of other issues in the divorce and/or child custody case. 
  • he is either just as good a parent as his wife or the better parent of the two 
    • and if he proves he’s the better parent, that often comes as so big of a shock to some courts that the court cannot/will not bring itself to accept such a concept, let alone such a fact 
  • that if the wife/mother is in fact financially dependent on him (as many wives often are, though decreasingly so in modern society), he has been forthright and transparent about financial matters with his wife  
  • that he does not exercise any kind of force or control over his wife and/or children but is decent, loving, and treats all of his family members fairly and well 

*Getting over that bar is often extremely difficult, sometimes impossible for some husbands/fathers with some judges.  

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  

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How long will an attorney work on your case if you can’t afford to pay them any more? This would be for a divorce, and they start to realize that they’re not going to get money from the other spouse. 

Good question. 

It depends mostly upon whether your attorney has a big heart and/or no head for business.

Generally, an attorney who takes your case without being paid as he/she goes but defers payment in the hope that he/she will be paid out of what you collect from your spouse is probably not a very intelligent or competent attorney. Some attorneys (usually new ones or desperate ones—and desperate ones are often new ones) will work a case, even if a client stops paying for his/her work, long after the client stops paying. These kinds of attorneys do this in the desperate hope that the client will eventually pay or because they believe that by getting stiffed, they are heroes/martyrs. In truth, however, these kinds of attorneys are simple fools because clients who have stopped paying (not fallen behind but got caught up—those kinds of clients are fairly common, and we’ve all been a little short sometimes, so it’s good when a creditor will cut us a little slack, as long as we don’t abuse the creditor’s good will) almost never, ever resume paying or paying their past due balances. 

To be sure, sometimes a client honestly runs out of money, and when that occurs, the attorney must understand that he/she cannot stay in business working for people who don’t pay for his/her services. There is a class of clients who are simply grifters; they seek out the easy marks and when they find them, they exploit them. These are people who deliberately plan on paying an attorney some money up front to get a case going (and to get the attorney mentally and emotionally invested in the case), who then stop paying but keep the attorney slaving away by telling the attorney things along the lines of, “Oh, I’ve had some hard times, but I will pay you just as soon as I can, so keep working and I’ll pay you eventually, I promise,” or “Once you win me that chunk of money, I’ll pay you out of that,” or, “Please help me! I need this so badly! Think of the children!!!,” stuff like that. Such clients are poison. 

Some lawyers (I was such a lawyer once) believe that non-paying clients are better than no clients, so they keep working for non-paying clients in the pathetic (but all too human) belief/hope that the client will be so happy with the great work the attorney does that the client cannot help but finally pay the bill out of gratitude and decency. Such lawyers are chumps. Other attorneys get a sense of nobility from working without pay “to help a struggling client” and to “make my little corner of the world a better place”.

Now don’t get me wrong: attorneys will, at times, volunteer to help those who are poor, but there’s a difference between choosing to work without pay and being duped into working without pay. There’s nothing noble about being a sucker. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Is being a divorce lawyer miserable?

Is being a divorce lawyer miserable?

Miserable? Can be (and is) for some divorce attorneys, but for me it’s chronically discouraging.

Sure, the human pain and betrayal to which we are exposed is saddening, as is the toll divorce takes on innocent children.

It’s sad to see a nuclear family ripped apart and to witness the different, but inevitable short and long-term consequences for every member.

It’s annoying to see who should be mature adults wasting their precious time, resources, and emotional reserves on anger, conflict, and oneupsmanship.

What makes it discouraging for me, however, is the way courts still treat fathers generally, i.e., as second-class parents and sources of financial support but not as important to a child as a mother, not as crucial an emotional and psychological component of a minor child’s upbringing. While it is true that fathers are gradually being treated more fairly, it’s still discouraging how often courts presumptively write off the father as unequal to the mother, how they presume fathers don’t love and care for their children as much as the mothers, how often the courts will, in some cases, literally analyze what the physical custody and “parent-time” award will be by asking “what’s the minimum the kids really need with their father?”

I’m frankly amazed that courts in my jurisdiction (Utah) refuse to give joint physical custody so much as a losing chance when courts can easily test it during the pendency of the case before making a final determination. Instead, some courts retain the services of “custody evaluators” to predict what’s best for the kids without testing the hypothesis. Why? There is no good reason why.

Imagine you want to buy a new car. Imagine it’s going to be a major investment; you’ll be driving it a lot each year for many, many years. It needs to be the right fit for you and your family. The car you ultimately get won’t be perfect (nothing is), but you want your choice to be as good a fit for you and your family as possible. Like everyone else in your position.

Now imagine you’re told that of the cars you’re considering you are allowed to test drive only one of them. Indeed, while you’re contemplating which car you’ll ultimately buy you will be restricted to test driving only one of the possible choices.

There’s no compelling reason why you can’t test drive each of the three or four cars you’re considering, no reason why you shouldn’t (in fact there’s every sensible reason you should).

But the dealerships simply dictate that until you make up your mind, you won’t allow you test drive any car but one. When you ask the dealers why (if they give you any answer at all), it will be something along the lines of “these cars are not lab rats” or “test driving a car might harm the car, so it’s not worth the risk” or “test driving more than one car may confuse and upset you.”

When you ask the dealers, “How can I make the best choice of car, if you deny me and my family the most useful and meaningful way to choose (i.e., test driving)?,” the dealers will then tell you that either they will choose for you and that a “car choice evaluator” may be appointed to help the dealers (not you) decide what new car you will buy. It makes no sense, but the dealers will tell you, “We’ve told you how our customers’ cars are chosen, so the matter is settled.” That’s how child custody has been determined for as long as I’ve practiced law.

No matter how many times I ask courts to test competing custody proposals, to compare joint custody against sole custody, so that the court and the family (and that includes the children) can experience the different schedules and learn what is best, I have NEVER had such a request granted. Not once in 23 years of practice. Nor have I ever heard of a court doing such a thing in any other child custody case where I practice. That makes me miserable.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Is it normal for your attorney to ignore your calls or answer your questions?

Is it normal for attorneys of a law firm who have taken on your case to never return your calls regarding any questions, concerns, or updates that you have regarding your case?

For many lawyers and law firms, yes, shamefully yes!

And often it depends upon what kind of lawyer or law firm. It is highly likely that if 1) you do not choose carefully who your divorce or child custody lawyer is and 2) fail to pay your lawyer well to have your lawyer do the job well, you will end up hiring a bad one. “Bad” meaning, among other things, an attorney that does not take or timely return your calls and who avoids providing you with answers to questions, reassurance in response to concerns, and with periodic updates as to the status and progress of your case.

If your lawyer is nonresponsive, meaning that your lawyer does not timely return your phone calls and emails and text messages, and your lawyer does not take the time to answer your questions and assuage your concerns to the extent that the attorney reasonably can, that is almost certain proof that your lawyer is incompetent and a clear indication that you need to get a better lawyer, and fast.

Now it is unfair of you to expect your lawyer to take your call every time you call the office. Attorneys are often on the phone throughout the day and are often already on the phone when a client calls, which prevents them from being able to take that call. So be understanding in that regard. But if your lawyer does not return your call, or at least have a member of his or her staff return your call (in the event that your attorney is away from the office for a period of a day or two on business) within 24 business hours, odds are you have a lousy lawyer who is not going to get any better.

If you have an attorney that responds to your questions with “you just have to trust that I know what I’m doing,” or “that’s the way the law works and I don’t expect you to understand,” odds are you have a lousy lawyer. If you have a lawyer that does not keep you apprised of developments in the case, even if the only thing to give you notice of is that nothing is happened lately and/or nothing is expected to happen anytime soon, odds are you have a lousy lawyer.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Do family law attorneys handle divorce?

Yes. Basically, all family law attorneys can handle divorce cases, while “pure divorce” attorneys clearly don’t handle other family law matters, such as adoptions, guardianships and conservatorships, juvenile court criminal case defense or non-delinquency juvenile court cases.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Why are divorce attorneys so expensive?

Why are divorce attorneys so expensive?

Because we divorce lawyers (I am a divorce lawyer) generally disappoint the people they serve. Some causes of the disappointment are the lawyer’s fault, some causes are the client’s fault.

Lawyers disappoint so easily because (and in no particular order): A) being a divorce lawyer is largely a thankless job; B) many divorce lawyers are money-grubbing opportunists; and C) virtually everything about the divorce process is miserable and so much of the misery is beyond one’s control to stop or mitigate.

Given all that, is it any wonder a divorce lawyer’s fees usually feel so expensive?

You’ll spend $30,000 for a car without much complaining because that car is so worth it! The car means you get to work safe and warm and dry in the winter and cool and comfortable in the summer. The car means freedom and fun. Sure, you paid $30,000 for the car, and sure, you have get it serviced and make sacrifices of time and other purchases to afford the car, but you got way more than $30,000 worth of benefit from that car. That car wasn’t expensive compared to the utility and joy it brings.

But spend $30,000 on a divorce and what do you have to show for it? Not much you can touch (indeed, you probably end up with less than you started), enjoy, appreciate, or use. The sacrifices you made to get divorced often feel as though they were made in vain. That’s not fair to lawyers who do a good job, but it’s understandable for clients to feel like their divorce lawyers really just made the best of a bad situation.

That’s usually why divorce attorneys are (perceived as) so expensive.

Utah Family Law, LC | | call us for an appointment at 801-466-9277

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