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Tag: information

The Importance of Working With Your Lawyer By Braxton Mounteer

I have noticed three chronic problems with clients in just the few weeks I have been working as a legal assistant.

1) Most clients seem to have an almost allergic reaction to providing required information to the court and to the opposing party and to filling out documents required by the court. It does not merely surprise me how hard it is to get required information out of most clients, it’s shocking and demoralizing. It doesn’t seem to matter what information is required, how long or how short the document they have to fill out is, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether they are the petitioners or respondents in the case.

2) Most clients seem to have a blind spot for deadlines. They could be reminded weeks (even months) in advance of a looming deadline, then reminded every week, then every other day, then every day, then multiple a day, and still act surprised when we chew them out in the 11th hour for having little to nothing done and shooting themselves in the foot as result.

We get that a divorce case is gut-wrenching. We understand that it’s discouraging–even terrifying–to deal with the allegations and the costs. We understand the all too human desire to bury your head in the sand and hope in vain that it will all just go away. We understand why the temptation to procrastinate is so strong. Which is why you need to do the work, in full and on time. Avoidance will only make things harder, will only make things worse.

3) Many clients provide false and/or incomplete information to the court and to the opposing party in the course of a divorce case. Whether they outright lie or are simply being careless, the consequence is the same: credibility is damaged, (often irreparably) and the case is weakened (sometimes irreparably). The more honest and completely forthcoming you are, the stronger your armor is in the litigation battle. Truth be told, lying and deception can result in some big wins sometimes, but lying and deception are wrong (and despite their general reputation for playing fast and loose with the truth, there are some lawyers out there who take their oaths to be honest and just seriously). If being morally upstanding isn’t enough to inspire you to be honest, frankly the risks of lying and deception aren’t worth the consequences if you’re caught (and most liars get caught).

4) It’s amazing how often clients get in legal trouble over the course of their divorce proceedings. They’ve been stand-up and law-abiding citizens their whole lives up to that point, but then they “miraculously” are accused of domestic violence, stalking, substance abuse, tax evasion, DUI, child molestation, etc. Now, clearly there is a difference between committing a crime and being falsely accused of a crime by a spouse who is trying to use the false allegations as leverage in the divorce action, but it is surprising how often divorce causes good people to snap. Whether they end up in jail (or picking up trash along the Interstate to work off their community service) or passed out on the floor drunk or high or both, many good people are pushed over the edge by divorce. Remember that when a divorce case is filed, you may find yourself reaching your breaking point. Be prepared. Swallow your pride. Keep your judgment clear. Don’t be afraid to find the occasional listening ear or shoulder to cry on. Find safe and non-incriminating ways to deal with the despair, fear, anger, and anxiety by spending time with family and friends, fellow church members, or, if need be, a good (a good, not just any) counselor or therapist.

The reason someone retains the services of an attorney in a divorce case is to get the help they need to do what they cannot and should not do themselves in the divorce case. A good lawyer is a good value. But the best lawyer in the world is not a wizard. Your lawyer shouldn’t be spending his time and your money saving you from yourself. Do yourself a favor and keep this in mind (and avoid the chronic missteps I see clients engage in far too often).

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Are divorce records public?

I cannot speak for all jurisdictions, but for the jurisdiction where I practice divorce law the answer is “yes”. See Utah Code § 30-3-4(2)(b):

§30-3-4. Pleadings–Decree–Use of affidavit–Private records

(b) If the court finds that there are substantial interests favoring restricting access that clearly outweigh the interests favoring access, the court may classify the file, or any part thereof other than the final order, judgment, or decree, as private. An order classifying part of the file as private does not apply to subsequent filings. 

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277  

https://www.quora.com/Are-divorce-records-public/answer/Eric-Johnson-311 

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Does a spouse have the right to see a DUI report?

First, if you are referring to a police report of a DUI citation and/or arrest, in most jurisdictions such records are public record, and thus available not only to your spouse, but to any other member of the public.

Second, if the question of whether you were cited and/or convicted of DUI arises in a divorce or child custody case because your spouse and/or the court has determined that alcohol or other substance abuse concerns are relevant to the child custody award or alimony award or other issues, then even if your DUI report were not already public record, it would likely be discoverable in the course of litigating the case and preparing for trial, so that both your spouse and the court would have that information available to them when arguing over which parent should receive child custody and/or how much time each parent should spend with the parties’ children, whether alimony should be tempered by your substance and/or spousal abuse history, etc.

Bottom line: records of a citation for, arrest for, conviction of, and or incarceration resulting from DUI are almost certainly discoverable in most divorce and child custody cases.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

https://www.quora.com/Does-a-spouse-have-the-right-to-see-a-DUI-report/answer/Eric-Johnson-311?prompt_topic_bio=1

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Does a spouse have the right to see a DUI report?

Does a spouse have the right to see a DUI report?

First, if you are referring to a police report of a DUI citation and/or arrest, in most jurisdictions such records are public record, and thus available not only to your spouse, but to any other member of the public.

Second, if the question of whether you were cited and/or convicted of DUI arises in a divorce or child custody case because your spouse and/or the court has determined that alcohol or other substance abuse concerns are relevant to the child custody award or alimony award or other issues, then even if your DUI report were not already public record, it would likely be discoverable in the course of litigating the case and preparing for trial, so that both your spouse and the court would have that information available to them when arguing over which parent should receive child custody and/or how much time each parent should spend with the parties’ children, whether alimony should be tempered by your substance and/or spousal abuse history, etc.

Bottom line: records of a citation for, arrest for, conviction of, and or incarceration resulting from DUI are almost certainly discoverable in most divorce and child custody cases.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

https://www.quora.com/Does-a-spouse-have-the-right-to-see-a-DUI-report/answer/Eric-Johnson-311?prompt_topic_bio=1

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In court cases, how does taking an oath make any difference?

In court cases, how does taking an oath make any difference?

From what I can tell, yes, it appears that taking an oath or affirming to tell the truth before being questioned as a witness in a legal proceeding (whether in court or whether the testimony is being given in relation to the court proceedings) does make a difference because lying under oath or affirmation is an element of the crime of perjury. No oath or affirmation, no perjury.

Lying without being under oath or affirmation can still be a crime or otherwise punished by law in other settings other than a court proceeding (for example, lying a law enforcement officer), so bear that in mind.

Clearly, the purpose of questioning a witness in a court proceeding is to gather factual and/or honest (truthful) information to help the court decide the case. Some information is factual, meaning it is not in dispute, it can be independently verified as true. Other information is “honest,” meaning that it may not be true but the witness believes what he or she is saying is true and is doing his/her best to testify as to what he/she remembers.

If one can be convicted of lying in court or in relation to court proceedings without having sworn an oath or affirmed to tell the truth I do not know of such a law (but that’s not to say such a law does not exist). Why one cannot be convicted of lying in court without having sworn an oath or affirmed to tell the truth I do not know.

I see no good reason why a law could simply be passed that any witness is guilty of perjury if the witness, when, after first being notified that the witness is questioned in the course of or in relation to the court proceedings, the witness makes a false statement of a material fact; and knowledge of the falsity made in a proceeding, or in relation to a matter, within the jurisdiction of the tribunal or officer before whom the proceeding was held or by whom the matter was considered.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

https://www.quora.com/In-court-cases-how-does-taking-an-oath-make-any-difference/answer/Eric-Johnson-311?prompt_topic_bio=1

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What are the Steps for Getting Divorced in Utah?

What are the Steps for Getting Divorced in Utah?

To start the divorce process, you must begin by filing what is called a complaint or a petition for divorce with the court. This means you are suing your spouse for a divorce. Don’t let the term “suing” frighten you or your spouse. “To sue” means to institute legal proceedings against your spouse. That’s all.

Then your complaint or petition for divorce is served on (or officially delivered to) your spouse, usually by a law enforcement officer or a private process server. You can also waive personal service by a law enforcement officer or process server and just accept service by signing a simply accepting the documents without the need for personal service.

If you and your spouse agree to the terms of your divorce, also known as an “uncontested divorce,” the issue of “service of process” doesn’t come up because you submit voluntarily to the jurisdiction of the court by signing and filing with the court your divorce settlement agreement and other documents that indicate you recognize you are subject to the to the jurisdiction of the court.

If you’re the one seeking a divorce and the one who filed for divorce, your spouse has 21 days to respond to the complaint for divorce or 30 days to respond if your spouse is served outside of the state of Utah.

The name for the response to a complaint for divorce is an “answer”. If you wish to countersue your spouse for divorce after you get served with a petition or complaint for divorce, you can file an “answer and counterclaim”.

How the case proceeds from this point could take various routes:

  • At any point during the pendency of the case, as long as the trial has not concluded and the court issued its decree and orders, you and your spouse can reach a settlement agreement.
  • After the complaint and answer or answer and counterclaim are filed, the parties have to exchange some initial financial information and information about the evidence each party has and what witnesses the parties might call to testify at trial.
  • Then the parties have 180 days to conduct discovery. The purpose of discovery is to obtain facts and information that will reveal the truth in a matter and help both parties and the court determine what’s truly in dispute and what is not. After discovery closes, then the case is almost ready to take to trial, but not quite.
  • Before a divorce case can go to trial in Utah the parties must first to go mediation and try to settle the case (if the parties don’t want to go to mediation they can ask the court to waive the mediation requirement “for good cause,” but it’s not easy to get the court to find good cause to waive mediation. Most couples go to mediation, even if they think it won’t work, if for no other reason than to check the “we went to mediation” box, so that they can get to trial.
  • After discovery closes and mediation is completed, either party can certify the case as read for trial.
  • Then the court schedules one or more pretrial conferences to prepare for trial, set a trial date, the number of day the trial will take, and other matters.
  • After trial, the court can take up to 60 days to issue its decision on the case, after which one of the parties’ respective attorneys is ordered to prepare the Decree of Divorce for the court’s signature.

That’s the Utah divorce process in a nutshell.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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When a lawyer drops a client, is the reason shared with the judge and/or opposing counsel (i.e., the client refused to be reasonable, etc.)?

When a lawyer drops a client, is the reason shared with the judge and/or opposing counsel (i.e., the client refused to be reasonable, etc.)?

In Utah, where I practice divorce and family law, the answer is: no.

When a lawyer drops a client/stops representing a client (known as “withdrawing as counsel” for that client), the lawyer is not permitted to inform the judge or opposing counsel as to the reasons why. This is due to the attorney’s duties to keep confidential 1) the communications between attorney and client and 2) the information relating to the representation of the client. See Utah Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct:

Rule 1.16(d):

(d) Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client’s interests[.]”

Rule 1.6. Confidentiality of Information.

(a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation or the disclosure is permitted by paragraph (b).

(b) A lawyer may reveal information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary:

(b)(1) to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm;

(b)(2) to prevent the client from committing a crime or fraud that is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another and in furtherance of which the client has used or is using the lawyer’s services;

(b)(3) to prevent, mitigate or rectify substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another that is reasonably certain to result or has resulted from the client’s commission of a crime or fraud in furtherance of which the client has used the lawyer’s services;

(b)(4) to secure legal advice about the lawyer’s compliance with these Rules;

(b)(5) to establish a claim or defense on behalf of the lawyer in a controversy between the lawyer and the client, to establish a defense to a criminal charge or civil claim against the lawyer based upon conduct in which the client was involved, or to respond to allegations in any proceeding concerning the lawyer’s representation of the client;

(b)(6) to comply with other law or a court order; or

(b)(7) to detect and resolve conflicts of interest arising from the lawyer’s change of employment or from changes in the composition or ownership of a firm, but only if the revealed information would not compromise the attorney-client privilege or otherwise prejudice the client.

(c) A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

https://www.quora.com/When-a-lawyer-drops-a-client-is-the-reason-shared-with-the-judge-and-or-opposing-counsel-I-e-the-client-refused-to-be-reasonable-etc/answer/Eric-Johnson-311

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When a lawyer drops a client, is the reason shared with the judge and/or opposing counsel (i.e., the client refused to be reasonable, etc.)?

When a lawyer drops a client, is the reason shared with the judge and/or opposing counsel (i.e., the client refused to be reasonable, etc.)?

In Utah, where I practice divorce and family law, the answer is: no.

When a lawyer drops a client/stops representing a client (known as “withdrawing as counsel” for that client), the lawyer is not permitted to inform the judge or opposing counsel as to the reasons why. This is due to the attorney’s duties to keep confidential 1) the communications between attorney and client and 2) the information relating to the representation of the client. See Utah Supreme Court Rules of Professional Conduct:

Rule 1.16(d):

(d) Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client’s interests[.]”

Rule 1.6. Confidentiality of Information.

(a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation or the disclosure is permitted by paragraph (b).

(b) A lawyer may reveal information relating to the representation of a client to the extent the lawyer reasonably believes necessary:

(b)(1) to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm;

(b)(2) to prevent the client from committing a crime or fraud that is reasonably certain to result in substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another and in furtherance of which the client has used or is using the lawyer’s services;

(b)(3) to prevent, mitigate or rectify substantial injury to the financial interests or property of another that is reasonably certain to result or has resulted from the client’s commission of a crime or fraud in furtherance of which the client has used the lawyer’s services;

(b)(4) to secure legal advice about the lawyer’s compliance with these Rules;

(b)(5) to establish a claim or defense on behalf of the lawyer in a controversy between the lawyer and the client, to establish a defense to a criminal charge or civil claim against the lawyer based upon conduct in which the client was involved, or to respond to allegations in any proceeding concerning the lawyer’s representation of the client;

(b)(6) to comply with other law or a court order; or

(b)(7) to detect and resolve conflicts of interest arising from the lawyer’s change of employment or from changes in the composition or ownership of a firm, but only if the revealed information would not compromise the attorney-client privilege or otherwise prejudice the client.

(c) A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

https://www.quora.com/When-a-lawyer-drops-a-client-is-the-reason-shared-with-the-judge-and-or-opposing-counsel-I-e-the-client-refused-to-be-reasonable-etc/answer/Eric-Johnson-311

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What does a judge ask a child in a custody case?

In Utah (where I practice divorce and child custody law) the answer is: it’s almost impossible to say. Why?

  1. For reasons that I assert I can demonstrate are not highly rational*, the majority of judges are extremely reluctant to question children on the subject of the child custody award.
  2. Case files for child custody cases are classified as private and not accessible to the public, so unless the child is questioned in a public court proceeding (which happens so rarely one could honestly state that, statistically speaking, it never happens), we will never know (we can never know) what the child was asked or what the child said in response. Those judges who are willing to question children—as they are authorized by the Utah Code to do—almost never question children in public court proceedings but instead question them in chambers, although the questioning is conducted on the record and not covertly.
  3. The law gives judges the opportunity to avoid hearing directly from a child by instead appointing an attorney for the children known as a “guardian ad litem” and thus avoid ever actually hearing any testimony from the child’s own mouth by having the GAL claim to have spoken to the child, albeit not on the record (and thus there is no objectively verifiable way to confirm this), to have elicited from the child his/her experiences, observations, feelings, opinions, and desires (again, without there being any objectively verifiable way to confirm this) and then, based upon literally nothing that is objectively verifiable, make recommendations to the judge as to how the judge should rule on the issue of the child custody award.

*The ostensible reasons that most judges give for refusing to question children or allow children to be questioned by an attorney or attorneys are that they:

  1. A) fear that if parents find out what the child says, then the child may feel guilty for expressing a preference or preferences for one parent over another on particular subjects of parental abilities and fitness;
  2. B) fear that once parents discover what the child had to say the child may be punished or retaliated against if what the child said upsets or offends one or both parents; and/or
  3. C) conclude, without first questioning the child, that children in general are incompetent witnesses and that their testimony would be of little help to resolving child custody questions.

Here is why I assert that such reasons are not rational:

1) First, parents are going to find out what a child thinks, feels, and wants with regard to child custody irrespective of whether the judge questions the child in court proceedings. Parents are going to learn of this (whether directly from the child or from his/her siblings, extended family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, counselors, coaches, ministers, etc.) before the child custody case is filed, during the pendency of the child custody case in court, at trial, and after the trial. It’s unavoidable. It’s inevitable. I submit that i) the belief that not questioning a child about his/her opinions and preferences regarding child custody will prevent the child’s parents from discovering those opinions and preferences, and ii) the believe that the only time and place in which the child will express such things is when questioned by the judge, is rather naive; it’s impossible to prevent parents from learning this information from and about the children.

Second, the value that many judges place on preventing children from feeling guilty or uncomfortable is misplaced. For two reasons. One, children who are going to feel guilty and uncomfortable about their child custody preferences, who are going to feel as though they are betraying a parent by expressing a preference for one over the other. are going to feel that way regardless of whether they express those preferences to the judge or a custody evaluator or a guardian ad litem (GAL). Two, getting to the truth about how children feel and why—when it comes to their child custody preferences—is far more important than sparing them from feeling guilty (especially when we already know they’re going to feel guilty regardless of whether they testify). Otherwise stated, preventing child testimony does no good: it protects the children from nothing, while denying the judge the clearest, purest sources of information about the children’s experiences, observations, feelings, opinions, and preferences as they relate to the child custody award.

2) If the judge believes that children will not be punished for expressing a preference for one parent over another, so long as those preferences are not expressed to the judge, again, that’s not rational either. It is impossible for a judge to prevent parents from learning a child’s feelings, opinions, and preferences regarding child custody. Thus it is impossible for a judge to prevent a parent who gets upset by those feelings, opinions and preferences from learning about them and from punishing and retaliating against his/her child once he/she learns of them. A judge can’t even mitigate the amount and severity of the retaliation and punishment because the judge is powerless to prevent the child’s feelings, opinions, and preferences from being discovered. And so once again, we find the court depriving itself of one of the clearest and purest sources of information and guidance on the subject of thee child custody award based upon a fear and a belief that has no rational basis. Closing one’s ears and eyes to what a child can say on the subject displays, frankly, a shocking disregard for the best interest of the child.

3) Concluding, without first questioning the child, that children in general are incompetent witnesses and that their testimony would be of little help to resolving child custody questions. See self-fulfilling prophecy. While it is certainly true that some children may be, for various reasons (such as being too young to talk, too young to have a consistent and reliable understanding of right and wrong and truth and falsity, placed in circumstances that call the veracity or credibility of the child’s testimony into question from the outset, etc.), one sure way to guarantee that we never determine how informative, probative, and reliable a child’s testimony may be and what weight to give such testimony is to dispense with allowing the child to testify in the first place.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

https://www.quora.com/What-does-a-judge-ask-a-child-in-a-custody-case/answer/Eric-Johnson-311

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