Tag: justice

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.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Artificial Fraudulence

Seth Godin stated it well when he wrote, “The ease with which someone can invent and spread lies [with advancing technology] is going to take most of us by surprise. It’s going to require an entirely new posture for understanding the world around us.”

This is especially true in family law.

We will soon reach the point (some are there already) in family law where a spouse or parent can create fake email, text, and audio and visual “records” of spousal and child abuse, substance abuse, infidelity, assets and debt, property damage, diminution and dissipation of assets, scientific data, etc. that is all but indistinguishable from the genuine article. The level and volume of fakery will be impossible for all but the wealthiest of litigants to discern (and even then, if a duped judge is too proud or to biased to acknowledge and remedy the fraud, all the proof in the world won’t protect the innocent). When truth is practicably impossible to verify in the legal process, truth becomes meaningless to the process.

I don’t know how best to address this problem (it may already be too late). Unless the profession takes immediate and wise action, the liars will make such a mockery of the legal process so fast and so pervasively that trust in the system will be irreparably destroyed (and with good reason). We may reach a point where society at large gives up on the notion of justice being a function of truth (reality).

One concern I have is members of the profession (both opposing counsel and judges) acting “offended” for outraged or “concerned” if somebody claims that deepfakes and other similar tactics are being engaged. I’m concerned that someone who may in the utmost sincerity raise legitimate concerns about the authenticity and veracity of certain evidence being ridiculed as paranoid, a vexatious litigator, unprofessional, etc. Not out of a genuine belief, but in the hopes that shaming or even persecuting the whistleblower will result in the claims being retracted so that the hard work of getting to the truth can be avoided and or so that the desired outcome is not impeded by the facts. When that happens, then who will judge the judges, and by what standard?

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Would the divorce rate drop if the parties had to see a psychologist first?

What do you think would be the rate of divorce in marriages if psychologists were to be consulted in court by couples before proceeding to see the lawyer for divorce?

Your intentions are good, your proposal won’t work. 

Short answer: forcing people to consult a psychologist as a prerequisite to obtaining a divorce would A) likely cause no appreciable reduction in the divorce rate and B) would surely not justify the costs associated with it. 

You appear to base your idea on several false assumptions: 

  • First, that professionals are infallible. They are not. That includes psychologists. Merely consulting a psychologist does not mean you will get competent care or advice from any and all psychologists. And the purpose of psychologists isn’t to talk people in or out of anything anyway, so forcing people to speak with a psychologist with the goal of reducing divorce likely would present some ethical conflicts that would cause many psychologists to balk. 
  • Second, that nary a professional (including psychologists) is motivated by self-interest. Plenty are. Some psychologists know that if they advocate for more psychologist involvement in the court systems, then that means more work for psychologists through the court systems. And so they do and say what they need to do and say to keep the work flowing, regardless of whether they feel that what they do and say is what is needed or warranted. 
  • Third, that most divorces are due to mental illness or other mental or emotional pathologies or disorders. While many divorces can be traced to mental and/or emotional problems in one or both spouses, not every divorce can be. Thus, requiring everyone who files for divorce to consult a psychologist would be a waste of time, money, and resources. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

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What are the primary concerns in determining parenting issues? Why?

What are the primary concerns of the courts in determining parenting issues? Why? 

In Utah (and in no particular order), the court must consider the factors articulated in these sections of the Utah Code when making a legal and physical custody award: 

  1. § 30-3-10. Custody of a child — Custody factors. 
  2. § 30-3-10.2. Joint custody order — Factors for court determination — Public assistance. 
  3. § 30-3-34. Parent-time — Best interests — Rebuttable presumption. 
  4. § 30-3-35.1. Optional schedule for parent-time for children 5 to 18 years of age. 
  5. § 30-3-35.2. Equal parent-time schedule. 

If I were to create a list of all factors from the above-referenced Utah Code sections, this answer would be too long, which is why I have provided hyperlinks to the Code sections for your review.  

CONCERN FOR FATHERS. What do fathers encounter far too often (not always, but far too often): “How can I rule against the father’s request for an award of joint equal legal and physical custody without my ruling appearing to be contrary to the facts, contrary to the best interest of the children and the irrational, biased or arbitrary, inequitable, discriminatory, unconstitutional thing that it is?” 

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

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, Week 28: With liberty and justice for all

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

Why is navigating the legal system complicated? There are many reasons. Several things complicate the nature of our legal system. One thing is money.  

Lawyers make a living representing people in legal matters. Money itself is not the cause of the complications in the legal system, but the desire for more money and lots of it complicates many things, and the legal system is no exception. 

Another thing that complicates the legal system is that sometimes people forget that the law is not based on their subjective values and opinions. “Legislating” from the bench complicates things because it undermines faith that someone will be subject to objective standards as opposed to the personal bias of a judge or collective bias of a jury.  

Another problem with the legal system is the public’s growing ignorance of and apathy toward it. I am more convinced each day that one of the most neglected but necessary elements of education is civic education. Ignorance of the law is coming to be seen as a legitimate defense. It is my opinion that one of the greatest gains for a more equitable and just society would be a legally educated populus. One way to help the public better understand and respect the law and legal system is by maintaining laws that are consistent and concise, and avoiding the temptation to believe mere legislation solves anything. Tacitus put it perfectly when he stated, “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” 

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

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 25: Roots

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

It is hard to change any undesirable thing without looking at and understanding its fundamental components. For instance, with addiction, the issue is often not the behavior itself. The addiction is frequently covering up a deeper root need or emotional response that we can’t see when looking at the addictive behaviors themselves. The only way to truly be rid of an addiction is to get at the fundamental part. The “root” of the problem. 

I mention this idea about “roots” and change to illustrate it is not uncommon that the reason we cannot make substantial change in our personal lives, and in society, is because we do not really understand the problem (and/or won’t confront the real problem). In the case of legal reform, we look at problematic laws being a possible root issue. But are they?   

Better laws (more clearly written, more rational and implementable laws) are always welcome, but they can’t make the people subject to them better. Better laws need better people to “work”, to benefit society.  

No amount of laws can make up for a lack of moral decency. To get real, effective, lasting legal reform, people reform. That’s not just the public at large, that includes judges, lawyers, law enforcement officers as well. You can change the law all you want, keep creating more and more rules—no matter how well-intentioned–and they will make no substantial change if the people aren’t wanting the good. Good men and women have more influence than merely good policy.  

So, instead of scratching our heads and fighting tooth and nail for an inch in legislative ground, maybe we should take a look at ourselves and our own moral fiber first.  

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

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 23: Injustice

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant

My blog post from this last week has got me thinking about the idea of injustice.  

So many issues in life are unfair. Even in a democratic republic like the United States of America, there has been a history of injustice and unfairness to so many despite the unparalleled freedom America provides and protects.  

But no system is perfect. That’s not just being trite, it is a profound reality. Externalities exist in this world because it is imperfect. Every good idea also has negative externalities or consequences.  

I do not deny bias and injustice exist. Even under the rule of law they still exist. But there is more and better justice than under the rule of a dictator or a tyrant.  

Still, how do we prevent and mitigate injustice? One way is to acknowledge injustice. We investigate it and we seek to understand it before we can take steps to resolve the problem itself. 

We also need to know what justice is and is not. We need to know the limits of earthly justice (and mercy).  

We need to be willing to change our beliefs and actions when they cause or foster injustice.  

We need to be people who desire justice and seek to be just ourselves, even when (especially when) justice may burden or injure us personally.   

In short, preventing injustice is a matter of personal responsibility. Only when people are committed to making a change in themselves can we hope that society (and the systems we have set up in society) will change. When people take responsibility to truly change for the better, society, which is the creation of the people, will have no choice but to follow. 

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

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 17: Fairness

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant

Before I started working as a legal assistant I was a philosophy major at BYU. During that time I read a portion of John Rawls treatise on justice. Mr. Rawls sought to equate justice with fairness. I would try and summarize what he meant by that, but unfortunately, I am far enough removed from my studies in philosophy that I could not give an accurate representation of what Rawls was saying in his writings. The reason that I bring it up now is that I have recently been contemplating what it means for an outcome to be fair. 

One issue I have seen since I started my current job is that many clients and potential clients have an idea of what they think is fair, but they do not see that their view does not align with what is fair according to the law. They have a specific expectation in mind about what should happen in their case, but when that expectation is not met, it means that what they did receive from the court is, in their view, not fair. Not getting what one wants is not an objective standard by which one can deem a particular effect as unfair. We all experience disappointment in life. In that sense, the fact that all of us experience some type of “unfairness” in our lives is, frankly, fair. I am not sure what constitutes fairness, I am not sure anyone does. But I know that it cannot just be getting what one wants. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

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Does saying after an answer “I truly believe that”, “it truly is”, damage your credibility as a lay witness in court or is it better to don’t add this type of qualifiers?

First, whether you “truly believe” something or “find it hard to believe,” testifying to something you believe or don’t believe, as opposed to testifying as to something you know, is the first and biggest problem. 

Testifying about something you believe (but do not know) is inadmissible testimony. Testifying based upon belief (as opposed to personal knowledge)—whether you testify that you “believe” or “don’t believe” a thing to be true, is known in legal parlance as “speculative” and speculative testimony is objectionable and inadmissible. Speculation is no different than guessing, and it would be frightening unfair to decide a case based upon beliefs, instead of based upon facts. 

Second, and somewhat ironically, trying to qualify or bolster your statement to make it more believable may have the opposite effect. Adding qualifiers to your testimony may raise the question as to why you would add them. For example, if you were to answer a question with “To be honest, I do(n’t) know,” use of the phrase “to be honest” is unnecessary. So, one could (could, not must, but could) infer that someone who starts a statement with “to be honest” may often answer questions dishonestly as a general matter, which is why the person distinguishes between when he/she speaks honestly and when he/she does not. So why introduce the doubt as to your credibility at all when there is no need to do so? Better to say merely “I don’t know” and “yes” and “no” than to say, “To be honest, I do(n’t) know” or “To tell the truth, I do(n’t) know”. 

Many people have the linguistic tic or affectation of responding to questions with the phrase “I believe” when in fact such people are not guessing or speculating but know. Imagine a situation where when the witness left the office on a particular day is a crucial fact to be established. Imagine that the witness knows precisely when he/she left the office that day, i.e., 5:15 p.m. When such a person is testifying and says, in response to the question as to what time he/she left the office at the end of the day, “I believe I left the office at 5:15 p.m.,” then the witness is needlessly confusing the judge and/or jury. Saying, “I believe” before making a statement of fact changes that statement of fact into a statement of speculation, a guess. 

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

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Pro-fairness and Pro-child

Pro-fairness and Pro-child

Recently, public service YouTube channel I run (UFTLV – Utah Family Law TV – not run by or run to support Utah Family Law, LC) received a comment on this video:

Do you think it’s fair that Brad Pitt got joint custody of his kids?

The comment:

“I’m pretty convinced this channel is a pro fathers [sic] rights movement channel. Its [sic] not surprising at all he got joint custody. Its [sic] an automatic presumption nowadays for mother and father to share joint custody.

My response follows below:

Thank you so much for watching and for commenting. You are mistaken on both counts. 1) This is not a pro-father’s rights channel (nor is it a “pro-mother’s rights” channel). It is a pro-fairness, pro-child, pro-due process, and pro-common sense channel. 2) It is not automatically presumed everywhere that child custody will be awarded to both parents on a joint custody basis.

1) For generations mothers were (and still remain in most jurisdictions) presumed to be “the better parent” simply by virtue of their being mothers/women, without evaluating the parental fitness of each parent to determine whether the children would be best served by a sole or joint child custody award. It was (and still is in many jurisdictions) believed that children need to spend more time in their mothers’ care than in their fathers’ care, even if and when the father is ready, willing, and able to share joint equal custody of the children.

2) While there are more and more states in the U.S. passing laws that presume the parents will be awarded joint legal and joint physical custody of their children, many states have no such presumption and many states still treat fathers as second class parents when it comes to making the child custody award. I myself have been told by a judge just this year that “it’s not the quantity of time the children spend with their father but the quality that matters.” But quality of time parents and children spend together is a factor of quantity. Where both parents are fit parents, the “best parent” is both parents. Children deserve no less than joint equal custody in such situations. Fit parents deserve no less as well.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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Do lawyers ever regret helping a client or obtaining a particular judgment?

Do lawyers ever regret helping a client or obtaining a particular judgment? 

Yes, yes, of course. 

We all know that there are plenty of lawyers who will prostitute their professional skills for money and litigate any case as long as the price is right. Clearly, those lawyers should be regretting taking such cases, but don’t, or more accurately, if they do regret taking the case it’s usually because it ended up being more trouble than it was worth to them, i.e., not profitable. 

But there are other lawyers who are good and decent people, people who want to see justice done and want to be a part of that process. I consider myself one of these kind of attorneys.  

Even these attorneys, who try as best they can to represent clients whose cause they believe is just, can be duped. And I am no exception. 

Good and earnest attorneys can be fooled by people with a good sob story or even a meticulously crafted cover. When these good and earnest attorneys are exploited by such people, these decent attorneys regret it. It reflects badly on their reputations and most of all, it upsets them to know that they were used and exploited to achieve unjust ends, the very thing they got into the profession to fight and prevent. 

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

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What to do before a divorce, if you’re not in the wrong

What advice would you give someone before a divorce, if it’s known it may happen and you’re not in the wrong?

This is a very important question that too few people ask.

Does this sound familiar?:

  • Your spouse is making false allegations against you. No evidence to support them, yet the police and the courts and child protective services are swallowing it all.
  • You keep asking when justice will be done, when you will be vindicated.
  • You keep wondering when things would get back to “normal”.
  • In the back of your mind you are certain that one day things will indeed get back to normal
  • Odds are they won’t. Especially while your kids are minors.
  • But surely things can’t stay this crazy and out of whack forever, right?
  • Wrong.
  • Things will likely get better but will likely never “go back to normal.”
  • We don’t blame you for thinking we’re exaggerating. The idea that innocence counts for next to nothing is unthinkable. Too terrible to believe. As is the idea that people can slander you with impunity while the police and the courts stand by and either let it happen or even it help it happen. Believe it. It’s true.
  • No really, it’s true.
  • The words of this real divorced spouse and parent sum things up concisely and accurately: I kept wondering when things would get back to normal. I soon realized through brutal experience that it never will, as long as I have kids with my ex that are minors. Or if I am ever around my alone (meaning no other witness could confirm her false claims are exactly that, false). I can’t ever go back to life as it was before divorce. My rose colored glasses are broken forever, The days of not worrying about someone making things up to punish me in divorce or criminal court or DCFS are no more. The “child-like faith” I once had in our legal system is lost for all time, never to return.
  • You can deny it all you want, but it will do you and your kids no good and only lead to more harm and being victimized more, if you bury your head in the sand or in the clouds. That will only add repeated and more severe injury to what started out as insult.
  • We know what you are hoping for, and you’re not there yet. You likely won’t be for much longer time than you think is realistic or fair.
  • Will the day soon come when you can stop worrying about protecting yourself from false allegations or complaints from your ex? No.
  • In fact, that day may never come.
  • We know people for whom it’s been years, in some cases more than a decade, and still, to this day the ex cannot be trusted to be decent.
  • You have to cautious and careful in the event that the snake that bit you once (or dozens of times) before might try to bite you again.
  • We know it’s exhausting and actually driving you near insane (we really do).
  • But you must stay vigilant.
  • You must stay classy. And stay frosty. You must. It’s either stay frosty, stay classy, or be crushed. Crushed emotionally, financially, etc.
  • An ounce of prevention truly is worth several hundred or several thousand pounds of cure.
  • We understand you’re not happy about this.
  • Still, knowing is half the battle. Forewarned is forearmed.
  • Staying blissfully ignorant won’t do you any good and can do you permanent damage.
  • Divorce and false claims of child and spousal and substance abuse, etc. are more prevalent than you think because nobody wants to believe it will happen to them. And those who are victimized are often too embarrassed and depressed to talk openly and honestly about it. Can you blame them?
  • That’s it. No easy solutions. No cheap assurances. But ignore this information, warnings, and protective measures at your peril.

Hang in there. Heed this crucial advice: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

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

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The bitter truth is better than the sweetest lie.

The bitter truth is better than the sweetest lie.

It was recently reported that a California judge has been censured after commenting on “smoking hot” women, proclaiming that he had the “biggest balls in the courthouse” and making other inappropriate remarks.

So why should you care?

Well, look, I don’t like vulgarity either, but I’d rather a man or woman deal with me as he/she is than play acting at being something he/she ain’t, especially if he/she were my judge holding my fate in his/her hands. We should all aspire to clean language, but more importantly, I want to know who I am really dealing with. I expect it of others, they expect it of me, especially in the legal profession. You don’t have to like the way I (or anyone else) express(es) speech, opinions, or values, but you should appreciate the fact that I (and anyone else) expresses myself/himself/herself honestly and sincerely.

What good is a First Amendment if it doesn’t apply—and liberally apply—to judges too?

And does anyone think that language this judge uses is all that unusual (yes, even for judges)? It’s not. Not even close. I’ve heard some (some, not all) of Utah’s own judges at every level use this same kind of language. It’s not refined, and yes, it can be perceived (rightly or wrongly) as crude, but it’s certainly not something that disqualifies a judge from being a judge!

Judges are regular people (even though some of them may wish to have us believe otherwise). Let judges be who they are! Who they really are. Who they honestly are. I’d much rather a judge show his/her true colors both on and off the bench than adopt one standard in private life and a double standard in public.

Elihu Root was no lout, and even he said (back in in 1912), “About half of the practice of a decent lawyer is telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop.” And Seneca said, “The bitter truth is better than the sweetest lie.”

Saying “ass” and “balls” and even “smoking hot” certainly isn’t the most tasteful way to behave, but the last thing we go to court seeking is taste; we go to courts seeking truth and justice and equity. A judge who, in private (hell (see what I did there?), even on the bench) says “ass” or “balls” or “don’t act like a scared little girl” doesn’t magically render one unable to render reasoned and just rulings–let’s concern ourselves with that, damn it.


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

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To whom do you turn to when the police won’t protect you from your ex?

I am a domestic relations attorney. With this in mind, and if you are convinced that you don’t have enough evidence to obtain a restraining order, my answer to your question is:

You move.

Easier said than done, I know, but it’s still easier (and less discouraging, futile, and frustrating) than trying to force law enforcement officers to help you.

Even if you obtained a court order (ooooooh, a court order!) that “compelled” law enforcement officers to help you, chances are that the court would not enforce the order, if the law enforcement officers to whom it is directed refuse to help you.* Then factor in the time and effort (and money, if you hire an attorney to help you obtain the order) that goes in to seeking such an order, and it makes more sense to invest that time, effort, and money into doing something that works, something that has a much higher potential for success (if by “success” you mean getting away from your stalker/harasser/tormentor to safety and peace).

*Of course, this kind of law enforcement officer is too smart to blatantly refuse to help you. Instead, you’ll get the bureaucratic/administrative run around and the cops will play dumb (“this is a civil matter, ma’am”), so that they maintain plausible deniability. If that doesn’t work, they’ll threaten to arrest you (“disorderly conduct” and “disturbing the peace” are popular threats, as is “false report”) if you try to insist upon them enforcing your order.

Frequently, the best course of action is not to seek vindication through the legal system, but to extricate yourself from it. No, I am clearly not urging to violate the law, I am showing you that the legal system often disappoints. So if you can help yourself better than the legal system can help you (without being an outlaw, of course), then help yourself.

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

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