Tag: legal aid

How much should you trust your lawyer?

The more power to be entrusted, the higher the stakes, the less I trust anyone under such conditions. 

Many of us find or will find ourselves in a situation where we must retain an attorney’s services. Essentially, it must be done, we have no real choice. Not retaining an attorney is worse than going it alone. 

Even then, hiring a lawyer does not relieve you of responsibility for your own case, of responsibility for protecting/advancing your interests. A good lawyer is a means of improving and augmenting your ability to do this, but only as long as you remain vigilant personally. If you don’t understand what your lawyer is doing or advising you to do, but “trust” that your lawyer is doing right by you, you’re just being lazy. If and when you fail to make informed decisions, you’re needlessly risking disappointment and failure, and that’s on you. You are responsible to find the best lawyer you can. I consider a good lawyer to be someone who is as honest and fair as he/she is skilled as a jurist and litigator. Don’t hire a mercenary, a shark. This calls to mind the proverb “He who will lie for you will lie to you.” 

Remember: a lawyer you can and should trust is not a lawyer who is infallible. Even the most trustworthy, skilled attorney cannot control the opposing parties, witnesses, law enforcement and court personnel, or the judge(s). Sometimes an attorney’s best advice fails. Any choice as to how to handle a legal matter is not without trade-offs and risks. That’s not a matter of how trustworthy your lawyer is. 

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

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What is a court proceeding?

According to Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019): 


proceeding (16c) 1. The regular and orderly progression of a lawsuit, including all acts and events between the time of commencement and the entry of judgment. 

  1. Any procedural means for seeking redress from a tribunal or agency.
  2. An act or step that is part of a larger action.
  3. The business conducted by a court or other official body; a hearing.
  4. Bankruptcy. A particular dispute or matter arising within a pending case — as opposed to the case as a whole.

“‘Proceeding’ is a word much used to express the business done in courts. A proceeding in court is an act done by the authority or direction of the court, express or implied. It is more comprehensive than the word ‘action,’ but it may include in its general sense all the steps taken or measures adopted in the prosecution or defense of an action, including the pleadings and judgment. As applied to actions, the term ‘proceeding’ may include — (1) the institution of the action; (2) the appearance of the defendant; (3) all ancillary or provisional steps, such as arrest, attachment of property, garnishment, injunction, writ of ne exeat; (4) the pleadings; (5) the taking of testimony before trial; (6) all motions made in the action; (7) the trial; (8) the judgment; (9) the execution; (10) proceedings supplementary to execution, in code practice; (11) the taking of the appeal or writ of error; (12) the remittitur, or sending back of the record to the lower court from the appellate or reviewing court; (13) the enforcement of the judgment, or a new trial, as may be directed by the court of last resort.” Edwin E. Bryant, The Law of Pleading Under the Codes of Civil Procedure 3–4 (2d ed. 1899). 

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

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How do you go about getting a copy of your divorce papers?

If you have a lawyer: your lawyer can and should give you a copy. 

If you don’t have a lawyer: 

  • go to the courthouse (if the courthouse is open and allowing members of the public to enter the building) and go to the clerk’s office to request a copy (for which you will likely be required to pay); or 
  • call or e-mail the court clerk’s office to request that a copy be mailed or emailed to you (again, don’t be surprised if you are required to pay for the copy, even if it’s emailed to you). 

If you don’t have the telephone number or e-mail address for the court clerk’s office, looking them up online can be hard, if you are not familiar with the precise name of the court where your divorce case was handled. 

So if you find it difficult to find this information, try calling a local attorney’s office, apologize for inconveniencing them, but explain that you are trying to get a copy of your divorce decree (or other documents from the court’s file), and see if that attorney’s office will give you the telephone number or e-mail address. 

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

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I have no money and a non-cooperative ex, how do I get legal help?

How can I obtain assistance in a custody matter when I have no money and my ex-husband is not following the current court order? 

In some jurisdictions there are legal services that exist for the purpose of helping the poor. They provide anywhere from discounted services to free services. Sometimes what you pay (if anything) is based upon your income (the less your income is, the less you pay). Not everyone qualifies for these reduced-fee or free services, and it should come as no surprise to that (with occasional exception), when it comes to free or cheap legal services, you get what you pay for.  

Some law schools offer some legal help in the form of clinics staffed by law students who are supervised by a lawyer or lawyers. As you can imagine, because law students are students and not yet lawyers, the legal knowledge they have is limited, as is the kinds and amounts of legal help they can give. These legal clinics usually provide help in the form of showing you how to do-it-yourself. Rarely will legal clinics staffed by law students provide you with limited or full representation in court.  

Some bar associations host legal clinics as well. Again, these are not soup to nuts outfits. They usually limit themselves to the kinds of legal questions the poor face: eviction, divorce, small claims, consumer protection issues, petty crime. These lawyers will volunteer to meet with you for a few minutes to an hour or so because a lot of people come to these clinics, so you won’t be getting all the information and advice you may want or need. And the same lawyers aren’t always at the clinics each time you show up. And some clinics may limit the amount of time you get to spend there, so that people don’t hog the free help.  

Finally, some jurisdictions have laws that provide for the possibility of your ex paying for your lawyer—while the case is pending, not after the case is over—if you can’t pay for one yourself while the case is pending. For example, in the jurisdiction where I practice law (Utah), there is this statute: 

30-3-3. Award of costs, attorney and witness fees — Temporary alimony. 

(1) In any action filed under Title 30, Chapter 3, Divorce, Chapter 4, Separate Maintenance, or Title 78B, Chapter 7, Part 6, Cohabitant Abuse Protective Orders, and in any action to establish an order of custody, parent-time, child support, alimony, or division of property in a domestic case, the court may order a party to pay the costs, attorney fees, and witness fees, including expert witness fees, of the other party to enable the other party to prosecute or defend the action. The order may include provision for costs of the action. 

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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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 15: Objections.

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant

I think one of the least understood facets of the legal system by lay people (like myself, a new legal assistant) is the concept of an objection in a trial. I have been to a couple trials now since I started this job, and I am still unsure about all the different ways someone can object. Sometimes I think lawyers object even when they themselves are unsure on what grounds they are objecting. They just go off of a gut feeling (and my boss tells me my impressions are accurate). As someone who is preparing to go to law school, I have been trying to pay attention to objections when they are raised and why they are important. I believe it’s a good thing that there are rules for what evidence is presented in court and how it is presented. That is the best way to ensure we separate facts from mere allegations, how we generate good arguments, and all of it—when done right—enables the judge to make an impartial decision. Now the judge will not always rule impartially just because the rules of evidence have been observed, but following the rules of evidence helps keep everyone honest, including the judge. Knowing the rules of evidence and their purposes, including objections, is vital.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277 

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