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Tag: legal assistant

Why Hiding or Misrepresenting Your Income in a Divorce and/or Child Support Court Case Won’t Work (and why people still try) By Braxton Mounteer

When those who realize they may be ordered to pay child and/or spousal support (alimony) confront the matter, many try to lie about and to misrepresent their income in the hope they can avoid paying, or at least pay as little as possible. Few involved in the support calculation effort–from the would-be support obligee (“obligee” means the one who receives support payments) to the court–believes anyone would tell the truth about his/her income, and this is doubly true for support obligors (“obligor” means the one who pays) who are self-employed.

Those who hope to receive child support are also tempted to lie about their income as well because the less income they can get the court to believe they have, the more they hope to be paid.

While it is tempting to lie about your income in the hope of either receiving more than you should or paying less than you should, that’s wrong (and it most likely would not work anyway).

Many will earn more than they claim to earn by getting paid under the table or working a side hustle.

But how do you enjoy the hard-earned cash that you have cleaned your name from (i.e., the Walter White problem)? If you spend the money you haven’t reported, you risk unraveling the lie. For example, if your personal expenses are $10,000 per month, but you report an income of only $6,000 per month and don’t show yourself incurring $4,000 worth of debt every month, then clearly you have income of some kind that enables you to cover your $10,000 of monthly living expenses.

Avoiding your legal obligations often proves to be more trouble than it’s worth. It is both easier and easier on your conscience just to tell the truth. Most people aren’t good enough liars to keep everyone fooled forever. Don’t give your children reason to hate you for being greedy.

Now, we get it: some of you would feel a lot better about paying child support if you knew the parent receiving the support money was actually spending it for the child’s support and not for that parent’s own selfish benefit. But that’s a subject for another blog.

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

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Evidence and Honesty By Braxton Mounteer

You have just decided to file for divorce. Or perhaps you have been served with divorce papers. At some point early on in the process you will likely think to yourself, “I have so many text messages that clearly prove my spouse is terrible,” or “I have videos of my spouse behaving badly.” You could be right. But do you know what kind of evidence is relevant and that the court finds persuasive? And have you considered the implications of what your “evidence” actually says about you? For every gotcha text message or video you have, does your spouse have similar dirt on you?

You may think to yourself, “I’ll just delete the messages that cast me in a bad light,” or “I’ll edit the videos a certain way to make myself look better” and engage in other cherry picking. This rarely works. Indeed, it often backfires. Manipulating the facts is a form of lying. And it’s not that hard to spot or expose.

Understand what kinds of evidence the court needs and what is useless to a court. The court’s jobs are clearcut: 1) end the marriage 2) divide the marital assets, 3) divide responsibility for marital debts, 4) deal with custody of the children (if any), parent-time, and child support, and 4) determine whether to award alimony, and if so, how much and for how long based upon the recipient’s need and the payor’s ability to pay. That’s it. It is not the purpose of the divorce court to settle scores between you and your spouse or to declare who’s worse than the other. While spousal or child abuse can be relevant in a divorce case, stories about shouting matches and squabbles are nothing new or compelling in a divorce case.

Take a businesslike approach to your divorce case. You have to work out your feelings in a divorce case, just not in court. Don’t dwell on your feelings too much when dealing with the court; it’s a waste of your time and energy.

What should you do, then? You need to face the truth and deal with the truth. Submit the relevant evidence and concede your flaws and faults along with it. Your credibility is more important than trying to put up a false front. Your credibility is easier to show and maintain when you’re honest. Courts are more sympathetic with honest people than with liars.

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

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Evidence and Honesty By Braxton Mounteer

You have just decided to file for divorce. Or perhaps you have been served with divorce papers. At some point early on in the process you will likely think to yourself, “I have so many text messages that clearly prove my spouse is terrible,” or “I have videos of my spouse behaving badly.” You could be right. But do you know what kind of evidence is relevant and that the court finds persuasive? And have you considered the implications of what your “evidence” actually says about you? For every gotcha text message or video you have, does your spouse have similar dirt on you?

You may think to yourself, “I’ll just delete the messages that cast me in a bad light,” or “I’ll edit the videos a certain way to make myself look better” and engage in other cherry picking. This rarely works. Indeed, it often backfires. Manipulating the facts is a form of lying. And it’s not that hard to spot or expose.

Understand what kinds of evidence the court needs and what is useless to a court. The court’s jobs are clearcut: 1) end the marriage 2) divide the marital assets, 3) divide responsibility for marital debts, 4) deal with custody of the children (if any), parent-time, and child support, and 4) determine whether to award alimony, and if so, how much and for how long based upon the recipient’s need and the payor’s ability to pay. That’s it. It is not the purpose of the divorce court to settle scores between you and your spouse or to declare who’s worse than the other. While spousal or child abuse can be relevant in a divorce case, stories about shouting matches and squabbles are nothing new or compelling in a divorce case.

Take a businesslike approach to your divorce case. You have to work out your feelings in a divorce case, just not in court. Don’t dwell on your feelings too much when dealing with the court; it’s a waste of your time and energy.

What should you do, then? You need to face the truth and deal with the truth. Submit the relevant evidence and concede your flaws and faults along with it. Your credibility is more important than trying to put up a false front. Your credibility is easier to show and maintain when you’re honest. Courts are more sympathetic with honest people than with liars.

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

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Completeness of Documentation By Braxton Mounteer

One of the hardest documents for a Utah divorce litigant to prepare is the financial declaration. I am amazed at the number of clients who don’t take this document and its preparation seriously.

If you file for divorce or your spouse files for divorce, your divorce case will require you to provide a lot of documentation for various purposes as your life (and the life of your spouse and children, if you have minor children) will come under the magnifying glass. To avoid being fried like an ant, you need to produce complete and completely accurate documentation in preparing your financial declaration.

How is this done? It is a little comical, but it really comes down to accounting as best as you possibly can for every penny that comes in and that goes out. Every meal out. Every oil change. Every gasoline fillup. Every utility bill. Every dollar earned from every source.
Why should you worry about every red cent? Because you will be nickeled and dimed by opposing counsel and even by the court. Opposing counsel quite often (more often than not, frankly) wants to misconstrue confuse your income, expenses, and debts for his/her client’s benefit. The court often assumes that you are lying and/or wants to side with your spouse or against you. They are looking for any reason to call your credibility into question. And if you carelessly prepare your financial declaration, fail to provide an accurate financial declaration, and fail to support your numbers with verifiable documentation, you give opposing counsel and/or the court weapons to use against you.

“Ah,” some of you say, “but I want my financial declaration to be inaccurate so that I appear a lot poorer than I really am!” That way, if I’m the one who might pay alimony, I will pay less. And if I’m the one who might receive alimony, I will get more. Truth be told, it’s possible to lie in your financial declaration and get away with it. Truth be told, it’s harder than most people think. Truth be told, most people who lie (or who don’t lie but instead provide a half-baked, crappy financial declaration) get burned by it. Better to take the hit for being honest than risk an even bigger hit for lying. And do bear in mind that being honest is not a matter of “no good deed goes unpunished”. When you are honest, thorough, complete, and accurate in your work, that builds your overall credibility in your case. The person who owns up to his/her sins and sincerely repents gets due credit more often than not. The court thinks, “He/she was scrupulously honest in his/her financial declaration (even when he/she might could have fudged and escaped detection), so he/she is probably honest about the other things he/she tells me.” That’s more valuable than you know.

Now, if being honest always “won,” nobody would lie. You may experience your spouse lying through his/her teeth and getting away with it. It can and does happen. Still, it doesn’t justify you doing wrong or taking the risk of you being the one who gets caught in a lie or who gets hurt by turning in an incomplete and inaccurate financial declaration.
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What Does a Legal Assistant Think of Going Pro Se? By Braxton Mounteer

The term for representing yourself in court is “pro se” or “pro per”.

Can you navigate the legal system successfully without a lawyer representing you in your case?

Before I became a legal assistant, I thought the answer to that question was, “Well, it won’t be easy, but how hard could it be, if I tried my best?” You’d be forgiven if you think that way too. Many people do. With the exception of a few who are so rare as to make them statistically insignificant, however, going pro se is a recipe for failure.

To win a case, you need admissible evidence and enough admissible evidence. Do you know (really know) whether you have admissible evidence and enough admissible evidence? If not, proceeding pro se puts you at risk of losing.

To win a case, you first need to know whether the law supports your position. Do you know the law? Can you cite the sections of code and what rules of civil procedure and rules of evidence that apply? Do they support your position? If not, proceeding pro se puts you at risk of losing.

To win a case, you need to present your evidence and your legal argument in compliance with the rules of court and in an engaging and persuasive manner. Do you know how to do that? If not, proceeding pro se puts you at risk of losing.

Even if you went up against a brand new, inexperienced lawyer, who would you bet on? Someone with a college education, plus three years of law school (maybe more), or someone who read some blogs and watched some YouTube videos? Now add 5 to 30 years of experience to the lawyer’s side of the ledger. Do you really think you’re on a level playing field?

Would you go into unfamiliar terrain without a guide? The legal profession, the legal system, and court proceedings are all unfamiliar territory, and you can easily get lost and hurt in unfamiliar territory.

And then there’s the problem that is not so intuitive: you’re not in the club. Most judges and lawyers resent people who believe they can do what legal professionals do. Even pro se litigants who have the evidence, the law, and the arguments down can still lose just because the judge and lawyers don’t want you getting uppity.

Pro se is a path that is not for the faint of heart. It will be an uphill battle at best. If you go the pro se route, you will face people who are more knowledgeable, more experienced, and more skilled than you are or can reasonably ever hope to be.

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How to Avoid Being Called a Liar in a Utah Case By Braxton Mounteer

Who would you believe more in a court case: a person who admits to his/her faults, who honestly discloses all of his/her relevant information (even the information that hurts his/her case), and answered questions with “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” or a person who lied (even if just a couple times)?

One of the worst things to happen in a divorce case is for your credibility to come into question. If the court finds you lied about just one matter, it can cite that one lie as reason not to believe you on virtually all matters.

Simply put, to avoid damaging your credibility, always be truthful. This should be obvious, but I am amazed at how often clients of the firm I work for try to get away with lying (and how often they try to get away with lying about stuff that doesn’t really matter anyway, but I digress). The truth is learned and established by facts that are proven to be facts by the evidence in support of those facts. Your judge will not care much, if at all, about how you feel he or she should rule, the judge is (or should be) guided by the truth, by the facts, and then apply the law according to what the facts are.

To ensure your credibility is not questioned, admit when you are wrong. If you try to bend the truth about your sins and mistake or conceal the truth about them, you are a liar. Try to justify it any way you like, lying is lying. Whether by commission (expressly lying) or omission (withholding the whole truth, selectively disclosing the facts, shading the truth, spin, you get the idea), it’s all lying. While there are some situations in which you are not obligated to tell the truth about crime or possible crime you have committed (see the Fifth Amendment), questions of and risk of being convicted of crimes doesn’t arise very often in divorce cases. Honesty is the best policy.

I am amazed at how often client fail to understand that they lose credibility when they provide us with inaccurate information. While you may not be able to remember everything regarding your finances or your personal and family history, that doesn’t give you a license to fudge your answers or give incomplete answers. The “I didn’t understand” and “I don’t recall” excuses don’t inspire confidence in your credibility. They have just the opposite effect; they make you look lazy, scheming, and dishonest. Honest people are not forgetful people. Honest people aren’t afraid to produce their bank statements (all of them). Honest people aren’t afraid to disclose that side job. If you claim to have few or no records of things that normal people usually have records for, the default conclusion is that you have something to hide. While there are limits on what the opposing party can ask of you, when what they request complies with the rules, then answer questions completely and with complete honesty, produce all of the documents that are discoverable. Even if what you answer and what you produce may expose some of your flaws, it will also reveal you as honest and believable.

Once it’s damaged, credibility is hard to repair. Better never to do anything to call your credibility into doubt. Be honest. It’s the right thing to do, and if doing the right thing isn’t enough motivation for you, honesty tends to be the better “strategy” than lying and deception.

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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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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 | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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Court Proceedings from the Perspective of a New Legal Assistant By Braxton Mounteer

I have finished my first week as a legal assistant. In that time, I have been to a few court proceedings. Previous to taking this job as a legal assistant, my only interaction with the court was being summoned for jury duty.

I have found that real life legal work is different from what you see in the movies and TV shows. Frankly, I prefer the dramatized versions.

The court proceedings that I have watched or participated in this week have been online via Webex. Remote court appearances are a huge convenience over the bad old days when everyone had to appear physically in a courtroom. I have seen people apprear for court proceedings via Webex in their cars, bedrooms, living rooms, from prison, their offices, and one cabin so far. People can still show up to court in person (sometimes they must), but they are then also included on the video call, if other participants appear via Webex.

I have seen sentencing, an adoption case, rescheduling, and objections all within the span of an hour. I saw a lawyer ask the court for directions on how to proceed because she had never appeared in that kind of proceeding before.

Many court case proceedings are scheduled at the same time, but don’t happen all that the same time. This has been lovingly referred to as “the cattle call”. People often wait up to an hour or more before their case is heard. This is one reason why remote appearances are a convenience; rather than having to twiddle your thumbs waiting at the courthouse, you can be at work or home and work or do other things while you wait until your case is finally called.

For the most part, court proceedings are a boring experience to the outside observer. There aren’t many “high-octane” moments where the bad guys almost win or the surprise witness bursts through the door. It often seems to me to be a matter of who the better b.s. artist is. This is where lawyers as a profession get their reputation for “gotcha” phrasing. I have seen entire arguments or refutations hinge on a single word. These aren’t arguments that would save or destroy the world, they are largely about whether something should happen. I think that the reason many proceedings are largely boring is due to the fact that they involve regular people. Regular people aren’t in charge of the fate of the world, just their own. If I was watching major corporations being taken down for nefarious deeds, then it would be more dramatic. I think that people forget that regular everyday life is everywhere, even in the courtroom.

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First Impressions of Being a Legal Assistant as a Writer By Braxton Mounteer

The first thing you should know is that I am a writer. I have authored some short stories and some other things you haven’t heard of. I have been a Legal Assistant for two days, and I had some expectations when I started. Honestly, my expectations came from courtroom dramas and fiction novels. I was expecting Atticus Finch and the team from Suits. I was expecting other lawyers to be as bloodthirsty as Vlad Tepes.
What I have found is that they exist not as an archetype, but as people. Each one is just a person. Whether they are fighting against the rightfully earned reputation of their profession or living in the shadow of it, they are just people. Some of them work and care for the Law, some for their clients, and some for themselves.
The shows that we watch and books that we read about lawyers and the legal profession prop up personalities to make them larger than life. That is what makes them good stories. However, the best stories are based on a kernel of truth. I endeavor to learn more about the profession and dispel the illusions and mystification surrounding the profession.
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Lyndsey: Week 16 of Being a Legal Assistant

Magical Law in the Wizarding World: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Welcome back to magical law in the Wizarding World the series where we analyze magical law in the Harry Potter books. For this video we will be analyzing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Quickly within the second chapter of the Chamber of Secrets we are reminded of the two most basic laws within the Wizarding World. The International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy and the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery when Ron Wealsey and his twin brothers come to rescue Harry from his aunt and uncle’s house in a flying car. When Ron sees Harry he says, “…dad came home and said you’d got an official warning for using magic in front of muggles…you know we’re not supposed to do spells outside of school.” We are being reminded that it is against the law to use magic in front of muggles (the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy) and that underage wizards are not allowed to use magic outside of school (Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery).

Later, in chapter three The Burrow we learn that Arthur Wealsey oversees the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office at the Ministry of Magic. When Harry asks what exactly Ron’s dad does, Ron explains it by saying, “It’s all to do with bewitching things that are Muggle-made, you know, in case they end up back in a Muggle shop or house. Like, last year, some old witch died, and her tea set was sold to an antiques shop. This Muggle woman bought it, took it home, and tried to serve her friends tea in it…The teapot went berserk and squirted boiling tea all over the place and one man ended up in the hospital with the sugar tongs clamped to his nose. Dad was going frantic — it’s only him and an old warlock called Perkins in the office — and they had to do Memory Charms and all sorts of stuff to cover it up —” Ron also mentions that if his father did a ‘raid’ on his own house he would have to put himself under arrest. I am pretty sure that the first time ‘raids’ are mentioned in the Harry Potter books are on page 31 of the Chamber of Secrets, however if I am wrong. Please let me know.

Raids are when the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office shows up unannounced to people’s houses to collect any bewitched muggle items that would land back in the hands of muggles. This is important because in chapter four At Flourish and Blotts we are presented with a scene of Mr. Malfoy selling items to Mr. Borgin at Borgin and Burkes – a known dark magical object antique shop.  Mr. Malfoy while talking to Mr. Borgin says, “You have heard, of course, that the Ministry is conducting more raids…I have a few — ah — items at home that might embarrass me, if the Ministry were to call.…I have not been visited yet…[but]…There are rumors about a new Muggle Protection Act — no doubt that flea-bitten, Muggle-loving fool Arthur Weasley is behind it…and as you see, certain of these poisons might make it appear…” This shows that there were polices in the Wizarding World that have strong enough consequences that even former death eaters, close followers of Voldemort, were concerned of the repercussions of breaking the laws.

Speaking of repercussions for breaking laws in the Wizarding World, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the first time we are introduced to the jail that exists for wizards – Azkaban. We are introduced to the idea of it when the Minister of Magic (Cornelius Fudge) who we are also first introduced to in this book, comes to take Hagrid to Azkaban to calm people suspicions that he is the heir of Slytherin and that he has opened the Chamber of Secrets. However, it isn’t until Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (book 3) that we learn more about Azkaban.

On a side note, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets introduces us to the bribery, blackmail, and corruption that exists in the Wizarding World. Mr. Malfoy brough a letter from the Governor to suspend Dumbledore as the headmaster of Hogwarts, however in chapter eighteen Dobby’s Reward Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts to which Mr. Malfoy responded by saying, “You’ve come back. The governors suspended you, but you still saw fit to return to Hogwarts.” To which Dumbledore responds by saying, “Well, you see…the other eleven governors contacted me today. It was something like being caught in a hailstorm of owls, to tell the truth. They’d heard that Arthur Weasley’s daughter had been killed and wanted me back here at once. They seemed to think I was the best man for the job after all. Very strange tales they told me, too…Several of them seemed to think that you had threatened to curse their families if they didn’t agree to suspend me in the first place.” This shows us that there is still fear in the Wizarding World and that it is not a perfect law-abiding world.

There is one more instance of law breaking I want to bring up – Ron and Harry using Mr. Weasley’s flying car to get them to Hogwarts. We are first introduced to Mr. Weasley’s flying car by Ron and his twin brothers when they are picking up/kidnapping harry from his uncle and aunt’s house. When Harry inquired about the car, Ron and his brother mentioned that Mr. Wealsey had written a loophole in the laws of muggle artifacts that was currently the law. Mr. Wealsey wrote that you could bewitch muggle artifacts as long as you weren’t planning on using them. That is why he made a car that could fly but was never planning on flying it. When Ron and Harry were trying to get to Platform 9 ¾ they were unable to and decided to use Mr. Weasley’s car to fly to Hogwarts instead of doing anything else what would have been more practical. Anyways, while Ron and Harry were flying to Hogwarts, they forgot to use the invisibility button, and they were seen by muggles. Breaking the International Statue of Wizarding Secrecy among many other muggle laws and caused a ruckus within the wizarding community. We later find out that Mr. Wealsey was facing an inquiry at work because of the car he had built to fly that he never intended on flying. I wanted to mention this situation because it shows that there are a certain number of checks and balances within the wizarding community. Even though Mr. Wealsey was the head of his department, there was still an inquire into him, and the actions he took.

Interestingly, enough Ron and Harry somehow seem to escape most legal punishments when they break the law but in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we do some people held to a higher standard. Join me next week as we discuss Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

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Lyndsey: Week 14 of Being a Legal Assistant

Legal Books

I am a big book reader. In fact, I am on about my 27th book in 2022 so far. So, for my fourteenth week of being a legal assistant, I want to tell you about some of my favorite books about legal topics that I’ve read and why I like them. We will start off with one of my favorite college textbooks/law books. First off is Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making by Deborah Stone. This book really opens your eyes to all the different sides of making laws. It is important while making laws that you understand every aspect and every type of glasses through which someone could look at the law. One of my favorite book series growing up was the Theodore Boone series by bestselling author (and former real lawyer) John Grisham. These books follow a young boy who is the son of two lawyers and how he offers his friends legal advice. I have yet to reread these books since becoming a legal assistant, but it would be fun to read them again to see if and how my opinion of them changes. One of the more recent legal books I have read is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I loved how this book intertwined the courtroom and conversations Kya had with her lawyer with what happened. It was fun to read along with the court what was happening and to find out along with them the facts of the case. I also liked how we did not know the result of the court case, we were learning along with everyone else. Last but not least, another of my favorite legal books is of course the…Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling….. hey! They have court and prison in those books. I am rereading the Harry Potter series and it’s interesting to read it from a legal perspective. And there is a whole page on the Harry Potter Wiki about Magical Law. (that link is in the description section of this video), In fact, in the future I will make a video about Magical Law in the wizarding world. See you next week.

 

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Lyndsey: Week 15 of Being a Legal Assistant

Magical Law in the Wizarding World: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Believe me when I tell you that this video is about law. Stay with me. We are first introduced to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. And it only seems right to start off my analysis of magical law in the Wizarding World by starting with that very first book. If you have not read the Harry Potter Books this video contains many spoilers, so do not continue watching if you have not read the books and think you might want to read them in the future.

There is one major law that governs the Wizarding World, and that is that magic is to be kept a secret from those who do not themselves practice magic or know what magic is. That means keeping it secret from the Muggles; “muggles” is a term for a person who does not possess supernatural powers, in other words, people like you and me. This law is called the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy and it was passed into law in 1692, according to chapter five of Quidditch Through the Ages.

As is the case with all laws, there are institutions that exist for its creation, interpretation, and enforcement. And the Wizarding World is no exception. The first time the Ministry of Magic is mentioned is in Chapter Five Diagon Alley of the Sorcerer’s Stone during an exchange Harry has with Rubeus Hagrid. This exchange starts when Hagrid says, “Ministry o’ Magic messin’ things up as usual.” Harry responds by asking “There’s a Ministry of Magic?” and then later asks “But what does a Ministry of Magic do? ” Hagrid responds, “[T]heir main job is to keep it from the Muggles that there’s still witches an’ wizards up an’ down the country.” I find it interesting, all the laws that are in the Wizarding World that is, especially now that I am a legal assistant.

Within the Sorcerer’s Stone there are a few random laws that are mentioned here and there. I’ll mention some. This is not a conclusive list, so if you think of some more, please leave them in the comments section below.

Owning dragons is illegal. In chapter 14 Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback we learn that Hagrid was hatching a dragon in his apartment. In a conversation between Harry Potter and Ron Weasley Harry says, “Hagrid’s always wanted a dragon, he told me so the first time I ever met him.” To which Ron response by saying, “But it’s against our laws. Dragon breeding was outlawed by the Warlocks’ Convention of 1709, everyone knows that.”

Preforming magic, if you were expelled from a wizarding school, is explained to us in chapter four The Keeper of the Keys, as illegal too. At least this was the case for Hagrid who said asked Harry not to mention any of the magic he preformed because, “Be grateful if yeh didn’t mention that ter anyone at Hogwarts, I’m – er – not supposed ter do magic, strictly speakin’.” When Harry asked him why, Hagrid responded that, “I was at Hogwarts meself but I – er – got ex-pelled, ter tell yeh the truth. In me third year. They snapped me wand in half an’ everything…” However, I am unsure if everyone who gets expelled from a wizarding school is not allowed to do magic or it is on a case by case basis.

In chapter 15, The Forbidden Forest it is mentioned that killing a unicorn is a crime and according to the Harry Potter Fandom Website unicorn blood is, “probably a Non-Tradeable Item, since the sale of this substance is controlled by the Ministry of Magic, making it strictly forbidden.” When Harry and his classmates were in the Forbidden Forest while serving detention, they are looking for what has been slaying and drinking the blood of unicorns in the forest. While in the forest Harry meets Firenze the Centaur who tells Harry, among other things about killing unicorns, “The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price.”

Students using magic outside of school while still under the age of 17 is also illegal according to the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, which was passed in 1875, but we do not learn more about it until you get to book two: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

While preparing this I started to realize how many laws Hagrid constantly breaks while still trying to do what is right. There are of course plenty of Hogwarts rules Harry, Ron, Hermione, and others in the Wizarding World break, but those are rules, not laws. In the future books we learn more about other laws and the punishments for breaking them.

Thinking about these laws from a legal assistant’s perspective is very interesting. Imagine having to move for or draft an order or something of the sort for violating Wizarding World law. Those would be some interesting things to draft. However, the Wizarding World’s legal and court systems are different from what we have in the United States. We will get more into that later when we talk about Magical Law in the Wizarding World: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

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Lyndsey: Week 13 of Being a Legal Assistant

Cheery Blog

I feel like in the past twelve weeks of being a legal assistant and in my last twelve videos I have been a bit pessimistic. But I have decided for my thirteenth week and thirteenth video I will try to be cheery. Today I will be talking about aspects of the legal system that bring me joy. We will start off with people who respond, and respond on time, to my emails. That brings me great joy. Any job in the legal world cannot get done without other people communicating timely, getting the work fully done, and by the deadlines. Having cheery conversations with firm clients also brings me joy. It is nice to talk and chat with people you are working for and are trying to help. It is also joyful when other lawyers work towards the best interest of their clients as well. It builds my faith in the world when I see other lawyers who are not taking advantage of their clients or opposing parties and helping them to dispose of their cases quickly, inexpensively and fairly. Well, next week I’ll likely go back to being pessimistic, but I hope you enjoyed a bit of cheer this time around.

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Lyndsey: Week 12 of Being a Legal Assistant

How to Get on the Good Side of Your Attorney?

If you are contemplating divorce or are currently in the divorce process, you’d be wise to listen to what I have to share with you. I’ve got some law office insider advice for you on how clients can get and stay on the good side of their attorneys. In my twelve weeks of working as a legal assistant I have quickly and definitively learned a few ways to make your attorney happy and upset. Of course, I cannot speak for every law office or attorney, but in the family law practice office I work at, this is what I have observed, and that appears to be universal. So here are my current top three cautions:

What to do:

  1. Complete required forms that are sent to you in a timely manner. Don’t wait for your attorney or their staff to contact you to remind you to complete the document, just get it done and send it back with the supporting documents. Don’t wait until the last minute to complete them. If you work on them a little bit each day during the time you have between receiving them and when they are due, you and your attorney will have the least amount of trouble and you and your attorney can do your best work.
  2. Answer questions on forms as completely and as accurately and as honestly as possible. When preparing the first draft or two, it is better for you to give your attorney too much information than too little, when in doubt. It’s much easier to winnow things out to get to the best stuff. It’s a crying shame when the client loses the benefit of information and documents that could have helped the case but didn’t because they were never shared.
  3. Take the initiative. It’s your case. Give it the attention it deserves. When you have an idea or question or request, tell your attorney about it ASAP. ‘Think you have a document or other evidence that could help your case? Tell your attorney about it. Send your attorney a copy to review. Have a concern or question or comment that could solve or avoid trouble in your case? Express it. E-mail your attorney about it. Schedule a time with your attorney to meet or talk on the phone about it.

What NOT to do:

  1. Communicate and make deals with your soon to be ex without consulting your attorney and making a plan of action for the best results (or at least the least risk). Instead, find out if it’s better to communicate through your attorney. Conferring with your attorney before you act and communicating through an attorney when necessary or prudent makes it far less likely you’ll say or do things that hurt your case and you (or your kids).
  2. Assume that the forms your attorney sends you and the questions your attorney asks you somehow magically do not apply to you. Instead, make sure to complete all forms and to answer all of your attorney’s questions completely and fully and in the utmost good faith.
  3. Assume that since your case isn’t moving as fast, as inexpensively, and as easily as you’d like that your attorney is to blame. There are plenty of lousy lawyers out there, and if you know you have a bad attorney you should replace him or her immediately. But even the best attorneys aren’t wizards; they cannot force opposing counsel to reply to questions fully or timely, they cannot the courts to schedule court dates when it’s convenient, and they cannot make up through their personal hard work and willpower for clients who neglect their case.

I hope this was helpful. See you next week.

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Lyndsey: Week 11 of Being a Legal Assistant

Completely Unnecessary Times I Feel Like I Have to Pull Teeth to Help a Client.

 

I have officially been a legal assistant for eleven weeks now, and I feel like I had to pull teeth to get some information from clients that the clients know or should know they need to give to me. Clients going through a divorce must compile, complete, and file certain documents with the court as part of the process of divorce. These forms you fill out and the documents to be produced are required by the court. They aren’t busy work. Once in a while we get a client who fully completes forms, completely answers questions, and informatively responds to document and other requests in a timely manner. They are all too rare. I often send out requests to clients two, three, even four weeks before they are due, yet still have to call, nag, and annoy them literally every day into doing what they already know they need to do. If parties to a divorce case don’t complete the forms and produce the documents to the court and to the opposing side, clients can be fined and otherwise severely sanctioned by the court. You would think with those penalties hanging over their heads, clients would carefully, if not eagerly, strive to fill out and give me documents they are required to produce for the court. You would think that after receiving from me the forms to complete and the list of documents to produce that a client would send them back neat and complete and as soon as possible, and at least by the given deadlines. That they would diligently search for and find the supporting documents to send to me and that they would be thanking me for helping them with their divorce and for keeping their case not only alive but strong and for keeping them in the court’s good graces. Unfortunately, and painfully, that is not usually the case. And the clients suffer for it. If you are thinking about going through a divorce or are in the process of a divorce, help your attorney help you. We can’t answer the questions only you can answer. We don’t have copies of your tax refunds, pay stubs, and bank statements. It helps ensure you and your attorney are well prepared, which helps ensure your success in your divorce case. And no, there is no easier or better way to do it.

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Lyndsey: Week Nine of Being a Legal Assistant

Nine weeks into my job here are my favorite and least favorite parts of my job.

We’ll start off with my favorites.

I really enjoy talking to our clients and learning what is going on in their lives and in their cases. (It helps me have a more drama-free life myself, since there is an endless supply of drama at work in a divorce lawyer’s office).

I enjoy editing and posting videos that we make here. It fun to make sure the timing is as good as I can get it, it’s like a little challenge. And it’s a pretty calming part of my job.

I also enjoy filling out forms and filing them when I can do them right by myself, which doesn’t happen very often, yet. I’ll get there eventually.

Least favorite things are first and foremost, trying to get in contact with other lawyers who refuse to talk to us or respond to our e-mail messages. I don’t like being a pest, but when they won’t answer you have to be persistent, which these kinds of lawyers will self-servingly claim is not persistence but “harassment” or the like. It’s lame, it’s tiresome, and it’s counterproductive of them.

Another of my least favorite things is being in videos. Do you know how weird it is to edit videos you are in yourself? It’s weird.

So there you have it: three of my favorite and two of my least favorite parts of being a legal assistant. There are other pros and cons in this job, but these are a few I thought you might find interesting for me to share with you this week.

 

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Lyndsey: Week Eight of Being a Legal Assistant

Something that is crazy to me is the dedication of some Utah courts to try to force minor children to have relationships with one or both parents. This is all according to my own perspective and based on my personal experience of being a legal assistant for seven weeks… so I haven’t had a ton of experience, but here is what I’ve observed to this point.

It is my opinion, in my experience in life, that sometime it’s better to keep certain family members at a distance if you don’t get along with them or if you have a contentious relationship with them. It’s perfectly fine to love difficult people with a degree of detachment. You don’t need to allow toxic people to taint your life just because they are family. I do not believe that blood is always thicker than water. Sometimes friends are more of a family than your family ever is or ever will be.

Sometimes, you need space from your family members. Especially sometimes when you are a child of divorce and you have an estranged relationship with one or both parents and/or with other family members. Then, even without meaning to, these children often feel they have to pick sides between the family member that hurts and the family member that was hurt.

The State of Utah believes, and I think rightly so, that children benefit from a relationship with both parents. However, Utah also appears to believe in forcing children to have a relationship with their estranged parent – something, that unless the child is on board or is behaving like a spoiled brat – I strongly disagree with.

Do you think that compelling a teenager to reunify with his or her estranged parent is going to help the parent-child relationship? I think, that in most cases it would not. From the cases I’ve seen, it has actually worsened the rift between the child and estranged parent.

I wish the state of Utah would take more into consideration what the children themselves say instead of relying on a guardian ad litem to inform the court what the children supposedly want. I also think the state of Utah should have the option open for reunification of children and estranged parents, but that it shouldn’t be forced over and over again when it is clearly not working.

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

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Lyndsey: Week Seven of Being a Legal Assistant

Growing up I read in books, heard people talk about, and saw in movies where children went to court when their parents were getting divorced, and they got to tell the court what parent or parents they wanted to live with. I have yet to see that happen in the Utah Court System.

In my seven weeks of being a legal assistant to this point, I have been to a proceedings where custody and parent-time were involved. When I began this job, I assumed that we would hear from the children in the court; however that is not the case.

To put it bluntly in my own words, Utah courts believe that children should not be subject to the ugliness of their parent’s divorce proceedings. From what I’ve seen, they are not allowed in the court room, prevented from participating in or even watching or listening to court proceedings involving them, and the parents are strongly advised, sometimes even ordered, not to discuss matters of the case with their children.

I feel like divorce cases impact the children more than anyone else in the divorce process, yet they are the people who are shut out of meaningful contribution the cases and proceedings the most.

More often than not the courts or at least one of the attorneys want to appoint a guardian ad litem for the child.

What is a guardian ad litem? According to the Utah Office of Guardian ad Litem webpage on the Utah Courts website, “In court cases where a family is in crisis, and where children are being mistreated or are not receiving proper care, there is no one with more at stake than the child. A Guardian ad Litem ensures that the child’s rights are protected, the child’s voice is heard, and the child’s best interests are advanced.” So a guardian ad litem (GAL for short) is supposed to be an attorney who represents the child and protects the child’s interests. How does a GAL do that? From what I can tell, poorly.

Basically, the children talk to the GAL and then the GAL talks to the court, but does not tell the court what the children said. Instead, the GAL makes recommendations to the court as to what the court should do for the children and does so ostensibly on the basis of what the children said, even though no one has any idea what the children said, if they said anything at all. It’s a state-sponsored bad game of telephone. I’m no lawyer. I’m not even that familiar with the legal system yet, but it doesn’t take a seasoned pro to see that the GAL system isn’t effective. How could it be, the way it’s set up like that?

You might be thinking, “Oh, okay, so GALS might be helpful for younger kids who can’t express themselves very well in a court-like setting, and there may be some merit to that argument, but courts will appoint a GAL for children who are 14 years old and up. Come on, these kids can speak for themselves.

My take away from this is – let the children speak. They already know their parents are going through a divorce. Appointing a GAL to “speak for them” doesn’t shield the kids from anything but competent, attentive, and fair treatment by the courts. Kids in these situations should not be kept in the dark. They are the ones who are affected most by the court’s decision. their observations, experiences, feelings, opinions, and desires matter. They shouldn’t be silenced or muzzled.

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

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Lyndsey: Week Six of Being a Legal Assistant

A few times a day, I hear my boss say, “Lawyers are terrible people.” Why would he say this? Are they really that terrible? Why would someone who’s a lawyer say that lawyers are terrible people? Well, I’ve asked myself all of those questions of myself and based upon my personal experience and six weeks six on the job as a legal assistant, I think I have the answers.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some truly good and decent family and divorce law lawyers out there, but the number of “terrible people” who are lawyers is surprising.

In my opinion one of the main reasons of why so many lawyers are terrible people is because, with very, very few exceptions, divorce and family law lawyers one hate responding to other lawyers’ calls and emails and two have no sense of urgency when it comes to moving a case forward.

It seems like the ‘terrible lawyers’ ignore other the lawyers who are trying to work on the case to dispose of it fairly and expeditiously. There have been many times in the short time I’ve been working here when we have sent over proposed settlement agreements or other documents to other law firms and we will be ignore and they refuse to answer us for what feels like no good reason or no reason at all. There have been opposing counsel who don’t answer us for months, and we even have one that hasn’t responded in over a year!

Usually, unless your lawyer has a good and personal relationship with the opposing lawyer, I’ve found that opposing counsel love to ignore and even be antagonistic. Unless they have a strong moral compass, the incentive to take a mediocre approach is strong.

I’ve noticed that it is easy to give people the benefit of the doubt – until you’ve also worked that job. Then it becomes much easier to distinguish the good from the bad. Because when you know how the system should work if everyone did their part correctly, it’s easier to see who’s slacking or outright sabotaging the system.

I obviously don’t believe every lawyer is a terrible person (neither does my boss), but I think if the focus of all lawyers was to complete cases as quickly, fairly, and peacefully as possible, they’d take and return calls. They’d respond to emails in a day or two at most. Resolving cases wouldn’t take nearly as long as they take now and would not be nearly as frustrating as they are now.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9276

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