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Tag: truth

Why You Should Always Order Audio Recordings By Braxton Mounteer

You may be asking yourself, why should I order from the court a copy of the audio recordings of my court hearings? Shouldn’t the court’s own notes in the written record be sufficient? Can’t I just make my own recordings? Not in Utah.

First, the “written record” that the court keeps is more like meeting minutes and is not a word-for-word record of everything that was said by the parties, the lawyers, and the court during a hearing or trial.

Second, Utah does not allow you or your attorney to make your own recordings of your own court proceedings. Such a rule makes absolutely no sense and imposes undue costs and wait times on parties and their attorneys, but it’s the rule nonetheless.

Third, and most importantly, you should order the audio recording of your hearings and other court appearances to ensure that the orders that come out of those proceedings are accurate and complete–to ensure they are faithful to what was actually said and ordered. Most people cannot keep it all correctly remembered in their heads.

When there is a back and forth between the parties and their counsel over the specifics of a judgement or recommendation that was handed down months or years or even days ago, knowing exactly what was said is vitally important. You wouldn’t want a decision in your favor to be forgotten or misstated. Nor would you want to be mistreated due to someone imposing a harsher penalty on you than the court issued simply because no one could remember what the evidence was, what the testimony was, and what the court’s decisions were.

In Utah, you need to pay $15.00 and fill out and submit to the court clerk a form to request an audio recording. It is fast and easy. Your lawyer or opposing counsel may say “You don’t need to do that, I remember the hearing”; do not believe him/her. Human memory is fallible. Lawyers have the reputation that they have for a reason. Do yourself a favor and spend the five minutes that it would take to fill out and pay for an audio recording. Don’t leave your fate to faulty memories.

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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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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 | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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What if your client gets custody when they should not have, due to you?

What should you do if you represented a client in a divorce who should not have gotten the kids, but got them due to your ability? 

We have a word for those who do such things, who compromise their principles, who devote their talent and effort to an unworthy purpose for personal gain. 

Prostitute. 

Many lawyers (more than you likely comfortably believe) come up with all kinds of ways to rationalize and justify it (“everyone deserves a zealous advocate/defense,” “it’s not my place to judge,” “I was just doing what I was trained and paid to do,” etc.), but it’s all prostitution, pure and simple. 

I went through a phase when I sincerely confused being clever with being a “skilled” attorney. There’s a great line from the movie adaptation of John Grisham’s “The Rainmaker”: 

Every lawyer, at least once in every case, feels himself crossing a line that he doesn’t really mean to cross… it just happens… And if you cross it enough times it disappears forever. And then you’re nothin’ but another lawyer joke. Just another shark in the dirty water. 

Fortunately, I quickly realized the error of my ways and just as quickly corrected them as well. I’m not perfect, but I aspire as best I can to do what is right and let the consequence follow. What Hugh Nibley had to say about God’s law applies equally to earthly law: 

The legal aspects of are not what counts — the business of lawyers is to get around the law, but you must have it written in your hearts (Jeremiah 31:33), to keep it “with all thine heart, and with all thy soul,” because you really love the Lord and his law, which begins and ends with the love of God and each other (Deuteronomy 6:5). It must be a natural thing with you, taken for granted, your way of life as you think and talk about it all the time, so that your children grow up breathing it as naturally as air (Deuteronomy 6:7-9). 

I have believed/believed in a client and won cases for clients who I have later learned was in the wrong, who was lying, who shouldn’t have won. I was just as duped as the court in cases like those. I don’t feel guilty or ashamed (I can’t), but I do feel used and demoralized. 

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” –  Friedrich Nietzsche 

“One lie is enough to question all truth.” – Unknown 

Ethical rules prohibit a lawyer from prostituting himself/herself. To cite the two most relevant: 

Rule 3.1: Meritorious Claims & Contentions 

A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law. A lawyer for the defendant in a criminal proceeding, or the respondent in a proceeding that could result in incarceration, may nevertheless so defend the proceeding as to require that every element of the case be established. 

Rule 3.3: Candor Toward the Tribunal 

(a) A lawyer shall not knowingly: 

(1) make a false statement of fact or law to a tribunal or fail to correct a false statement of material fact or law previously made to the tribunal by the lawyer; 

(2) fail to disclose to the tribunal legal authority in the controlling jurisdiction known to the lawyer to be directly adverse to the position of the client and not disclosed by opposing counsel; or 

(3) offer evidence that the lawyer knows to be false. If a lawyer, the lawyer’s client, or a witness called by the lawyer, has offered material evidence and the lawyer comes to know of its falsity, the lawyer shall take reasonable remedial measures, including, if necessary, disclosure to the tribunal. A lawyer may refuse to offer evidence, other than the testimony of a defendant in a criminal matter, that the lawyer reasonably believes is false. 

(b) A lawyer who represents a client in an adjudicative proceeding and who knows that a person intends to engage, is engaging or has engaged in criminal or fraudulent conduct related to the proceeding shall take reasonable remedial measures, including, if necessary, disclosure to the tribunal. 

(c) The duties stated in paragraphs (a) and (b) continue to the conclusion of the proceeding, and apply even if compliance requires disclosure of information otherwise protected by Rule 1.6. 

(d) In an ex parte proceeding, a lawyer shall inform the tribunal of all material facts known to the lawyer that will enable the tribunal to make an informed decision, whether or not the facts are adverse. 

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

https://www.quora.com/What-should-you-do-if-you-represented-a-client-in-a-divorce-who-should-not-have-gotten-the-kids-but-got-them-due-to-your-ability/answer/Eric-Johnson-311?prompt_topic_bio=1  

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 26: Lying

By Quinton Lister, legal assistant 

Lying is corrosive. Lying does not allow us to be the best version of ourselves. Lying keeps us in denial about the actual state of our lives. So many of us spend our lives lying because we do not know any better way. We are so thoroughly convinced that if we let the truth out or if we let the truth dominate our lives then we would be miserable or we would lose everything. Maybe it is the case that we have lied ourselves into a corner and to admit the truth now would mean to forfeit some false comfort we have built up for ourselves.  

Whatever fears we may have about telling the truth, the truth is the only way through life. What I mean by that is it is the only way to have any peace in life. So long as I am lying and avoiding the consequences of my actions, I will just be left with chaos either internally or externally. And if you are wondering how this applies to the legal field, in particular divorce law, if you are dishonest you may get what you want, but you cannot do that without taking a toll on your family and your own spiritual well-being.  

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

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How do I console a father who has lost custody of his child?

How do I console a father who has lost custody of his child?

“He’s [the father who lost custody] permanently damaged.” That’s what someone else wrote in response to your question. It’s true. Time lost between a parent and child is never found. These kinds of wounds can heal, but rarely will they heal fully or not leave scars.

There is still not just some consolation, but much consolation to be found, however.

First, all of us suffer injustices in life yet the overwhelming majority of us still have far more reasons to be happy than miserable. So does Dad. That’s not a Pollyanna view of life, it’s a fact. And a fact one must not let grief blind Dad to.

If one focuses on the negative to the exclusion of the good and positive, then all one will see is the negative and miss out on most or even all of the good. Parents who are alienated from their children have an obligation to themselves not to dwell on it. Feel the pain, of course. Don’t deny it. It’s inevitable and it’s necessary to let the pain run its proper course before you can start to recover.

But don’t let the pain drown you. Don’t let the pain and the bitterness deprive you of all the other good things life has in store for you. That’s what your alienating ex-spouse is hoping for. At the very least don’t give your alienating ex-spouse the satisfaction. Your kids need to see you can rise above this so that they believe they can rise above adversity too.

Second and more importantly (and this is the truth, even if it’s new to you or you think it’s silly; regardless, you have nothing to lose by exploring whether there really is consolation to be found here), by suffering and dying for you (and for your children), Jesus Christ has the power not only to right all wrongs in the next life, but has the power to comfort you and help you heal in this life now as well.

https://youtu.be/4NhzPuNcGkA?t=405

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

https://www.quora.com/How-do-I-console-a-father-who-has-lost-custody-of-his-child/answer/Eric-Johnson-311?prompt_topic_bio=1

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GALs/custody evaluators waste money/time compared to judge interview

GALs and custody evaluators waste too much money and time, and can never provide the same accuracy as a judge’s direct interview of the child.

This post is the fifteenth in series of 15 posts on the subject of custody evaluations and the appointment of guardians ad litem (“GALs” for short) in Utah child custody cases when the judge could simply interview the children instead. You do not have to read all 16 posts to benefit from this series. Read as many or as few as you wish.

The purpose of this series is to make the case for the proposition that an interview by the judge is a faster, more accurate, more particular, more reliable, and less expensive form of evidence than what a GAL and/or custody evaluator provides.

Even if guardians ad litem and custody evaluators always tell the truth (and there’s no way for us to know that, especially when they are not required to back their claims with independently verifiable evidence), how would that have any impact on whether children tell the truth to guardians ad litem and/or to custody evaluators? And is there any proof that children would lie more or less to judges than to guardians ad litem and/or custody evaluators? If so, I’m not aware of any such proof. It would be a cheap shot to call my critiques of the use of guardians ad litem and custody evaluators as being “skeptical” of their use when there is no basis for presuming that the use of guardians ad litem and/or custody evaluators is an obvious good or obviously better than having the judge speak directly to the children. Guardians ad litem and custody evaluators are way too expensive, waste too much time, and can never provide the same degree of accuracy as a judge’s interview directly with the child. That’s indisputable. Those who try to claim otherwise usually do so by relying on fallacious ad hominem and appeals to authority arguments, as well as outright lies.

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

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If a parent exceeds parent-time by an hour or so, what can I do?

If a parent exceeds parent-time by an hour or so, what can I do? Our custody order provides that child visitation is 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. My ex and I agreed by e-mail to change it to 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. But now my ex picks up at 10 and returns the child at 4 p.m. instead of 3 p.m.Is there no recourse since the order says 4pm despite their agreement? 

Great question. 

If you were to take this problem to court for the judge to resolve, odds are that the hearing would unfold something like this and that the judge would do something like this:  

Argument from parents: 

  • Parent 1 “The custody order says child visitation is 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Parent 2 asked to make it 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and I agreed, but now Parent 2 picks up at 11 a.m. and brings the kids back at 4 p.m. I want Parent 2 held in contempt of court!” 
  • Parent 2 “Parent 1 lies! It’s true that Parent 2 and I agreed to change visitation start and end times from 11 and 4 to 10 and 3, but I always bring the kids back by 3 p.m. Sometimes I may run into a traffic jam or something that causes me to run a little late, but I’m not trying to ‘steal’ an extra hour. I am outraged!” 

Judge’s decision:  

“Well, you both can’t be telling the truth, but it’s impossible for me to know which of you is lying. So, unless and until one of you has independently verifiable proof to support his/her argument, I am not going to reward one of you or punish the other on such a dearth of evidence and shaky evidence at that. Now both of you obey court orders. If there is a problem with Parent 2 going an extra hour over the court-ordered visitation period, and if Parent 1 has a problem with that, then Parent 1 may want to consider keeping a photographic or videographic log of pick up and return times to document the problem and provide the court with proof. If Parent 2 is being falsely accused, then Parent 2 may also want to consider keeping a photographic or videographic log of pick up and return times and a log of photos or videos showing that if and when Parent 2 is late it’s because of traffic jams or other things beyond Parent 2’s control.  

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

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What would happen if a witness in court was asked if they will swear to tell the truth and they said no?

What would happen if a witness in court was asked if they will swear to tell the truth and they said no?

If the witness were unwilling to swear or affirm to tell the truth, the witness would either not be permitted to testify or sanctioned for contempt of court until the witness swears or affirms to tell the truth when called to testify.

Some people may object to “swearing” to tell the truth because their religion or personal morals prohibit swearing oaths, and so every state has a statute that allows such a witness to “affirm” to tell the truth instead of swearing an oath to tell the truth. Here is Utah’s statute:

Any person may, instead of taking an oath, opt to make a solemn affirmation or declaration, by assenting, when addressed in the following form:

“You do solemnly affirm (or declare) that ….” etc., as in Section 78B-1-143.

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

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