Many of my family law clients quite understandably ask whether they will “win” or “lose” their case. Fortunately, family law cases are different than lawsuits. The court’s objective is to approve a plan that accounts for the interests of each family member. Where ongoing family relationships are involved, often the better question is how closely the court-approved agreement or court order will resemble what you ideally would like to happen.
Getting answers to the following questions are essential for an effective attorney-client relationship:
1. How realistic are your expectations for the outcome? I explain the legal standards the court will apply in evaluating my clients’ case and how the facts of their case can support their position. Often, the points that will help you the most in court are not the ones you expect. Developing a plan for presenting your case and explaining the range of possible outcomes are crucial aspects of attorney-client communication.
2. What evidence can corroborate your position? Family court judges hear disputes between family members all day, every day. They don’t know the individuals involved, so evidence supporting what you say makes a huge difference. I advise my clients as to what evidence to gather, such as emails and other correspondence, financial documents, police reports, and phone records.
3. What resources would you like to employ in the investigation and preparation of your case? An investigator or expert witness may be able to add valuable evidence and testimony to your case. While this will come at additional expense, the time and effort expended in family law cases is an investment in your future. Once the issue has been litigated, often the court requires evidence of a “change in the circumstances” to reconsider previous decisions.
Zealous legal representation and cooperation between you and your attorney should happen from your first meeting. Attorney-client communication is critical to setting expectations for the course of the case, which will guide the investigation, preparation, and presentation of your case in court.