While there are numerous things to consider while going through a family law proceeding, these five will help keep you, and your case, on track.
With the exception of perhaps adoption, nobody really looks forward to being involved in a family law proceeding. However, for many people, it is a fact of life. Indeed, in 2017, there were over 35,000 domestic relations cases filed in Colorado. Of those, just under 6,000 were filed in El Paso County, Colorado, which includes Colorado Springs. So, the reality is, many people will see a family law proceeding in their lifetime. With that in mind, here are five things to consider to help keep your case on track and reduce your stress in the process.
1. Concentrate on Common Goals
Family law proceedings can often have a lot of disagreements. Who gets the house, who gets the kids, and the very common “this isn’t fair,” and “that isn’t fair.” One way to get through these types of stressful disagreements is to focus, really focus, on where there is common ground. By focusing on common ground and making progress in the negotiations, it takes the attention away from where there is conflict. Because of this, when the matters that are in conflict need to be addressed, emotions have generally lessened allowing for more progress on the difficult issues. And when there is progress on the difficult issues, well, success breeds success.
2. What is Your End Game?
As Lewis Carol of Alice in Wonderland famously wrote, “[i]f you don’t now where you are going, any road can take you there.” That is particularly apt in family law cases. Put simply, if you don’t have a goal, you’ll probably ended up on the road most traveled, which usually involves emotional combat. Instead, if you start with, keep in mind, and write down your goal(s) for the case, you are more likely to succeed in negotiations and, if necessary, in court.
3. The Court May Not Care About the Same Things You Care About
The reality of the Colorado courts hearing 35,000 domestic relations cases a year is that, like #2 above, they must be focused on goals. The courts don’t have the time or resources to do it any other way. Kids involved? The courts will, with laser-like intensity, focus on the best interest of the child(ren). A divorce with no minor children? The court will be concentrating on things such as the equitable distribution of assets.
Now, because of the emotional pain caused, you may be concentrating on how your spouse cheated on you with 27 other people – last week. But guess who may not care?
This of course doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to be upset or that the pain you feel isn’t legitimate; you do and it is. But that’s not the court’s purpose. The court’s purpose is a purely legal one. And if you continue fighting over a point that does not involves the court’s very limited purpose, that court may well lose patience with you or see you as obstructive. That is not something you want. Which brings me to #4.
4. Judges Are Human
Having worked for a federal judge on an appellate court of five judges, I have had the opportunity to see “behind the curtain.” And guess what? Judges are human – every one of them. Now, in my opinion, a great many judges, if not most, are able to set aside their emotions and concentrate on the facts of the case. But it would be foolish to think judges are not human. Indeed, Colorado judges (and most judges) are, by law, allowed to use their common sense and knowledge of the ways of the world. This includes when determining who in a case is credible (i.e., telling the truth) and who in the case is genuinely working for the best interest of the child (vs. just trying to “get back” at the other side). So, even if the other side is being petty and vindictive, it is imperative that you show the court you are the adult in the room.
5. Know your Audience
Related to #4, in a family law case, you need to know your audience – which in a family law case is usually the judge or magistrate. What does “know your audience” mean? It means understanding the audience’s goals of course (so you can align your goals with theirs) – but also understanding what that audience expects. For example, while the court understands that a lot of people have limited resources and can’t show up in a $500 suit, they are also fully aware that it is unlikely all of your pants have holes in them. Put simply, the court appreciates effort. It quietly shows you care and that you take the court and the process seriously. See #4 above. On the other hand, if the court gets the sense that you don’t understand the importance of the case or that you just don’t care, this might become a factor in the court’s credibility determinations. For example, if you don’t care about the importance of the case, you may not care about the best interest of the child(ren).
If you’re looking for an attorney to assist you in your family law case, give my firm a call. I’d be happy to meet with you to review your case and discuss the options you have for moving forward.