Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How to Impress the Judge

If you have to go to Court, you are likely going to appear in front of the Judge.  You may stand in front of the bench where the Judge sits, or you may be at a counsel table with your lawyer, or you may be on the witness stand.

When you are in Court like that, you certainly want to get as favorable a ruling as possible.  The facts and law matter, but a third factor that can't be overlooked is how you appear to the Judge.  When you are in Court, you are being evaluated by the Judge as well as the other side's attorney.  Making a good impression can help your cause.

Here are some things to keep in mind when considering how to favorably impress the Judge.

1.  Appear reasonable.  You are much more likely to get what you want if you don't come across as crazy or unreasonable.  The Judge is very likely to not side 100% with either party and Judges tend to split things fairly evenly.  If you start out wanting all of the most valuable things or a high percentage in the property division, that may hurt your chances of getting what you want.

2.  Appearances count.  Come to Court in nice clothes, something you might wear to church or work.  Don't be flashy or trashy.

3.  Be Prepared.  It's a good idea, even if you're not a Boy Scout.  Bring what you need.  Don't say you can bring it later; now is probably your only opportunity.  Work with your lawyer to know what you need to bring.

4.  Be under control. That's especially true in front of the Judge, but also true outside of the courtroom.  What you do and say away from Court is often reported in Court, so think about how your actions and words might sound in Court.

5.  Don't interrupt.  If you are in Court, don't interrupt attorneys, other witnesses and especially not the Judge. You're not in charge. Your attorney and the Judge know what's important.  Follow their lead, even if you don't get to share something you think is important.

6.  Don't react or be rude.  Notice that almost every time an attorney loses a ruling, he or she will usually say, "Thank you, Judge."  It is a courtesy.  Your should also be courteous.

7.  Turn off your cell phone.

Going to Court can be very stressful, but sometimes is necessary.  Do yourself a favor.  Be prepared and keep your emotions under control.  Most of all, talk with your attorney and follow his or her advice.  Good luck!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Looking for Encouragement?

If you are on the receiving end of divorce news, things may look pretty overwhelming.  The legal system is obviously expensive.  Legal consequences of actions in a divorce may last a lifetime.  And, divorce is always difficult for you and your spouse.

If you haven't been thinking and planning for a divorce, suddenly confronting the situation can be frightening and confusing.  You may be wondering what your first step should be, what to expect from the court and what will it all cost.  Those are all reasonable questions. 

You have a choice about where you get information to answer your questions.  You can talk to friends, you can look on the internet or you can go see a family lawyer.  Not surprisingly, my suggestion is to see a family lawyer. 

Your friends may have good intentions, but they don't usually know the law and what happened in their case may not apply in yours.  The internet sometimes has good information, but often people start reading articles about divorce in California, New York, Florida or some other state.  Laws vary from state to state, so what is good advice in California might not make any sense here in Texas.

So, where is the encouragement?

1.  You have choices in attorneys.  There are many attorneys in Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Texas, who are very good at handling divorces.  You can choose one in your price range and you can get one with experience appropriate to your case.  Some cases don't need highly experienced and expensive attorneys. Others may need an attorney with special experience or training.  In addition to focusing on experience and cost, you should meet with the attorney and decide whether the personal chemistry between the two of you works well.  If it doesn't, check other attorneys until you feel really comfortable.

2.  You can affect how much fighting there is.  Each divorce is different.  Some people go looking for a lawyer who will be a shark, rake the spouse over the coals or otherwise inflict pain on the other side.  I don't believe that is productive in the long run, but there are lawyers around who will happily accommodate that request.  But watch the fine print:  all of that battling is very expensive.  Don't assume your spouse will have to pay for everything. 

You can choose to spend your money on lawyers or you can keep it peaceful and have more money to divide up.  It's your choice.

3.  You have a choice of processes.  You can possibly work out an informal agreement with your spouse, you can go into traditional litigation or you can choose Collaborative divorce.

Informal negotiations are good if there's little to discuss. 

Litigation is the most common process, but relies on standard guidelines for children's issues and it usually involves costly Discovery if there are significant assets.  While most cases usually settle before trial, litigation is divisive, slow and expensive.

Collaborative divorce is my preference, but it won't work for everyone.  Some people just insist on fighting and going to court.  Collaborative is great where there are serious issues, including custody, sharing parenting time and responsibilities and dividing complex assets.  For a lot of information about Collaborative Law, check out my other blog, the Texas Collaborative Law Blog.

What should you do?  Go talk with attorneys and explain your financial situation and any concerns about kids or preferences or needs on property division.  Be sure to talk with an attorney who is an experienced and trained Collaborative Law attorney so you can get accurate information on that option.  Good luck!