A good family law trial lawyer understands their client, their client's
perspective, goals, motivation, fears and hopes. A good family law trial
lawyer can articulate their client's position and frame that position
well, with compassion, with clarity, with purpose and with conviction.
But even a good family law trial lawyer cannot change the facts, cannot
blow magic dust into the judge's eyes, cannot make a silk purse out
of a sow's ear. In short, even a really good family law trial lawyer
cannot walk on water or perform other miracles.
"My last attorney told me I'd get custody."
"You walked out on your wife, moved across eight states to shack up
with another woman, didn't talk to your kids for a year and a half
and only came back to Georgia because you were arrested on an abandonment
"Yep. My last attorney told me I'd get custody."
Or: "You'll get me alimony, won't you?"
"Your husband has proof of you committing adultery with the defensive
line of your alma mater's college football team as memorialized in
the now viral video of the event which was downloaded to YouTube."
"I think you should get me $5,000 a month."
There's a fun scene in Jim Carrey's, Liar, Liar in which he obtains
alimony for an udulterous spouse under the most extreme scenario. Sure,
that happens, but almost never. I wouldn't want to bet the farm on
life working out like a Hollywood script. I wouldn't want to bet a
fair settlement on obtaining an Order that defied the laws of gravity, either.
Facts matter. Actions still have consequences, perhaps even more so when
examined in a court room. Unlike Plato's Dialogues, one side does
not write both parts. Both sides vigorously vet the facts as proffered
by both sides. The truth will out!
So family law attorneys, even the good ones, do not walk on water, but
they do know their stuff. They know what the law says; they know what
the judge does. They know what's normal. They know what society, as
embodied in the judge, expects.
"I won't pay her a dime of alimony."
"The Judge is going to Order you to pay alimony. The more you resist
it, the more the Judge will award."
"That isn't right. I'm not going to pay her a dime."
"I appreciate that you think it is not right. But right and wrong,
in that court room, is not determined by you. It is
determined by that Judge. And that Judge is going to award her alimony."
"That isn't right. I'm not going to pay her one dime."
The client who expects his attorney to perform a miracle and convince a
judge of the client's view of right and wrong, doesn't give his
attorney credit for accurately predicting the outcome. We can turn water
into wine but we can't predict the future, it seems.
And then the inevitable happens. The Order is handed down and the attorney's
prediction was frighteningly accurate. Yet the client is mystified.
I'm quite aware of the inherent contradiction in this post. One, if
an attorney advises something that is too good to be true, it probably
is. And two, trust your attorney when she tells you how your case will
play out in court. She's probably right.
If there is a way of resolving this conflict it is probably this: if, in
the attorney's analysis, you win some and you lose some, the attorney
is probably a pretty good assessor of how things really work in family law.
So, a really good family law trial lawyer cannot walk on water. But we
can predict the future. In that sense, miracles do happen.