Often, the toughest consultations are the ones where the client comes to us after attempting to handle their own case. It’s a lot harder to fix what’s been done than it is to handle the case the right way to begin with. It’s ironic that a lot of people try to save money by handling their own case but end up spending a lot more money fixing errors they had made.
John* came to me after being arrested. He read that once a child turns a certain age, the child can make an election and decide who to live with. He picked up his daughter without a modification of child custody court order to move her to his home. His ex-wife called the police. A very heated altercation broke out in front of the child. John was arrested and then the child is scared to tell her mom she wants to live with John.
If John had consulted with us, he would know that while a child of a certain age can choose who he or she wants to live with, you will have to file court documents and the election still needs to be reviewed and approved by a judge. Custody doesn’t change until a judge changes it with an Order. We would have filed a Petition for Modification of Custody, and we would have had his daughter sign an Affidavit of Election, to be considered by the Court. The judge would have likely honored the election. John would have likely been awarded custody of his daughter, and John wouldn’t have had to go to jail, which is always a plus.
Adam came to me after he didn’t pay child support for over a year. He told me that he couldn’t afford it because he was demoted and suffered a large pay cut. There is no retroactive reduction of child support under these facts. Adam now owed thousands of dollars he could not pay. If he had come to me earlier, we could have filed a Modification of Child Support and gotten a hearing quickly so that his child support would have been decreased. Instead, he allowed child support to pile up, which didn’t look good to the judge.
Maria came to me because her husband told her that he dismissed his divorce case against her. She found out that not only had he not dismissed the case against her, but he also went to court and had a hearing without her. Surprise; he didn’t tell her the truth. He was awarded primary custody of their children, and she was ordered to pay child support. That was a huge uphill battle to undo that harm. Has Maria hired us, we would have entered our appearance on the record and monitored every last thing that happened in that case. We would have known her husband’s claim was bogus, like pretty much everything else he’d ever told her.
Susan came to me after she and her husband had been separated a year. They had been alternating weeks with their children. Now Susan wanted primary custody because, over time, their effort to share the children has proven unworkable. Her husband has had a lawyer all along. He asked that they continue the schedule of alternating weeks. His lawyer knows that because that’s what they’ve been doing for a year, that’s likely what the judge will order to continue. Had Susan hired us sooner, we would have documented the problems and gradually massaged the schedule to fit the needs of the children.
Carl went to a TPO hearing without an attorney. He believed that the truth would prevail and that his wife’s allegations of family violence would be disproved. Instead, furious with his wife’s lies, he walked out of court. Of course, a restraining order soon followed and the threat of criminal charges were close behind. Additionally, because he wasn’t prepared to prove his income, the judge relied on his wife’s testimony and documents provided by his wife’s attorney and Carl was ordered to pay far more than his income. Had Carl hired us, we wouldn’t have let him leave the court room and we would have come loaded for bear, including proof of Carl’s income.
Mike came to me after signing a divorce settlement agreement with his wife. It was so unfavorable to him that it hurt me to read it. Because he had already signed it though, there was very little that could be done.
At The Manely Firm, we offer complimentary consultations in all of our locations: Gainesville, Lawrenceville, Canton, Marietta, Atlanta and Savannah. Wherever you live, wherever you work, there is no reason for you not to meet with an attorney to make sure you’re not stepping onto a landmine. You need to know your rights and to be able to strategize so that you’re not making harmful, perhaps fatal missteps. Some bells cannot be unrung.
*All names have been changed for this blog post.