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News Flash in Family Law: Attorneys Don't Walk On Water!

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 warrant."

"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.  

Praise be.

Michael Manely

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