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Family Law: When to Hold and When to Fold...

Do you bet the farm? Tonight's post was written by our Atlanta Family Law Attorney, Cherese Clark.

The dealer shuffles the cards and deals you two. You're holding an Ace and King of spades and the flop reveals an Ace (hearts), Ace (clubs), 10 (diamonds). On the turn? A Queen (spades). You are one of two still in the game and you're looking at three of a kind or a possible straight flush. Do you hold em' and go all in or do you fold em in fear that your opponent will out play you?

Poker requires a series of expeditious yet methodical decisions to ultimately decide when to hold and when to fold. Your decision could cost you a lot of money but if everything lays out exactly how you want, you could win big. The key is knowing when to hold and when to fold.

Deciding whether to settle or take a case to trial is much like a poker game. You may think that your case is solid for trial because you want to prove a point but that may come at a cost that must be vetted out before making a decision.

WHEN TO HOLD EM'?:

Slam dunk evidence that will secure an unequivocal win! These are cases where case law and the facts of your cases have aligned perfectly and there is nearly 100% confidence in the outcome. However, these cases are not in the majority, don't even happen often, and many things have to be consideredbefore proceeding. For instance, how will the judge likely rule on this issue?; What will the counter arguments be from the opposing side? If you lose and have to appeal, what is the likely- hood of success vs. the money that will be spent?  In the end, what do you want to happen?

Additionally, there may be issues of the case that can be resolved rather quickly through agreements and stipulations and, frankly, concessions. Knowing when to throw certain issues away not only narrows the scope of litigation, it saves you from throwing money into the pot unnecessarily and just distracting the judge.  Holding on to the real issues keeps you, your attorney, and your case on track to what really matters.

WHEN TO FOLD EM'?:

"Never let the side show take over the circus" is a cliché I often use to keep my clients focused on the issues of the case. Judges like clear concise issues that crystallize through relevant evidence in a relatively short period of time. What this means is that sometimes when you're sitting at the table you may need to fold if your 3 of a Kind stands to get beat by a full house. So yes, the opposing party may have said that she stepped out of the bed on the left side on April 3, 2012.  Your running down a rabbit hole, chasing evidence to show she stepped out on the right side is an issue that you need to fold, especially when the issue is parental fitness and custody is on the line. True enough, a witness' credibility is always in question when testifying. However, chasing evidence that may not be the smoking gun to win the pot may cost you more than folding on that small issue and keeping your eyes on the prize.

Another example: in a divorce case, all issues of child custody, child support, and asset/property/ debt division must be resolved by agreement or trial before a Judge will sign a Final Decree. If the parties have few assets, no property and minimal debt and the real issue is custody, then folding on those issues and entering into an agreement or stipulation regarding those areas is a smart fold.  That way, the real focus on the case becomes child support and child custody.

At the end of the day while you may be chasing a straight or full house and throwing all your chips on the table, the "river" card may only reveal a 2 of clubs.  Did you really win if your opponent made either full house with an Ace and a 10 awhile you're stuck with a measly 3 of a kind in comparison? Or even worse, the Judge takes all the cards, stops the game and you both lose money?

In family law particularly, know when to hold em' and when to fold em'- to take control over your own destiny.

Cherese Clark

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