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"What Do You Know?"

Would your decision to hire an oncologist be based solely on whether or not that doctor has had cancer? Or would your choice of pediatrician turn on whether that doctor has children of their own? I remember when I was a counselor working in addiction treatment, I would often be told "What do you know?! You're not an addict!"

My response to that was that it was my job to help you get sober, not help you keep using. You need out of the problem, not farther into it. And I bring a similar mantra to the practice of family law. I don't have kids. And my decision to not have children at this point in my life does not affect whether or not I can zealously advocate for you in your custody case. If you got a DUI, you wouldn't only hire an attorney that's had a DUI. Of course you wouldn't; that would be crazy. But here's the thing: as a woman and as a family law attorney, I sometimes find myself cornered by individuals, especially moms, who think I must not have any clue what it's like to love and miss kids and that I'll have a hard time relating to their custody case because of it. This is flawed logic.

The whole "what do you know?!" argument isn't so much an argument as it is a defense mechanism - a tool one shields oneself with so that they don't have to deal with a harsh reality, or perhaps to excuse their own bad behavior or faults. My job is to help you deal with whatever your situation may be, from divorcing your husband to getting custody of your kids or modifying your child support. You hire a divorce lawyer for their expertise and knowledge of the law, not for them to become simpatico with you. It is impossible for me, or anyone else for that matter, to feel every exact feeling you feel and to understand with 100% surety what you are going through on an emotional and mental level. It's just not possible. It's also not a good idea.

To represent you, your lawyer must have objectivity. Your lawyer must be able to see and articulate what is good and what is bad about your case. If your lawyer can only see things from your perspective, your case will self-destruct from tunnel vision. You don't hire a lawyer just to self-destruct. At least, you shouldn't.

Objectivity, though, does not negate empathy. I am more than capable of empathy. That's why I'm called to the practice of family law. I am capable of taking my empathy for what you and your family are going through, and using that as a part of the narrative of your case, helping the judge understand your case from your perspective. I am capable of taking the law and interpreting that for you in an empathic, honest, manner.

So, what do I know? I know how to feel; I know how to care; I know how to analyze a case; I know how to prepare and present a case in its best, most honest, most objective, most empathetic light. At the end of the day, while I can't pop into and out of your feelings like the on and off of a light switch, I can make your tough situation a bit more palatable, livable, and even successful.

That's what I know.

Megan Santiago

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