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Picking Your Horse in Family Law

On Behalf of | May 2, 2015 | Family Law

Tonight’s post was written by our Savannah family law attorney, David Purvis.

Today marks the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby. Unfathomable amounts of money gets spent every year on this sporting event in which the race itself lasts all of approximately two minutes (sandwiched between a good 2+ hours of television coverage). What makes this race so compelling is that despite all of the work the handicappers put into figuring out the odds and which horse is favored, almost anything can happen, and frequently does.

Maybe, as happened this year, the early favorite gets an unfavorable gate assignment and is starting from the outside). Maybe, an unexpected thunderstorm passes through hours before the race, rendering the track a muddy, sloggy mess and the favorite a day ago really just can’t perform well under those conditions. Maybe the crowd and the noise and the jockey’s nerves do a number on a horse. Or maybe those same factors cause a horse that few thought had a chance to win, come from nowhere and defy the odds makers.

It often seems like the favorite winds up being all flash and, in the heat of battle, fizzles and falls short of being the first across the line. In short, the handicappers can spend every possible minute analyzing every aspect of the race, but at the end of it all, it really does not matter. There were too many variables.

Family law cases aren’t dissimilar. There are many, many constantly moving parts to a family law case and the story told at trial is one that has evolved constantly, and often literally up until the moments before the gavel has fallen and trial begins.

On many occasions, I have experienced a figurative “thunderstorm” moving over the case hours beforehand and the story of the case has changed dramatically because of a last minute communication between the parties. Some new revelation in the case has occurred and suddenly a case that was solid now has a crack with little time to make adjustments.

I recently consulted with a potential client whose case had already gone to trial and been decided by the judge. A rather large and very important fact developed in the weeks leading up to the trial. The potential client’s attorney at the time practiced in almost every conceivable practice area in which an attorney could dabble (criminal defense, personal injury, creditor/debtor, landlord/tenant, local government, small business, bankruptcy, and, yes, family law). Unfortunately for this potential client, her attorney had been unable to make the last minute adjustments needed in the case to deal with the new facts that arose.  The thunderstorm came moments before the big race, and as a result there is now a rather large knot to untangle with potentially devastating results for this poor potential client.

I’m not saying that there aren’t very good family law attorneys who also practice in other areas of the law. I know of a few. I do, though, know that our collective group of attorneys have performed in most any conceivable condition in the heat of competition and so, when something happens at the last moment before trial, we have the experience to adapt and to adjust. These last minute changes can have long lasting effects on the client and on the family.

So enjoy your mint juleps, your floppy hats, your seersucker, and your roses today. More than anything, enjoy the last second changes that wind up changing a horse’s story forever.

But try never to be that horse. Or, if you become that horse, at least make sure you come home with the roses.

David Purvis