Baby Steps: Family Law Attorneys Must Manage Client Expectations

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As a family law attorney everyday all day I must manage my client’s expectations. I would say this is the most difficult part of the practice of law for me. On one hand, you have those attorneys that promise their client the world but get fired, or in the worst-case scenario sued because they cannot deliver. On the other hand, you have those attorneys that are too cautious avoiding litigation and the fight even when it is worth it. Every day I strive to be honest with each client while pushing the limits to protect their rights. This can get tricky sometimes though.

People these days expect instant gratification when it comes to the delivery of a package. Just imagine the situation when their children are removed from their care and they are fighting to maintain contact with the air that they breathe. Of course, most parents will demand that they be recognized as equals to the other parent or that their child should be in their care. Many times these clients sit in my office claiming to be the victim of the other parent’s horrible lies, allegations of child neglect and abuse and falsities claiming that they are an unfit parent. Most of the time, they are in my office because they had a bad day in court and are all of a sudden only allowed to have supervised visits with their child, or even worse they are not allowed to have any contact with their child at all pending an in-depth investigation into the false allegations. They are worried their child is being brain washed and their relationship destroyed by the parent attempting to alienate them from their little one. Every time, even when you believe them with all of your heart, you must first and foremost step back and manage their expectations.

I do my best to help them understand what is happening and why the court is making certain decisions and orders. The court’s number one goal, in most cases, is the child. Judges are human beings who must be impartial and neutral, but they are human. Therefore, judges come with their own cultural beliefs, opinions, means of processing information, their own biases, and goals. However, most judges aim to be fair and determine the outcome that is in the best interest of the child. I must explain to each of these clients that the court does not know the mother and the court does not know the father. The court has no way of knowing what goes on in each household and whom to believe. In order to protect the child, they must take baby steps and conduct investigations often times involving experts to conduct custody, evaluations, provide psychological evaluations, and report on the home and each person’s background.  The biggest problem is that the court must move each case along as efficiently and as quickly as possible while each case is competing with the thousands of others before the court for attention and time.

Understandably so, clients get very frustrated with attorneys for not being able to do more, for not being able to make the case move quicker, for not being able to immediately convince the court they should be reunited with their child, be able to spend time with their child away from a stranger’s prying eyes, and that their significant other should be punished for the lies they told. The truth is most attorneys would love to waive a magic wand and make everything go their client’s way, as fast as possible. However, the same attorneys realize that it is often strategically prudent to follow the orders of the court, be patient and play their cards right by showing how their client will do anything for their child by being cooperative with the court.

While clients may assume the court is against them, and sometimes for whatever reason they are, in most instances everyone is just trying to their job to ensure that the child’s best interest is being safe guarded. The system is imperfect and filled with long standing traditions and biases within the controlling case law, but when every day all day the judges are inundated with he said she said, with so much grey area, their jobs can be extremely tricky.

In conclusion, whether you are struggling with a similar situation or you need assistance protecting your child, having a sympathetic and caring attorney experienced and dedicated to the field of family law can make all of the difference in managing your expectation and creatively guiding you through all of the baby steps towards your goals.

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