The Truth About Family Court and Attorneys

A statement made by Ben Franklin two hundred and fifty years ago is not nearly as true as it once was!

“He (or She) who represents themselves in court has a fool for a client.” – Benjamin Franklin

Today this statement is entirely untrue as it relates to the family law system and attorneys practicing Family Law. In fact, the real truth is found in another famous quotation:

“A fool and his money are soon parted” – Unknown

When I became involved in the Father’s Rights movement in 1990 there was one recurring issue that kept surfacing in almost every conversation I had with hundreds of men. The issue: The value and necessity of family law attorneys! To understand the dubious nature of a family law attorney you must first understand how family law proceedings are very different than other court proceedings.

Family Court conducts itself differently than other forms of civil and criminal law. In family court, everything is based on the subjective decision of a judge or mediator. Such decisions are loosely based on certain guidelines and laws however there is rarely a firm rule of law requiring the judge to make a certain decision. Furthermore, such decisions or rulings rarely resolve the problem since there is often no apparent legal issue being argued. Wherefore MOST decisions involving custody, visitation and a myriad of related issues are very SUBJECTIVELY determined.

Most Judges and many legal experts will tell you that they don’t have the answers to solving a domestic law problem. They will be quick to point out that they are not experts when it comes to children, marriage and family. They are reliant upon other experts, such as child psychologist, medical doctors, marriage and family counselors, mediators and other trained individuals. Contrary to popular belief family law judges don’t simply sit at the bench and wait for individuals to plead their case. They would much prefer that litigants resolve the issues themselves through mediation, mandatory settlement conferences, arbitration, attorney meetings, counseling, guardian ad litem, minor counsel, children’s advocate, friend of the court, custody evaluator and other conflict resolution alternatives. ALL of these individuals and services are VERY SUBJECTIVE and their reports can vary from court to court, person to person, judge to judge.

It is well known that family law courts are highly dependent on these services. In fact, in cases involving custody and visitation issues, mediation is a requirement of law before the judge can even hear the case. Further, in most states attorneys are not allowed at these proceedings. It should also be considered that statistically mediation services are VERY successful and result in out of court settlement. Well over 90% of all family law cases never make it to trial. They are routinely settled at a simple hearing, mediation, arbitration, or by agreement between the parties. And that’s exactly what the Judges want!

I have been involved in the Father’s Rights movement for nearly 18 years now. I started Father’s Rights, Inc. in January of 1992 and began offering self-help legal assistance to men who simply did not have the money to hire an attorney. Many of these men had hired family law attorneys in the beginning but either ran out of money or became frustrated with the results and decided to take control and learn how the system works. domestic violence lawyer

Let me be very clear! A family law attorney can never be your “knight in shining armor” that defends your personal honor before the court. They do little more than file paperwork and negotiate agreements. However, if the negotiations occur at the courthouse they will charge you court time of $300.00 to $400.00 per hour. Therefore, any party to a family law action should never solely rely upon an attorney to resolve disputed issues. You can do that yourself! Unless you are Bill Gates and have lots and lots of money to throw away, learn how the family law system works and check out your other legal options.

As previously discussed, family law attorneys are virtually useless in most family court cases. In fact they can (and often do) more to hurt your case than help it. Unless you have significant legal issues such as jurisdiction problems, complicated community property issues or some other difficult legal issue, avoid attorneys like the plague. Do not presume that your case will be anymore difficult than other cases. Further, don’t presume that you will need an attorney because of angry threats made by the opposing party or because you have been served with family law legal papers. Again, check out other legal options. Family law issues are easier to resolve than you might believe. In fact, many states have now become VERY user/self-help friendly making is easier to file court actions and represent yourself. Remember, attorneys are businessmen FIRST, Attorney’s SECOND!


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