Family Court litigants often blame the fact that they “lost” their custody or divorce case on something else. They blame the system, the judge, the lawyer, and so on. Not that that’s not true, but Family Court litigants make common costly mistakes too. They often fail to take some very important steps to ensure that their case goes as planned. These mistakes often cost them custody, time with their child(ren), money…the list doesn’t end.
Here are some of the biggest mistakes made in Family Court:
- Inadequate Planning
When you decide to go to court for custody or divorce, or are forced to go, you should plan for each phase of the process each time. Planning consists of things like considering the time commitment, which actually gets an accurate idea of how long each court appearance will take amongst other things. You should also plan for costs, not just the cost to hire a lawyer, but for things like filing fees, document retrieval, service of process, etc. And last, you should plan for the emotional/mental toll it will take on you (and your family). This means making sure you have a support system, health coverage (for therapy), and so on.
- Gathering the Wrong Info
This is a mistake that most people don’t realize they are making. The reason is they think gathering info means collecting anything and everything by audio, video or text. Not that these are not helpful, it’s that they are often inadmissible in court. So when you have a custody or divorce case, it is wise to “capture” information by objective means. Ideally, a third person witnessing things is what’s best.
Another thing they do often is miss opportunities to gather information. They don’t want to hear from the opposing party, or have been taught to “grey rock” them or just they flat out block them from all communication. This is a huge mistake because there is no opportunity to gather useful information for their case.
- Failing to Document Properly
The last one brings me to another very important mistake many Family Court litigants make. Many people fail to document things in a way that is actually useful. I often ask people, “now that you have that information what do you plan to do with it because the judge won’t allow it in court?” One of the most common scenarios is when their minor child tells them something that their other parent did or said. They think they can go to court to make a case based on what a child told them. They document the date, time and what the child said and that’s it. This is rarely enough to get the judge to make a ruling on anything substantive. The thing to do is present it to the other parent, in writing, of course, to get a response. It’s the response that’s useful, not the hearsay statement the child made.
- Not Organizing Evidence Adequately
I can’t stress this one enough. I will admit though that most litigants don’t know HOW to organize their evidence or case properly. The main reason is that they don’ know what is most important. They think that advocating on behalf of their child is enough, regardless of the rules of evidence or court procedure. This takes real effort, and in some cases, some professional assistance, to organize the right way.
- Not Focusing
Family Court litigants have the tendency to lose track of what’s most important in their custody or divorce case. They are usually so embroiled in emotion that they react to every thing that the triggers those emotions. This often leads to distraction, which causes you to miss the more important things. In addition, litigants often get blindsided by the neverending barrage of lies, deception and antics. This too, leads to loss of focus and getting off track.
Consequences of these Family Court Mistakes
It is important to keep these things in mind. It is your responsibility to make sure that you spend time doing your own research. Familiarizing yourself with the court process and procedure will significantly help to minimize disappointment. Some things most people think that they already know, which is often true. But there are things that guessing or assuming shouldn’t be an option.
Being unprepared or not planning properly can cause you to lose the war, not just the battle. Custody cases, specifically, don’t end until your child reaches the age of maturity. So that means every time you’re brought back to court, is just a battle. The war still goes on until your children age out. So that means that every time you are unprepared for a battle, weakens your position. You seldom get the chance to recoup those losses.
Not to mention, if the court issues a final order in the other party’s favor because you were unprepared, your only recourse is to appeal. An appeal in Family Court seldom changes things, and they are very expensive. So this means, it’s extremely important to get it right the first time around.
Please do your due diligence before you get started in Family Court. It doesn’t matter if you are the Plaintiff/Petitioner or the Defendant/Respondent, it is up to you to be sure that you prepare, present and position your case for success.