Sunday, February 23, 2014

From Whom Are You Taking Legal Advice?

Probably the most common thing I hear as a family law attorney is "My brother's cousin's best friend's nephew told me I can get [x] in my case."   X, of course, being whatever the person talking to me really wants to happen in the case.   Usually, this involves being told if you get joint custody, you don't have to pay child support.

In my crankier moods I want to respond with "And where did this person go to law school?"   In nicer moods, I patiently explain why that might not be possible in this particular case.   Especially the joint custody gets you out of child support one.   That one is highly unlikely.  

People always want to argue based on what they heard, saw on tv, read in the paper, whatever.   The problem is that 1) the people they are talking to are not lawyers and/or 2) every family law case is very fact dependent.   Within the law what is possible in one case might not be possible in another.

What really baffles me is that people are paying me to give them legal advice, then challenge me when I give it to them.   I and every other attorney went to law school.   We passed a bar exam.  We are qualified by the authority that granted our law licenses to give legal advice.   Why would listen to someone with no legal training over someone who has all that?   I know, people want to hear good news.   They want to hear that what they want is possible.   I get that.  But, once you are told by qualified people that what you want is not possible and they have explained to you why it is not possible, you should listen.

Family law cases are stressful enough.   They are not fast either.   A case can take months to get to trial (but usually not years).   Involving family members and friends by listening to their legal advice over that of your attorney, only makes the matter harder and longer.  

Obviously, ask questions of your lawyer.   Make your lawyer explain until you understand.   After all, you are the one who has to live with the consequences.   But don't make a difficult matter worse by taking the legal advice of non-lawyers over that of your lawyer.

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