Thursday, December 17, 2015

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Yeah I am in a holiday mood, and I love that song (although why the King says lets bring the baby shivering in the cold silver and gold, a nice warm blanket would be better).   But this has nothing to do with it.   This is about the client who comes to you with all the things they heard from friends, family, co-workers, etc.

You want to see your lawyer's head explode start with "Well my cousin got divorced and she got to keep the house, and her pension and get alimony and full custody of the kids, I want the same thing."  Once your attorney picks up the pieces of her head and glues them back together she will explain why you might not get that exact same thing.

You see, family law is case specific.   That means every case is different just like every family is different.   Just because your best friend's nephew's old roommate got $2,500 a month in child support does not mean you are going to.   Just because your co-worker told you to hold out for all the equity in the house because that's what her brother got, does not mean you will too.

For child support, its based on income, daycare, healthcare expenses and extraordinary medical expenses (other things may be thrown in there).   Which means unless you have the exact same income and expenses as someone else, you are not going to have the same child support amount.   This is child support for your family, not your cousin's brother-in-law.

Same with the house.   Maybe someone doesn't want the house anymore and is willing to let it go for something else (somehow that part never gets mentioned).   Maybe the house has no value.   Maybe the other person really really really screwed up the marriage and so the client is entitled to all the house.   But until the facts of the case is reviewed, the base assumption is half.

I explain this to client and I explain this to clients.   And they nod their heads and they say they understand.   They proceed with the case on that basis.   Until we start talking settlement.    You present a proposal from the other side, with your advice.   The client listens and nods and says "I get it."   You let the client think about it like a good attorney   Then they come back with "I talked to Mom and she wants to know why I am not getting $3,000 a month in alimony, after all she says I am entitled to the same lifestyle I had while we were married."   On bad days, my answer to this is "And where did your mother go to law school?"

You are not entitled at any lifestyle at all.   The kids should not be affected as much by a divorce, but adults can control their lives -- and their spending -- to some extent.   It's basic reality.    Money goes farther when there are two incomes supporting one household.   When there are two households, expenses go up and the ability to cover them all goes down.   You just can't have the same lifestyle.   People don't want to hear that.   They want to hear "Oh sure, no problem, the judge will see you spend $1000 a year on each kid for Christmas, even though you only make $24,000 a year.   I'll totally up the child support so you can overspend."  

People really don't want to hear they have to sell the house.  "But where will I live?"   Well, let's see the house is being sold and you are getting $100K in cash.    I think you can find another place to live.  "But how will I pay the mortgage?"   Find a place with that much of a downpayment that lets you have a mortgage that you can afford.   Nope, they want to live in the house, without the other person getting anything.   They certainly don't want to move into maybe a smaller place they can afford.   See above about same lifestyle.

It's bad enough when they talk to their friends/family/co-workers.   The ones who do google searches are even worse.    "I wanted to see if I could get out of paying child support and I found on the internet I could."   My first question is "what site did you find that on?"   Chances are it was not a legal site, because no reputable site would come out with something like that.   But "if it's on the internet and fits what I want to be true, it must be true" is a mentality in full play in family law cases.   Or they read a statute online and then proceed to tell me what I means.   And they get mad when I tell them, that no, that's not what it means at all.   They argue with me.   I wind up telling them "This is what I went to law school for 3 years for, to know how to read a statute and apply it to the facts of your case."    But again, some people believe there is a magic law wand out there that if they just find the right case, right law, will make it all turn out in their favor.    And they ignore everything that says otherwise.

Should you discuss what your goals of the case are with your lawyer?   Sure.    Should you try to learn how the law works?   Sure, preferably from your lawer.   Should you question your lawyer why you are not getting what you thought you would out of the case?   Yes, to a point.   Ask questions to understand.    You need to listen to your lawyer.   After all, you are paying the attorney for his/her advice, why on earth would you argue with it based on something a non-lawyer told you?  

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