Common mistakes in family court:
- Submitting too much information to the court
- Complaining about the other party without suggesting a solution
- Failing to be organized and focused on key issue in court
Expecting the Judge to digest volumes of information
In 2013, Family Court judges were assigned an average of 1,320 cases.
Judges often see several different litigants in one day and only have time to review limited information. Thus, it is crucial that litigants or their attorneys minimize the information they want a Judge to consider. One rule of thumb is to provide no more than 2 or 3 pieces of evidence for any claim.
Husband complains that Wife is often late picking up the children. He provides his calendar for the past 6 months with the late dates highlighted. This requires the judge to go through each page and count the number, the severity, and calculate percentage of days late.
Instead, the party would be better served by taking the time to compute the percentage of significantly late dates, and /or make a table with the date, and minutes late – summarizing the information for quick review.
Wife complains Husband has been sent disparaging text messages. Rather than submit scores of messages, Wife should sort through the messages and submit only the most egregious few as evidence.
Too many parties offer volumes of data; either because they are unable to organize and synthesize the information, or perhaps hoping it will convince the judge by sheer volume, or that the Court will recognize a pattern. Parties or their lawyers should summarize the important facts and evidence in an easy to review format, by using charts, graphs, and tables, etc. Remember, if requested, the party must be fully prepared to provide all details/evidence used for the summary.
Complaining about, or blaming, the other party without suggesting a solution or asking the court for a specific remedy
A court will rarely rule on an issue that a party has not requested. Too often parties in family court try to convince the judge they are right, and show how wrongly the other party has behaved. Even when the information is undisputed, blaming rarely helps without a request specific relief.
Example: Mother alleges that Father ignores the children when in his care. She explains he forgets to feed them or ensure they complete homework. Even if true- what is a solution? What does Mother want the judge to order?
Many parties in family court are undergoing considerable emotional turmoil and struggle to remain rational. A therapist or counselor is better equipped to deal with the emotional anger, hurt and frustration. When a party cannot provide the court with a solution to any “problem or complaint” raised, and explain why the court should order or rule on the request, that party is better served by hiring legal representation.
Not focusing on what is most important and running out of time.
Most evidentiary hearings and trials in family court are 3 hours or less. That provides parties with little time to present evidence and examine witnesses. To be fully effective, a party or his attorney must be very organized, prepared, and focused on what matters most. It helps to narrow the case down to what matters most. Precious time is wasted when one must search for a document or rustle through notes; or when a party gets bogged down in the minutia instead of focusing on more important issues. Although some judges will allow parties to go over their allotted time; it is rarely looked upon favorably, and often denied.
You will increase the likelihood of a successful evidentiary hearing if you or your lawyer is able to narrow the issues and focus on what is most important in your case, organize your documents, prepare focused questions, and rehearse to ensure you are able to successfully have your day in court.