A family law case involves at least two people, and more if there’s children. Making the story all about you will hurt you. Anticipate that the judge will hear from your ex, so prepare for that side of the story — it can only help you. Ask yourself the same question that I ask every client, “what will your ex say about you to help him/herself in court?” Answer that question and write it down. Make a list, and have a plan to deal with everything, especially the bad and embarrassing stuff.
This concept is easy to forget in family court. It’s easy to focus on you and forget the other person’s point of view, especially over such important emotional issues. Many people have a “victim mentality,” “woe is me,” “look at what a monster my ex is.” Resist the temptation, it doesn’t work.
Judges know that no matter how convincing one side is, the other is going to say something else very different. Don’ t pretend or assume that the judge will agree with you. The judge tries to see through both sides and figure out what happened. When children are involved, the judge isn’t thinking about you or your ex. The judge thinks about how the children will be affected by the parents.
Before you give your story, predict what your ex is going to say and prepare your counter- story. Acknowledge the other side’s position and discuss why you’re more reasonable. Point out where your ex is inaccurate, exaggerates, or takes things out of context. Always be civil and respectful to your ex. Don’t accuse any one of lying or being evil. You look bad when you do that. Let the judge make that conclusion. By acknowledging the other side during your turn will reduce the negative impact and dramatic effect of the opposing argument. It can be dangerous to ignore your ex’s best material and just let it come out first in the manner that they want. Control the story; get the negative stuff that you know will come out on your terms.
Don’t tell the judge that you’re right and your ex is wrong. Demonstrate it. Prove it. Give the judge the reasons to see your side of the story when you lay out the evidence. A judge needs to base a decision and on facts and evidence. It’s not the passion in your voice, how nice you ask, or charming you can be. It’s the testimony, witnesses, exhibits, and evidence in the material. When trying to persuade the judge, mention your evidence and the facts that support you.
When giving your argument, tell your side of the story from your perspective of your child. Show the judge you consider your child’s point of view at all times. For example, let’s say that your ex is withholding your child after you promised a trip to an amusement park (something you scheduled) so you file a contempt petition against your ex. Don’t discuss how inconvenienced YOU were. It’s much more powerful to reframe the situation from the perspective of the child. You can tell the judge that its heart-breaking for you to disappoint your child when you make every effort to set a reliable example, and are trying to teach responsibility. You can explain how upset he/she gets when you don’t get to see each other. Don’t disparage, criticize, or speculate about the ex’s behavior. The story isn’t about the parents. It’s about your child, the bond that you’re building, and why you’re concerned.
Focus on enforcing the order not just because you want things to be convenient for you but because you are focusing on what’s best for the child. Then your ex has to explain why the custody order couldn’t be followed and the issue isn’t about any past conflict between parents. It’s about the child so the argument’s more powerful and effective. It may take time and effort, but its worth it.
If you need assistance in seeing the other side of an argument, click the “Request Consultation” button for a free case evaluation.