Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Modification: Teaching your ex a lesson

I recently spoke with a gentleman who was interviewing attorneys.  He told me he had spoken with several other attorneys (always a good idea), and particularly liked one who, after hearing the facts of this fellow's case said, "We're going to get her.  We'll teach her a lesson."


Family Law litigation is not about teaching anybody a lesson.  Not only does that do nothing more than abuse the court process, it completely misses the point and it is the quickest way to lose.  That's three excellent reasons to not choose this path.

Teaching your ex a lesson does nothing more than abuse the court process because the court process is designed to provide people with a forum to resolve their differences.  The key word there is resolve.  In Modification cases it is particularly appropriate, "re-solve."  Teaching your ex a lesson is not about resolving anything.  If you have a legitimate dispute and you can't get it sorted out with your ex without court, then litigate it, but litigate to get it resolved, not to satisfy vendettas or hum the legal equivalent of na-na-na-na-na.  There are too many people genuinely needing access to justice to tie the court up with feuds.

Teaching your ex a lesson completely misses the point because family law is about moving families forward.  It is results oriented.  It isn't a forum for the redress of past wrongs.  Even Contempt actions are really about the future.  While part of the remedy is getting back what you should have had in the first place (support, visitation) it is principally about changing conduct so that the act does not happen in the future.  That's why there are sanctions such as attorney fees or incarceration.  Modifications are exclusively focused on the future: what will the new child support be or what will the new custody award involve or how will visitation change?  To the extent that one party is caught up in past grievances, wanting to re-litigate old issues or "teach their ex a lesson" they've completely missed the reason for Modification.

And teaching your ex a lesson is the quickest way to lose.  Judge's have precious little time to give each case.  They have mere minutes before they assess the nature of the case and its probable outcomes.  If a Judge senses that a party is not forward looking but is litigating ancient hostility or retribution against their ex, that party will lose, immediately, having barely passed go.

In short, getting aggressive to "get" your ex or teach her a lesson is a no win scenario and a horrid waste of money.

After hearing what I just wrote, the fellow I was speaking with assessed, "Perhaps that attorney was just telling me what I wanted to hear.  Thank you for telling me what I needed to hear."

I'm glad I can help him.  Can we help you?

Michael Manely

No comments:

Post a Comment