Family Law Trials Part I – The Preparation
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.
How do you get to trial? Prepare, prepare, prepare.
I am a week away from a family law trial. I am busy preparing: compiling briefs of all of the material that has to be served and filed, culling all of the documents I want to rely on, running arrears and support calculations, meeting with witnesses to prepare them to testify… It takes a lot of work to make it look effortless (hopefully) when I am finally on my feet before the judge. I am becoming somewhat of an expert on the value of commercial real estate as well as the valuation of rental properties. I am reviewing the rules of evidence and trial process. I am working hard. This is what I went to school for.
The trial is out of town, so I will be packing up my office and heading to the Best Western for the week. That adds a whole other layer of preparation for the trial: do I have a portable printer, can I log onto the legal research site from out of the office, do I have enough paper, pens, post-its and what is a continental breakfast?
While I am preparing for trial, I am also trying valiantly to settle the case. Family law trials are expensive and tough on the participants, as well as their children. Trials should be avoided at all costs. But sometimes, in cases like this one, the case must be litigated. Sadly, there is one party who will not accept the writing on the wall. Someone who wants things their way or the highway. Someone who wants their day in court and will accept nothing short of a ruling from a judge. Settlement efforts have failed. One hand clapping doesn’t work. Although we are managing to narrow the trial issues and resolve some of the lesser disputes, this matter will be before a judge next week. And so I go on, and prepare as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible for my client.
Litigation is usually a win-lose proposition. Both sides go into a trial thinking they will win. But there is only one victor. Oftentimes, that means both lose. Or, as a senior lawyer once told me, if the parties are equally unhappy with the outcome, then it is the right outcome. There will be a lot of money spent to address issues that the judge is no better able to resolve than counsel as there is a limited range of reasonable outcomes. There will be court time wasted and time taken away from the family. Sadly, for these parties, this is how it must be.
Hopefully, we proceed Monday. This case has been scheduled for trial twice before and put off both times. More time and money wasted. I hope for a quick trial and speedy decision for my client. The parties separated 8 years ago. She just wants to get on with her life. It is about time.