Charleston Family Court Lawyers | 10 Ways to Ruin Your Family Court Case
If you really, really want to lose in Family Court (and yes, there is a very broad definition of “losing” in Family Court, but for our purposes here, it means “fail to obtain your objectives”) it is really not that hard. Do the things I have outlined here, and you can lose big time. To the contrary, help yourself by AVOIDING these items:
1) Get your kids involved in your fight.
Nothing makes professionals – including Family Court judges – angrier than you getting your children involved in your fight with their other parent. Your kids do not even need to know that you are “going through a divorce” or that you are “mad at Daddy” or whatever is going on. They need to know that their parents will cooperate like adults to solve whatever problems they may have, and that they – your children – have your permission to continue to be kids and to live their lives in security. Tell them what the new rules are, if any, AFTER your dispute is over.
2) Not encouraging your kids to spend time with their other parent.
Your children need to know and love both parents, and to be free to accept the love of their other parent – all without fear of being shamed or facing your anger. Unless there is a court order cutting off contact, or there is active abuse (you must address abuse situations with the court), you must encourage your children’s time with their other parent. Fail to do this, and you will run afoul of the court’s statutory interest in seeing the children’s relationships with both parents promoted. Child custody decisions have turned one way or the other on this very point.
3) Ignore court orders.
When a judge tells you what to do, it will be part of a court order. A court order is not advice, and it does not contain suggestions. You are required to do what is in a court order, or you will face the court’s penalties. In South Carolina, if a judge decides that you have willfully disobeyed a court order, you could be fined up to $1500, sentenced to up to a year in jail, and ordered to perform up to 350 hours of community service. These punishments could also be combined. Worst of all, you create for yourself a “bad paper trail” which indicates that you could, in fact, be the impulsive or mean or reckless or defiant person your spouse seeks to convince the court that you are. If you find yourself in a position where you genuinely cannot obey some portion of a court order, tell your Family Court lawyer so you can get back in front of a judge and explain yourself before the situation gets out of hand.
4) Don’t pay child support.
Even if the ink is not yet dry on the order of child support, make sure that you provide what is necessary for your children’s care. Every judge expects every parent to financially support his or her children. Don’t play around with this vital obligation. Be forthcoming. Stay ahead of your obligations. Sign up for wage withholding and get used to the money leaving your paycheck before you can touch it. Remember: you have no control over tax withholdings from your paycheck. Child support comes next.
5) Tell lies.
Don’t tell lies. You will never get away with it, especially if your other half has a Family Court lawyer. Judges will never believe another word you say, once you are caught in a lie. It is not worth it and you will regret it for the rest of your life.
6) Refuse to give financial disclosure.
Everyone has to provide the Family Court and the other side with full financial disclosure. Courts have forms which they insist be accurately completed and exchanged, and there are time limitations imposed on when these things must be done. As in the section on “Orders” (#3), this is not voluntary – it is mandatory. As in the section on “Telling Lies” (#5), you must tell the truth in your financial disclosure. Hiding assets, moving them around, giving them away, all can be easily discovered, and will be. Judges do not take kindly to game-playing here, and the Family Court rules permit punishments, usually financial, to those who venture into avoidance.
7) Say bad things about the other side at every chance.
In the past, you selected a spouse and you/your spouse acquired assets and debts together, and may have also had children together; there must have been something that drew you to that relationship and kept you there for any length of time. Everyone knows that. Don’t pretend that yours is the only relationship EVER in this world which was totally one-sided, and which only one person destroyed. It is not true, will not be believed, and will result in your constantly projecting anger and vindictive behavior. No judge will believe or appreciate this.
8) Talk back to, or interrupt, a judge.
You may ask yourself: Who would do such a thing? The answer would be, more people than you can imagine. Judges are trained observers and experienced in their work. They seek to do the correct and fair thing. If a judge wants to ask you a question directly, he or she has every right to do so. Don’t interrupt while a judge is speaking to you. Don’t attempt to argue or talk back. The correct posture would be to maintain eye contact with the judge while he or she is speaking to you, wait until he or she is finished, and provide a short, polite response. Please note that Charleston Family Court lawyers are bound by Rules (of Civil Procedure and of Family Court)which directly prohibit them from arguing with a judge once a ruling has been issued. There is a time and place for everything, one might say, except there is NO time and place for you, as a litigant, to argue with or interrupt a Family Court judge.
9) Arrive late to your hearing.
One would assume that you are very interested in what happens to you, your spouse, and your children in any Family Court proceeding. Plan ahead. Check the route, the parking, the cost of parking, and the necessary walk to the courthouse. Be sure you know where you are going, and get there early. To do otherwise is to create an impression of indifference. Remember, you will often be asked to wait in Family Court, and any Charleston Family Court lawyer will let you know that there is LOTS of waiting in Family Court – however, judges don’t do the waiting, if any. YOU do.
10) Skip a hearing altogether.
Don’t show up, and the hearing goes on without you. It is very hard to undo results from a hearing where you were not in attendance. If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will be there but will have his or her hands tied by your absence. Don’t ever do this.
Lastly, choosing NOT to hire an experienced Charleston Family Court lawyer is your prerogative. If, however, you choose to represent yourself, you will be held to the same standard of competence as a licensed attorney. You will also risk projecting to the court the image that you really did not care much about the court proceeding. Don’t put yourself in the position of failing to meet your own reasonable objectives in Family Court.