“Divorce and separation brings out the bad in good people and the monster in bad people. Everyone wants to leave the table with a piece of the other”
After seven years of practising in Family Law it would not be presumptuous to claim that I have witnessed a broad array of emotional reactions by those who are involved in Family Law proceedings.
From tears to tantrums to threats (one Judge of the Federal Circuit Court recently informed me that he was sent dog faeces in the mail from an irate litigant), the Family Law jurisdiction is one such area that evokes heightened emotions as a result of what are undeniably high pressure situations. At the risk of sounding like a cynic, nothing surprises me regarding the attitudes and emotional fallout from litigants to Family Law proceedings. As a Family Lawyer I am exposed to people at their most vulnerable.
Family Lawyers have the unenviable task of not only having to guide their client’s matter through the appropriate legal channels, but also manage their client’s emotions in order that their client’s matter does not get weighed down with irrelevant personal sentiments. While the client’s emotions should never be disregarded, they must be managed appropriately and where applicable the client must be advised when their attitude is not serving their best interests from the perspective of successfully presenting their best self in Family Law proceedings.
Beware that Judges of the Family Court do not sit idle. They are trained to be alert to the behaviour and attitude of parties to proceedings within their forum. This applies to whether poor attitude is apparent in the court room or throughout the course of proceedings generally. A poor attitude can potentially affect the Judge’s opinion of your emotional stability and character, which can be detrimental to your case, particularly in children’s matters.
It is undeniable that attitude in Family Law proceedings is important; many lawyers claim that the right attitude of the client is fundamental to the success of their client’s case. I agree with this view. My clients who focus on a fair and amicable attitude despite their difficult legal matter, will ultimately achieve the most satisfying outcomes.
The following points are key to establishing a beneficial attitude in Family Law proceedings:
- Recognise that the Family Law system is structured to achieve “justice and equity”; it is not a game designed to cheat people out of their equitable rights and entitlements.
- Acknowledge that there are no winners or losers in Family Law. Some clients become fixated on settlement sums or percentages. This does not define who has “won” or “lost”; it is merely a reflection of each of the parties’ equitable entitlements in correlation with the relevant sections of the Family Law Act.
- Understand that the Family Law system is a “no fault” system. This means that it is not relevant which party was at fault for the breakdown of the relationship. For example, if your husband or wife cheated on you it does not automatically mean that they will receive less from a property settlement or less time with the children.
- Appreciate that your lawyer is there to represent you and help you achieve the best outcome possible based on the individual merits of your case. Do not make your lawyer’s job more difficult by presenting in an aggressive, belligerent or bossy manner. That simply serves to move the lawyers focus away from the relevant legal issues and towards managing your poor attitude.
- Remember Family Law has no room for ego. Your ego will not change your entitlements at law, nor will it serve your good character. Character does have a bearing on many Family Law matters.