George came in to see me about his deteriorating marriage. His wife, Agnes, had filed a petition seeking an order of protection, claiming she was afraid of George. This was not the first time I’d seen George. About four years earlier Agnes had asked the court for an order of protection and had also filed a divorce petition.
In that previous go-round, I made a strategic decision and chose not to contest the order of protection but, instead, agreed to a “consent” order, in which George would promise to stay away from Agnes, but he would not admit to having done anything wrong. This seemed like a win/win: no admission of guilt on George’s part and a protective order for Agnes. From a lawyer’s perspective, however, it was a double win for George.
If we had taken the case to trial and had lost, which, based upon the facts, seemed fairly likely, Agnes would have gotten her order of protection but George would have a finding by a judge that he posed a danger to Agnes. The finding against George could also be used as substantive evidence in the divorce case. Not only that, but if George were to violate the order of protection entered by the judge, he could be charged with a misdemeanor. Instead, by including the consent order as part of the divorce proceedings, rather than in the order of protection proceedings, we avoided any possibility of George being charged with a crime.
So what does this complicated legal maneuvering have to do with you?
Clients often wonder why their lawyers suggest courses of action that seem, at first glance, to be contrary to their own interests. George’s situation is a great case in point. George was initially very resistant to consenting to an order of protection. He insisted he had done no wrong. I knew, however, that because Agnes had accused George of flourishing a weapon, an accusation George would have a hard time disproving (George loves his guns), and because judges who are confronted with differing versions of the facts will often err on the side of caution and issue an order of protection, a consent order would be the best step we could take to protect George from being branded an abuser. We knew that if a judge found that George had abused Agnes, that finding might work against him in the divorce case.
In the world of divorce and family law, understanding the law is just the beginning of effective representation. Lawyers must understand the implications of every decision and, because judges, and not juries, will be determining how cases are resolved, they must understand the realities of appearing before those judges. That may mean heading in an unexpected direction to get to the best result.
The family law attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal have hundreds of years of combined legal experience appearing before family law judges. We can help you understand all of the complex factors you should consider before deciding how to approach your case. Contact us today for a free consultation.