There are many people who will tell you that walking into a courtroom for any reason is one of the most unpleasant experiences they have ever faced; but people who appear in family court quickly find that the experience is much different than any other courtroom experience. In a family law proceeding, things can get extremely personal very quickly. In divorce and custody litigation, you have to be prepared not just for a counter attack, but also for a healthy dose of accusations to be hurled at you.
Domestic abuse cases – parties are separate but still equal
It may help to remember that in family court, there is the presumption that the contesting parties are equal and are law abiding people who are disagreeing over a family matter. In proceedings where there are accusations or even evidence of domestic violence in the form of visible bruises and medical documentation, the victim has to prove his or her case against the party that caused the injuries. Often times, people who find themselves in these situations will head into court and levy the strongest case they can against their abuser, without fully understanding that criminal courts have the power to protect victims from violent offenses, but the family court system does not.
Understanding the role of judicial discretion in family court
Judges in the family court system have a huge role to play as they take on the role of case manager or fact finder, which give them the sole discretion of determining what evidence will be allowed; how that evidence is to be considered (by himself and the jury); and what, if any, remedies could be applied to reach a resolution. Remember, the judge always has the power to decide on every legal matter throughout the proceeding, including doing nothing at all. It behooves anyone appearing before family court to understand all of the elements of their case.
Don’t go it alone
If you are facing a divorce proceeding or a custody battle in a Minnesota family law court, it is extremely important to retain qualified legal counsel, experienced in the practice of family law.
Here are some issues your attorney will be addressing:
- Review and study the elements of your case and prepare it in such a way that the judge is not left to make a decision regarding a settlement in your case. Ideally settlements should be made between the two parties, and generally judges will approve any reasonable settlement that he or she is presented with.
- Handle situations where a consensual special master (CSM) is introduced. Often times family law attorneys prefer to use CSM’s because they make the decision regarding who exercises discretion. The cost associated with the use of CSM’s are considerably lower because CSM’s can arrange methods of trials that can be set on a reliable date, and much sooner than traditional methods.
- Not inject personal feelings and emotions into the case, which will allow for reasonability and positive forward moving cooperation with the attorney on the other side.
- Knowledge of the rules relating to evidence and procedure.
- Understanding the art of summarization, presenting the court with precise issues limiting the presiding judge’s ability to focus on issues outside of the ones presented.
Family court can be an intimidating and downright scary place if you don’t have a full understanding of the rules relating to its procedures. One of the most important things that you can do in preparation for your family court appearance is to make sure that you select an experienced Minnesota family law attorney that you are comfortable with. The relationship that you build with your attorney can have a major impact on the outcome of your case.