I have the privilege of being able to wear several different hats in the family law field. I am an attorney representing parents and spouses; I am a mediator trying to help parents and spouses reach an amicable resolution; and I am a best interest attorney, representing children in very high-conflict custody cases. Each role has similarities and differences and each are vital to family law.
Obviously, when I represent the parent or spouse, I am advocating for their goals. As a mediator, I am neutral and have no dog in the fight, just trying to show the parties they are actually trying to accomplish the same thing: figuring out what is best for their family now that they are no longer together. As a best interest attorney, I am advocating for what is best for the child or children in a situation where their parents are no longer together.
However, regardless of who I am advocating for, my mindset is always the same. How can I help not only my client, the parents or spouse, the child or children? And, most of all: How can the family best move on from this very difficult situation? This mindset, particularly when I’m representing a parent or spouse, sometimes leads me to explain to my client that yes, they may have a strong chance of getting what they want in court, but there is no guarantee. Even if they are actually successful in court, they still need to ask themselves: “Is it truly worth it?” Will the initial feeling of “winning” be better than the possible long-term effects of “winning” for not only the parties themselves but the family as a whole? Almost always, the answer is, “it is not.”
In my opinion, being a good attorney, especially in family law, is not “winning” in the courtroom for your client but looking at the bigger picture, both short term and long term, and trying to help your client determine what exactly is best not only for the client but for the family. It’s almost never best for the child for the parties to have a court decide what is best. Not only because everyone’s dirty laundry is aired for the public to hear, but they are allowing a total stranger — who is limited in time and the rules of evidence to hear all the necessary information — to determine what is best for a child. The only people that can truly determine what is best for the children are those that have been with the children, and that is almost always the parties involved.
Do you wear different hats as an attorney? I’d be interested to hear about your experiences.