Many of us who are part of the Family Law section of the Rhode Island Bar Association are actually quite wonderful to one another. At least when the parties aren’t looking. Most of the Family Law attorneys who practice everyday have a strong grasp of the system, the process, and the judge. They have internalized what is and is not important. And they are adamant about ignoring what is not truly important to the judge in charge. Take our lead and save yourself a lot of time and heartache.
The children rule in the Family Court, and next to them, their safety, and their happiness everything is secondary. Everything. It’s a different arena.
We’re an odd group.
Lawyers who are accustomed to applying federal rules of evidence and procedure may feel out of place.
In Family Court, an attorney is worth their retainer in salt if they can prune down the genuine issues and maintain a diplomatic approach throughout. That way, we save the clients time, money, and stress.
Family Law attorneys who succeed are excellent with people. They have a sixth sense for compassion and artfully employ a diplomatic touch in unbearably tense situations. Family law attorneys have a heightened empathy that would not be necessary in, say, a criminal or a tax matter. Or when dealing with civil forfeiture. In Family Court empathy is everything.
In Family Court, it doesn’t matter if you’re wrong on the merits, wrong on the substance, and wrong on the facts if you understand the process and you treat opposing counsel and opposing party like human beings.
Only a very select few RI Family Court attorneys haven’t yet figured this out.
Just as, in any industry, there are those who are out of place, out of touch, and therefore cannot help but routinely undermine and embarrass their profession.
I once had a family law attorney in a child custody dispute walk right up to my client and tell him that she (the attorney) treated their dogs better than he (my client) treats his children.
Now, not only was this entirely untrue and uncalled for given the nature and facts of that particular case (the client I refer to is actually a hell of a parent), but this is the exact kind of approach that some attorneys employ successfully in other areas of law. This kind of brusque, confrontational and shameless chest thumping will probably help in other courtrooms. In Family Court, where lawyers will fail if they are unable to connect with the people involved, statements like these are a shameful stain on me and all other lawyers who practice in this area.
There are plenty of areas of law just perfect for attorneys such as this one who long ago lost their humanity. But Family isn’t one of them.