Do’s and Don’ts in Family Law
Do Keep a Journal
You should always keep a daily diary and describe significant events that occur during the course of your daily living. This should include any problems with the other party or the children. If the other party does not exercise their visitation, write it down, if they are late, write it down, if there is an altercation, write it down…and so on.
At the top of the Journal write “To my attorney.” This journal is communication between me and you and is therefore attorney client privilege and cannot be discovered by the other side (there is an exception to this – let me explain it to you). I cannot tell you how often “he said/she said” disputes erupt about who had the children when or who “started it.” The journal will help you remember what happened and when it happened. It is a necessary tool in proving patterns of non-compliance and protecting you against false allegations. It will also help you to monitor your own behavior and to keep your cool.
Do not discuss the case with the children
It is not appropriate to discuss details of legal matters with the children. Legal matters involving children are extremely stressful for them. Discussing these matters with the children will add to their stress. In addition, discussing these legal matters with the children may have a negative effect on your case as the courts seriously frown on this behavior.
If you have concerns about your children, write down your concerns in the journal so that we can discuss them. Feeling helpless, angry, or sad are some of the normal emotions people feel when going through a family legal process. Please ask for a referral to a family counseling service if you would like additional support or a reality check.
Do Avoid Precarious Situations
Avoid situations with your ex-significant other in which you may be accused of making threats, violence, stalking, telephone harassment, or actually committing any of these acts. This type of litigation is extremely stressful. It is easy to do or say things that you will regret when it comes out in court. Be alert and resist the temptation.
Do not put anything in writing you don’t want a Judge to read later. Do not leave messages on answering machines that you don’t want to later hear in a courtroom. If your ex provokes you, take a witness with you when you have to be in his or her presence.
If a telephone conversation is not going well, then end that conversation and do not call back. You do not have to talk with someone who is being abusive – say “goodbye” and hang up the phone. Do not continue to engage in a conversation with him or her.
Many times a litigant will try to enrage you to make you react so they can record it. Be aware of this and don’t play the game. If you find yourself getting angry or upset, immediately end the conversation and hang up the phone.
It’s normal and human to want to get that zinger in or to get a little sweet revenge. But, it is not appropriate and it isn’t sweet when it comes back to haunt you in court. So, be on your best behavior and let me know if you think things might get out of hand or the opposing party is attempting to provoke you.
Do Record Conversations
Many times it is necessary to record all the conversations between you and the other party. In Texas, it is legal to record you telephone calls without telling the person you are recording the conversation. It is illegal to record anyone else’s telephone conversations. You cannot record a conversation in which neither of the parties is aware they are being recorded. Keep a log and a general description of each tape. It may also be necessary to use video tape in your case. This will be determined on a case by case basis.
Always assume that the other party is recording conversations with you. Do not say or do anything that would embarrass you in court.
Do not send letters to the court
If you have an attorney, never correspond with the court. The court will think that you have little self control and it will negatively affect your case. Everything that is filed with the court must be given to the other party. Judges will not read letters from witnesses or 3rd parties.