Awful Opposing Counsel in Family Court

7 Steps for Managing Awful Opposing Counsel

“Honestly, based on the dealings I’ve had so far, I dislike the other attorneys more than the opposing spouse! Why do attorneys have to make everything so personal?”

The guy who said that practices family law in Florida, and I couldn’t agree more.

You’ve had the same experience. The opposing counsel is making you miserable. You are not alone.

My friend in Florida asked, “How do you deal with attorneys like that?”

I’ll attempt to answer. However, I’ll warn you now that there isn’t a secret formula for these situations. There isn’t a perfect solution for dealing with these difficult humans.

When I’m dealing with one of these lawyers, I assume that we’re in for the long haul. These folks typically drag out every element of the case.

How to Never Let Your Clients (Or Opposing Counsel) See You Sweat

Here’s my advice:

1. Accept it. Accept that they are who they are and that you can’t change that reality.

2. Be normal. Make every effort to resolve your cases as amicably as usual. Be yourself. Don’t let their anger, hostility, and bad behavior change you. Don’t spend any special time or effort coming up with some magic plan of action because it’s not likely to work, and it only raises your clients’ expectations.

3. Explain the increased expense. Tell your clients that you’re likely to go to trial. Explain to the clients how this sort of behavior works in these cases. Explain that it drives up the costs and that they’re in for a long, expensive battle unless they want to concede now and be done by taking a grossly unfair deal. Help your clients understand that a bad deal is a choice some people prefer when compared to letting opposing counsel drag things on forever. Do a cost/benefit analysis with your clients.

4. Inoculate yourself with your clients. Tell your clients they’re going to have doubts about the quality of your representation and the fairness of the process. Help the clients understand that opposing counsel is acting in an effort to have that impact. Explain that opposing counsel’s bad behavior undermines confidence in you, and that’s the intent. Explain that it makes clients feel out of control. Predict the future for your clients—a future filled with ugly comments, unpleasant interactions, and protracted litigation. Help your clients understand that ultimately, the outcome will still be fair and reasonable.

5. Avoid emotional counterpunching. Make no effort to psych out opposing counsel. Tell your clients why you aren’t going to bother. Don’t attempt to be a bigger jerk than they’re being. Try not to engage in the crazy behavior. Moving forward with the process is the only agenda.

6. Get ready for trial. Keep moving your cases forward. Always have an event on the calendar. Assume you’re going to try these cases, and don’t get sucked into the endless insanity of unproductive settlement discussions.

7. Get it over with. Try the cases. Your clients need finality. They need it to be over. You’ve prepared them for the inevitability of a long, hard slog, and they know it ends with the judgment of the court. Push it forward and get it finished. That way, neither you nor your clients will have to deal with these difficult humans any longer than necessary.

As I said earlier, there isn’t an easy solution for these most difficult lawyers. Just do the job and accept that they make the process inefficient, expensive, and unpleasant. By pushing forward and disconnecting from the aggravating insanity, you’ll survive this case and be ready for the next one. 

Unfortunately, you’ll likely have another case with these same lawyers and have to deal with their negative behavior again down the road.

If knowing that you’ll have to deal with these people over and over is something you can’t tolerate, then sadly, this work may not be for you.

It's time for high-fives and, "Congratulations on a job well done!" 

Your calls and emails have caused Senator Patrick Leahy to remove the Dept. of Education's (DED) new sexual assault policy from his draft of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). See: 

Great job! Enjoy that sweet smell of success.
One down, many more to go...
Unfortunately, Sexual Assault was not the only section of VAWA with civil rights violations. Sen. Leahy's draft:
  • Continues funding mandatory arrest policies.
  • Provides legal assistance to accusers, yet not for the accused.
  • Perpetuates sex-based discrimination through biased predominant aggressor policies.
  • Doesn't distinguish between those making allegations and those with probable-cause evidence.
See our Special Report, Are Domestic Violence Policies Respecting our Fundamental Freedoms?

Today we're asking you to contact Senator Leahy to tell him to remove all civil rights violations from VAWA.
Contact Senator Leahy today!
Thank you. We make a great team, don't we?

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

The first case to recognize a non-custodial parent’s cause of action based on the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress was Sheltra V. Smith, 392 A. 2d 431 (Vt. 1978). 

In this case, the non-custodial parent brought suit for damages alleging that:

“defendant willfully, maliciously, intentionally, and outrageously inflicted extreme mental suffering and acute mental distress on the plaintiff, by willfully, maliciously, and outrageously rendering it impossible for any personal contact or other communication to take place between the (plaintiff and child).

The Superior Court, Caledonia County, dismissed the complaint for failure to state of cause of action on which relief could be granted. The Supreme Court of Vermont, however, found that the plaintiff stated a prima facie case for outrageous conduct causing severe...

Id. at 433

“Relationship Estrangement and Interference is a form of Domestic Violence using Psychological abuse.”
~ Joan Kloth-Zanard of PAS Intervention.‎
PAS Intervention stands for Parental Alienation Support and Intervention. It is an International Non-profit organization to End Child Abuse and Parental Alienation.
The International Access and Visitation Centers conference was held in Toronto last month. PAAO was there and spoke to most of the 200 or so practitioners. Of course all were familiar with alienation and it's results. Everyone was not only gratified to see PAAO at the event; they all also acknowledged that PA is either a form of Domestic violence or on the continuum of Domestic Violence behaviors.

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