Family law is 90 percent art and 10 percent science. The science is easy – the art takes years to perfect. Many casual observers or novice participants to the family law world think that a case is won or lost during one hearing, one case, one decimal point, one battle. The truth is, that the initial divorce decree or the initial child custody decree is just the first step in a years long battle.*
The key to winning (and by that I mean advancing your own view of the proper division of property and child-rearing responsibilities) is setting and executing a long term strategy. This is the dirty little secret of our adversarial legal system – that I’m almost too ashamed to share. To win in family law requires months, if not years of preparation, before the case is filed; and diligent maintenance after the case is “final.”
Take for example the wife/mother who has been the victim of an adulterous spouse. To “win”, she has to start building the wall months before she files the case. Here is what I mean by building the wall: a wall is made up of thousands of bricks – and it takes time to add one brick on top of another. Each piece of evidence which supports the wife/mother’s view is one brick. A brick could be a screen shot of the husband’s text with his mistress, a photo of him passed out drunk, a note in a journal about him yelling at the kids, a bank account statement showing an excessive gambling habit, a photo of a bruise on the child’s face from being slapped by the husband, a letter from a child psychologist stating the trauma on the child, etc.
To maintain a defensible position (a winning narrative – a persuasively truthful account) the wife must have months of bricks stacked on top of each other to create a wall – a wall to protect herself and her child. After the entry of the final judgement, this building has to continue. And, it has to continue in a systematic and diligent manner.
The wife/mother must not rest on the victory of the final decree. There are 100 more battles to fight. It’s sad, but true when dealing with a dirt-bag adulterous spouse. For the sake of the child’s best interest and the wife/mother’s own protection, little pieces of evidence must still be accumulated and systematically organized to build an impenetrable wall.
That’s the truth about family law in an adversarial system.
*As a caveat, I’m really speaking to a less-than-ideal situation. Ideally, if two parties must get a divorce, the division of assets and child rearing responsibilities happens collaboratively.
About the Author, Samuel J. McLure, Esq.
Sam graduated from Huntington College in 2006 with a degree in Business Administration. Before transferring to Huntington College, he attended Bethune-Cookman University as the first minority-white running back in the historically black conference.
He went on to Jones School of Law and graduated with honors, cum laude. During law school, Sam had the distinguished honor of serving with the Faulkner Law Review, clerking with Alabama Supreme Court Justice Patricia Smith, clerking with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, and studying International Law with Cornell University in Paris, France.
However, Sam’s most memorable law school achievement was adopting his first child from the Hungarian foster-care system. It was through that process that he and his wife saw the great need to protect children in the foster care system and to encourage adoption.
Sam’s law practice has maintained an orbit around protecting vulnerable and at-risk children. He and his wife have four children and have been actively engaged in the foster care system. Sam is the author of The End of Orphan Care, and book devoted to unpacking the orthodoxy and orthopraxy of orphan care; and has founded or served with ministries and community outreach initiatives such as Kiwanis, Personhood Alabama, Proposal 16, and Sav-a-Life.