Establish Winning Facts
Trials are about facts. For any fact that is important to a case, there is more value establishing that fact through the opposing party than proving that same exact fact through you, the client. Why? The nature of our court system requires each side to present their best case. Judges and juries are aware of this, so they have an inherent skepticism of any evidence that is presented by a person, and that person's attorney, as a good fact for his or her side. That skepticism goes away when the opposing party admits the same exact fact -- surely they wouldn't admit a fact that helps you, their opposing party, or that makes them look bad, unless that fact that they are admitting is absolutely true. Proving facts that way is done through cross-examination, which is an important skill for every trial lawyer. Cross-examination requires technical knowledge and skill. Sometimes we go into hearings, such as emergency custody hearings, temporary injunction hearings, and protective orders, with very little time or information to prepare. We are experienced and skilled at successfully handling tough, uncooperative witnesses in stressful, adverse circumstances with little opportunity for preparation. We know how to use the pretrial discovery process to set up proving strong facts at trial. In exceptional circumstances, our trial skills have allowed us to win custody and contract cases without our client testifying, because we were able to prove everything we needed to prove through cross-examination of the opposing party.
Use Visual and Tangible Evidence
The word “trial” may evoke an image of a witness on a witness stand testifying verbally in response to a verbal question from an attorney. Scientists and psychologists have determined that humans — judges and juries — remember things better that they see and touch rather than what they hear. As a result, we emphasize the use of visuals whenever possible. In family law cases, this means photographs of our client with the children, photographs of the home where the children will sleep, maps showing the location of significant events, and so on.
- current income information and recent tax returns (at least from the last two years)
- a list of property owned by each spouse before marriage, together with all information related to an increase in value of any of that property due to marital efforts, such as joint investments, home remodels and repairs
- a list of all property acquired during the marriage, including any business startups or partnerships, together with any available information concerning the value of the property, such as appraisals, Kelley Blue Book estimates, and the current sale price for the comparable property
- a list of all debts owed by each spouse before marriage and a list of all debts incurred during the marriage
- 6 months of statements for every bank account
- statements for utility bills and other regularly monthly expenses
- a statement for every retirement and deferred compensation account
- if health insurance is available, a document indicating the monthly premium cost
- a list of eyewitnesses with contact information for every material issue and fact
In addition, in custody cases we will need:
- a photograph of the client with each child
- recent report cards and any IEP for each child
- a statement showing the cost of child care
- photographs of the client’s home and each child’s bedroom
- a list of professionals involved with each child, including teachers and counselors
- a record of payment of child support
- documents related to any child’s health or behavioral issues
- a copy of the child’s health insurance card
- a timeline of significant events related to the child and the other parent
Keep It Simple
Every case has its factual and legal complexities. If a settlement cannot be reached, a decision will be made by a judge or a jury. Obviously jurors may not have any legal background. Did you know that judges do not have any specialized training or skills to be a judge? Judges are not necessarily aware of the things that impact their own decision-making, including their own biases. Cutting-edge psychological studies show us that humans are worse decision-makers than we think we are, and that all human brains are inherently lazy. Our job is to present your case in a simple, understandable, and credible way so that your best possible outcome is the outcome that makes the most sense to mind of the decision-maker.
Our preparation and disclosure of information help us obtain results for our clients. Independent, objective evidence makes a case much stronger than a “he said / she said” battle of words. Our strategy pays off in negotiation, mediation, and in the courtroom. It is part of what makes us different from the rest.