The answer is simple. Prioritize what you want. The issues in any divorce or custody case are not one-dimensional. They are multiple. Is it the right to decide where your child will reside the majority of the time? Do you want to be the one in charge of all the major decision-making for your child? Or maybe it is deciding the extracurricular activities in which your child will participate. Is determining what days and time you spend with your child the most important goal you need to have accomplished?
Maybe there is no “fight” between your spouse or ex-spouse over the children, but communication and making the post-divorce co-parenting less stress-filled needs fixing. Often, a divorce is simply over money. On either side of a divorce, there is going to be worry about post-divorce finances, child support, spousal maintenance, and asset division.
The issues are wide-ranging and diverse. What is most important to one person may be last on another person’s list. So, to “win” in a divorce or custody case, you have to know what it is you want to win.
I used to have clients ask me what my “winning percentage” was in court. I was always at a loss to give them a realistic answer. First, there is more than one judge in my primary county of practice. Each one has a different set of principles on which they make decisions about children and child custody. Yes, the rule of law governs such decisions, but the law also gives family judges some latitude in deciding what is in the best interest of a child and what is a “just and right” division of a marital estate. Second, my definition of winning and theirs might not be the same. Last, but not least, how far do they want to carry the case to get to a “win”. Are they mentally and financially prepared to take this to a trial, or even a jury trial, to achieve their goal of a win? Or, is it better for them to negotiate a settlement?
As a person thinking about a divorce or post-divorce custody action, the first thing you have to do is sit down and prioritize what you have to get fixed, what you need to get done, and what you would like to have accomplished. Write each point down on a piece of paper. When you visit the lawyer, hand him or her that list. It will make all the difference in the world in the advice that the lawyer will give you and the budget for your lawsuit.
Most clients don’t do this. They come in to see me and list all the problems. As lawyers, we are trained to fix problems. but without the client’s input as to which problem is affecting their lives the most, we are scatter shooting recommendations as to what and how to fix them.
If someone asks you to “Pretend you are Samantha in Bewitched,” what would you say? If you could wiggle your nose and change anything that is going on in your situation, what it be? Ask yourself this question, write down the answers, and see your lawyer. You are now in a position to WIN!