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Going through a divorce or other family law case is stressful all on its own. But what happens when you have multiple family law cases going on at once or have a criminal or administrative case that intersects with your family law cases? How do you decide what to focus on first? Your choice matters to the outcome.
It’s not uncommon to have multiple court or administrative cases going on at once. These cases can be in different venues with different judges, each of whom may be unaware of the other matters, at least initially). Such scenarios might include:
Even when you only have one case before one judge, it likely has multiple aspects. For example, a divorce case may also include child custody and parenting time, child support, distribution of property, and spousal maintenance.
Dealing with multiple family law cases or issues can feel like playing a game of Whack-a-Mole; address one issue, only to have another pop up. Or perhaps a more apt analogy is trying to put out multiple fires at once, since legal matters carry much more serious consequences if not properly managed.
The first step is to realize that you should not attempt to juggle multiple family law cases or issues on your own. If ever there is a time to invest in the services of an experienced family law attorney, this is it. A good attorney offers some very valuable assistance.
To continue with the fire analogy, you’re standing on the ground while multiple areas of your property are on fire. Your attorney is like the experienced firefighter in a plane flying over the property. She can see things from her vantage point that you can’t because you’re in the midst of the crisis and in danger of being overwhelmed by it. But your “firefighter” has also seen “fires” like this before; she knows both how they’re likely to play out and how to minimize damage. She also has the tools necessary to help.
In addition to having an impact on the outcome of your family law cases, knowing you have a knowledgeable attorney on your side affects your experience of the process. While a good attorney can’t magically erase the stress, she can give you the peace of mind that issues are being addressed and nothing is falling through the cracks.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that there is nothing for you to do. You and your attorney are in a partnership, and you each have your roles. Here’s how to play yours.
While an attorney’s services are valuable, most people don’t have money to throw away on services that are not as effective as they could be. If you want to get the most out of your family law attorney’s help, you need to know how to help her help you.
First and foremost: be candid. Some people go to the doctor and aren’t completely honest about their drinking, exercise or other conduct because they don’t want the doctor to think poorly of them. But the doctor isn’t there to judge you, she’s there to help you, and she can’t do that effectively with incomplete information. Same with your attorney, who can’t help you fight potential allegations if she doesn’t know about them. Your attorney is on your side, and she needs to know everything you’re up against.
Second, let your attorney do the prioritizing, especially if you have matters going on in different courts. You may think of your divorce case as your “big” case. But a false allegation of abuse or criminal activity in another matter can have a negative impact on your divorce and custody case. By letting your attorney know about everything you have going on in a Minnesota court or agency, she may be able to ask for continuances of some matters so that they don’t negatively affect your family law case. Getting continuances may also allow you to conduct discovery in your family law case that will give you evidence needed to address claims in other cases.
Tell your attorney if you have any hearings scheduled or if you have been served with a complaint, motion, discovery request, or hearing notice in any legal matter. For many matters, if you do not respond within a specific time frame, the court is allowed to interpret your failure to respond in a way that is very favorable to the other party. Often, that can be difficult to reverse after the fact, and a negative ruling in one court can have a negative impact on your other case or cases.
Anytime you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed by one or more family law cases, that’s a sign that you need help. Don’t ignore it. Getting the advice and advocacy you need is worth it. If you have questions about how to handle court cases, or about the impact of other court cases on your family law case, please contact Mundahl Law to schedule a consultation.