I am often mystified by the decisions that people make, the ones that clearly go against logic, that arise from an apparent lack of meaningful priorities.
We are all aware of someone who spends hours on-line researching a potential television purchase. This person may journey to numerous stores to check out the best selection and look for the greatest value for a limited budget. There may even be some ancillary considerations, a stand, screen protector or other gadgets to engross the purchaser in the complete viewing experience.
This person may go so far as to shop around when looking for a daycare provider for his or her child. The same dedication that went into reading product reviews of the gargantuan televisions may also be replicated to some degree investigating the licensing applications for the various daycare providers under consideration.
When it comes time to select the practitioner that may represent the interest of a parent in seeking to maintain the custody of his or her child often times a simple phone book advertisement will suffice. This decision can have consequence for a prolonged time, quite possibly the rest of your life and how your child views you. Yet so many are complacent to simply divest themselves of this awesome responsibility to the hands and mind of a financially motivated mouthpiece.
There are also financial considerations that would outweigh the cost of practically any other financial decision one could make in life. Child support payments can be ordered that often cripple or financially destroy a parent and lead to bankruptcy or sometimes imprisonment. Yet, parents will often abstain from the care and dedication given to selecting many services when it comes to selecting an attorney.
As I write this, just a few hours before a highly anticipated dental appointment that should relieve a great amount of pain, I think of how most people view the dental process. They know it is something they must face but want to be numb to the process. I once tried it without the painful injections that would keep me from feeling the piercing drill grinding away at the nerve in my tooth. The painful shoots became a pleasure the next time.
Often times when facing a major life decision, often medical, recommended by a professional we seek a second opinion. Sometimes there is an ethical obligation for the professional to recommend it. The legal process is no different and recognizes that itself to some degree. The framers of our constitution realized that judges and attorneys would make mistakes. Thus, they established reviewing courts; the court of appeals and the supreme court.
These courts often, but not always, are called upon to arbitrate disagreement among attorneys as to what the decision of the trial court should have been. Simply stated, lawyers do not agree on what the law means, how it applies or what evidence to present. The legal system is well aware of this. They even carry insurance to compensate the victims of their folly.
Still, this is an area where most people won't seek a second opinion. Like dentistry, family law is often muddled with pain and a desire to avoid it altogether. Most people just want to be numb to this also. Unfortunately, it only takes one party to make the unilateral decision that the court will be involved in one of the most important decisions of your life. Thus, at that point the train has already left the station and you better jump on board quick, with both eyes wide open.
This month I was called upon to assist in an adoption case brought about by a CPS action to terminate a mother's parental rights. CPS and the court were not following the law. This was going to be a complex and difficult case to pursue since the state actors involved were refusing to comply with statutory mandates. The party who sought my assistance was in no way prepared to take this on with only coaching and explanations of the rules. As someone who is not an attorney I could not go appear on his behalf and make the necessary demands.
So, I found a competent attorney for him who I trust and who has experience with the adverse parties. After my client met with him he called me and praised me for the assistance I provided to him. He was pleased with my selection of an attorney to fight for custody of the three children. Then he laid it on me; I'll call you if I ever need you again. "There's no since in paying two of you."
This is where I just don't get it. Possibly it is that litigants don't get it. Why, in a case as important as child custody, would someone not want to have two minds working on a case together. I don't mind saying that I am very well informed about child custody issues. It is the life I live. Some people play video games when bored, I read the latest Court of Appeals decisions in custody cases. I am a logical person and can view a situation from multiple perspectives.
I can build a client's negative into a positive. I can tear down the client's or his or her attorney's perceive positive attribute just as opposing counsel would. When a client mentioned to me the damaging evidence against the child's mother I tore it apart. He was excited that his daughter, who is age 9, called him to say that mommy started speaking weird and then went to 'sleep' on the floor. He didn't call 911 but called to the house about a half hour later and spoke with the mother who had regained consciousness after passing out from alcohol abuse.
Why did I not immediately rejoice with him about the damaging evidence against his child's mother? I did not think it was a strategically prudent move to go into court and admit that he was aware of but did nothing to remove his child from a neglectful situation; being in a house at night alone with a mother who is passed out. By not notifying authorities he was committing a crime in addition to admitting he left his daughter in a neglectful situation.
Duty to make report
Sec. 1. In addition to any other duty to report arising under this article, an individual who has reason to believe that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect shall make a report as required by this article.
Failure to make report
Sec. 1. (a) A person who knowingly fails to make a report required by IC 31-33-5-1 commits a Class B misdemeanor.
(b) A person who knowingly fails to make a report required by IC 31-33-5-2 commits a Class B misdemeanor. This penalty is in addition to the penalty imposed by subsection (a).
Don't be intimidated by the law and just leave it in the hands of someone else. Just like in any licensed profession the practitioners are only as good as the work they perform. Don't let your case be the one where it is discovered that an attorney has made a mistake.
So, what do I want you to take from my post today? Don't do it alone. You may not need to hire me to help you find an attorney or make sure the one you already have is effectively advocating for you. I do think it is a good idea though. But, you do need someone other than yourself to be able to take an objective look at your case and if your are being adequately represented.
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