Thursday, April 12, 2012

Advising You and Your Attorney in Child Custody Matters

In the past few days I have received some requests to prepare legal cases and represent parties in court. However, because I am not an attorney that is precisely what I am prohibited from doing by the Indiana Supreme Court. In fact, I have been investigated by the Disciplinary Commission for the unauthorized practice of law [UPL]. There was no finding that I had ever engaged in UPL.

Instead of practicing law I am a resource of knowledge for litigants and attorneys to use in child custody cases. I help litigants to be better positioned to receive favourable rulings in child custody matters and in the process become better parents and more fully reach their personal potential.

I help attorneys to understand the nuances of child custody matters and all the possible actions that can be taken in their case. Last year while meeting with one of Indiana's top appellate attorneys I mentioned the possibility of filing a particular motion to which he said, "I would have never thought of that". When the Indiana Court of Appeals granted the motion and the three children were immediately returned to the father the attorney told the father not to thank him but to thank Stuart Showalter instead.

I do often find that people assume that I am an attorney which can put them in a precarious position. This is why it is stated in bold all caps type on my contract that I am not an attorney and cannot represent you in court. An Indiana State Senator, an attorney himself, was stunned to learn that I was not an attorney. I have written child custody bills and had them passed into law, I regularly testify on child custody bills and provide reports or consultation to legislators on child custody matters. Additionally, I have provided significant input to the development of the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines and have had additional subject matter added to the Guidelines.

Anyone considering using my services needs to be aware of the importance of my status as a non-attorney. This is best explained in a message from an attorney to one of my clients --

I was under the impression that Stuart was an attorney and that [attorney] referred you to him. If he's not, that's fine, but I just need to make sure you know that.
I did not tell you this up front, given that I had every reason to believe that Stuart was an attorney, but if another person comes to a meeting between attorney and client, confidentiality for that meeting is waived. It is not quite such a big deal since you had been talking to him about your case in-depth before I met with the two of you, but, in the future, I would caution you that if he is not an attorney, there is no confidentiality. I think he probably told you all this up front, but I just want to verify that you understand and already knew about that rule.
Also, you might want to know going forward that, if he is not an attorney, he is not permitted to try to impose on an attorney's professional judgment or give legal advice; however, as he did not try to impose upon my judgment and on at least one occasion he refused to give you legal advice, I think he's probably aware of those issues and discussed them with you as well. Please let me know if that was not the case.
Just making sure for my peace of mind that you already knew all this and that you know all the ethical considerations in case no one explained them to you before.

It may have slipped this attorney's mind or the attorney was busy organizing for our meeting but at the beginning, as I always do, I informed the attorney and my client that I am not an attorney and that there is no confidentiality. That at anytime, given the remote possibility that the opposing party could call me as a witness, if there is anything either do not want possibly exposed to simply ask me to leave the room momentarily.

As this attorney noted it is not my position to give legal advice. Instead I help attorney's and clients explore the nuances of child custody proceedings, understand all available options and see the contrary position to arguments. Additionally and most important to me is that a coach my clients in all aspects of life to help them become more financially secure, improve their well-being, be more satisfied with life, improve relationships and ultimately become better parents.

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Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.

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©2008, 2012 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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