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My Blog

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Do You Need a Lawyer for Your Child Custody Case?

Posted on November 3, 2017 at 7:08 PM Comments comments (161)
One question people ask me is whether they need an attorney to represent them in their child custody and/or family law matter. Short answer...Nope! You do not need a lawyer to represent you.

In the United States and New Mexico specifically, you do not need a lawyer to represent you. You have a right to represent yourself in court. You can go to court, file pleadings, and argue your case. Many people do. I know this because they hire me to fix the mess.

Truth be told, many people have represented themselves in court and some folks have done pretty well for themselves. But the sad fact is most people don't fare so well. Despite the fact that various NM Supreme Court approved forms are available online, knowing how to fill out those forms can be very confusing. The district courts oftentimes host various family law clinics. However an hour seminar is not the same as years of experience in the court room.

Under New Mexico law judges are to treat people representing themselves called being a pro se litigant, the same as if these people were lawyers. That means the judges will hold a pro se litigant to the same standards as a professional attorney. In short, a pro se litigant will be expected to know the various court rules of evidence and procedure as well as proper decorum. The parent who represent themselves will be expected to understand the applicable law and must be able to draft legal paperwork.

But one of the biggest services you get when you hire a lawyer is a professional advocate who filters much of the emotional stress for you. Many people sabotage their case by being overly "emotional" in court. Typically the other parent or their lawyer strategically pushes your buttons helping to elevate an already explosive situation. Often judges view this against you! They think you are possibly unfit as a parent simply because you displayed feelings; feelings after being pushed to the edge in court. That's where a good family law or custody lawyer comes in. They shield you from much of this and tell your side of the story.

When you retain an attorney not only are you paying for someone to prepare and file paperwork, but an experienced professional who is not only familiar with the law, but just as importantly your lawyer must have rapport with the court and an ability to craft solutions creatively. Creative solutions without all the emotional baggage and hostility.

If you have questions please feel free to call.


On thinking Like a Lawyer

Posted on December 5, 2014 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (225)
Here's a great article I just read from Princeton Law School...Hope you enjoy.

“On Thinking Like A Lawyer” Anne-Marie Slaughter (Used by permission of Harvard Law School;  first printed in Harvard Law Today May, 2002) 
 
You are now all well on your way to that magical state that is the end-product of your first year in law school: thinking like a lawyer. So what have we taught you? 
Thinking like a lawyer means, in the first instance, thinking with care and precision, reading and speaking with attention to nuance and detail. It means paying attention to language, but also understanding that words can have myriad meanings and can often be manipulated. It thus also means paying attention to context and contingency. That is all part of the lawyer’s craft, or art, which is important both in itself and as a means to larger ends. 

Thinking like a lawyer also means that you can make arguments on any side of any question. Many of you resist that teaching, thinking that we are stripping you of your personal principles and convictions, transforming you into a hired gun. On the contrary, learning how to make arguments on different sides of a question is learning that there are arguments on both sides, and learning how to hear them. That is the core of the liberal value of tolerance, but also the precondition for order in a society that chooses to engage in conflict with words rather than guns. It is our best hope for rational deliberation, for solving problems together not based on eradicating conflict, but for channeling it productively and cooperating where possible.  

Thinking like a lawyer also means exercising judgment, distinguishing among those arguments, sifting good from bad. Just as you will come to understand that there are arguments made in good faith on opposing sides, you must also learn to reject some arguments, or at least to choose among them. Arguments may be bad because they are illogical, because they do not fit the facts or the law, because they are silly or inconsequential. They may also be bad because they promote bad policies, or because they reflect values that we condemn: racism, degradation of human dignity, greed -- you fill in the blanks. Learning to think like a lawyer means learning to reject some arguments and to embrace others, and to know and be able to articulate why.  

Thinking like a lawyer means combining realism with idealism. It means believing in the possibility and the desirability of both order and justice, and in the capacity of the law to help us achieve them. But it also means knowing the full range of human conduct, and understanding that grand principles will remain paper principles unless they are implemented with an eye to human incentives. Nevertheless, in the end the idea of law, and the ideals that it stands for, is what lawyers represent. It is much harder to be an idealist when  you have all the reasons to be a cynic. 

One of my colleagues at Chicago ends her first year civil procedure class by saying: “Sometimes in the first year of law school, people learn to think like lawyers, but to be a little less like people. You’ve learned the first of those things. You shouldn’t let us teach you the second.” I disagree. There is no dichotomy here. Thinking like a lawyer is thinking like a human being, a human being who is tolerant, sophisticated, pragmatic, critical, and engaged. It means combining passion and principle, reason and judgment. 

You are all well on your way to thinking like lawyers. It’s been both a pleasure and a privilege to help get you there. 

How to Find the Right Lawyer

Posted on November 19, 2014 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (67)
For many people, finding an attorney is a mysterious thing. That's because the average person doesn't hire an attorney everyday. But sometimes in life challenges surprise us and we find ourselves in need of a legal professional. Some examples are drafting a will or contesting a probate, starting a business, estate planning, an arrest by the police, automobile accident, civil law suit, and divorce and child support issues. So when these events pop up and we know we need a lawyer, how do we find one?
 
If you have a friend, family member, or other trusted person such as a minister, priest, or therapist, perhaps they have had some similar experiences and can refer you to someone they trust. Often that is not the case and people then are forced to search through phone books, internet searches, and television commercials to find an attorney. So here are some tips to help.
 
Attorneys specialize and it’s important to find someone who handles
your type of case; criminal defense attorneys represent people accused of crimes such as a DWI. Estate planners draft wills, create trusts, and help you decide what happens to your stuff when you die. And when you are facing divorce, child custody matters and child support, you should look for an attorney that focuses his/her practice on these types of cases.

Keyword searches on Internet are a good way to find some candidates; avoid
referral sites and directories, you don’t need a middleman who gets a portion of the fees.

Check out their websites and choose three or four attorneys who handle
your type of case. But don't get too caught up on their website; don't be overly impressed with the flash, beeps, and whistles. You should get a feel for the attorney, their qualifications and background, as well as learn something about the law as it relates to your issue by their website. You should be able to get basic questions answered such as contact info, office location, potential fees and costs, as well as testimonials.

Call all of them and ask to speak to the attorney and not just an appointment setter or staff member. Once you get the lawyer on the line, ask questions such as how long practicing, what percentage of their practice is this type of matter etc.

Lastly go and meet with them, ask more about the case, about how they will work with you, accessibility, fees, etc.
 
Bottom line, you need to choose the person that best resonates with you. This person is going to speak on your behalf and represent you and your interests. If the attorney guarantees results, only talks about money, or seems too good to be true, you should probably find someone else.
 
That should get you started. If you have any questions, please contact me.

Five Tips to Help Your Divorce Lawyer Effectively Represent You

Posted on August 22, 2013 at 6:29 PM Comments comments (167)
This is a great article and I thought I would share it here.
 
Five Tips To Help Your Divorce Lawyer Effectively Represent You
Posted on April 10th, 2013, by Scott Morgan in Divorce, Family Law. 1 Comment
Featured Image THE POST LOOP ============================================ THE POST CONTENT
This is a guest post by board certified family law attorney Scott Morgan. He is the founder of the Morgan Law Firm which has offices in Houston, Austin, and Sugar Land.
 
Anyone who is going through or has gone through a divorce can tell you how important it is that you have a very good attorney. But what not many people will tell you is that regardless of how good an attorney you have your results will suffer if you and your attorney cannot work together effectively. Having practiced family law for nearly 20 years I have a few ideas of what it takes to effectively work with your divorce lawyer. Here are my five favorite tips to help your divorce lawyer do a good job on your case.
 
Tip #1 – Don’t Hide Things from Your LawyerLying and hiding things from your attorney is absolutely not in your best interest. Not only will it damage the relationship with your lawyer, it is likely to cause great damage to your case. Whatever the facts are a good lawyer can help you to do damage control and deal with the situation in the best way possible. What no lawyer can effectively deal with is being blindsided at the courthouse by damaging evidence that you had hoped would stay hidden.
 
Tip #2 – Have Realistic GoalsWhile no attorney can promise you a specific result in your case, a good attorney can usually give a reasonable range of likely outcomes. If your goals are well outside this range then it will make it nearly impossible for your lawyer to settle your case. Pay careful attention if your lawyer tells you that your objectives are unrealistic and that you are very unlikely to achieve them via settlement or at the courthouse. Sometimes it is necessary to adapt one’s goals to a more reasonable level in order to get the best possible result.
 
Tip #3 – Keep Relevant Documents and Information OrganizedThis tip is important throughout the case but particularly important during the discovery phase of your case. A common frustration of divorce lawyers occurs when they ask clients to compile information and records for them and the client either delays or outright refuses to do the work necessary to get them. Again, while it may seem unreasonable that you are required to do so much work on your divorce case, if you want an outstanding result you need to give your lawyer what they need.
 
Tip #4 – Don’t Get Derailed by Your EmotionsIt very frequently happens in divorce cases that a client becomes their own worst enemy. I have had clients call their spouses and leave horribly profane voicemails, send similarly nasty emails, give away personal property that belonged to their spouse, and perform a variety of other childish gestures that were intended to anger their spouse. Of course, the result of these actions was to provide the other side with very helpful evidence to show the judge just how unreasonable my client was. Don’t fall into this trap. Keep your emotions in check and avoid taking any action that would make you look bad to an objective outside observer.
 
Tip #5 – Be Open to Your Lawyer’s AdviceThis tip buttresses Tip #2’s advice to “have realistic goals.” Clients often have a belief that if they just got the case in front of a judge then the injustice of the situation would be obvious and the judge would spare no effort in an extremely harsh punishment of the other spouse. The reality is often quite different. While the facts of every case are unique it is imperative that you have a good lawyer and listen to that lawyer’s input about your case.Hopefully these five tips can help you more successfully navigate the divorce landscape and avoid making some of the all too common errors made by parties in divorce cases.