At this time of year, it’s common to see “wish lists” for various people or groups. That got me thinking (a dangerous, if rare, thing) of what “wish list” could be devised for those in the family law field. On my list this year:
1. For mental health counselors: A magic pill to give to all their patients so that when they come to us lawyers they are emotionally ready for the divorce and all we have to do is practice law. In most of the cases we handle, the legal issues are a lot easier than the emotional ones. We have few options other than to recommend counseling. In most of these cases, the emotions burn out at a certain point and the case settles. In the meantime, the legal process does a great deal of financial and, more importantly, emotional harm to parties.
2. For trial court judges and family court commissioners: An extra hour (paid) to their day, which they can use to help lawyers and parties try to come to negotiated resolutions. An hour of pretrial is worth much more than a day of trial.
3. For court staff: Lawyers for everyone. The number of pro se parties is staggering and makes life difficult for trial courts and their clerks. The result is a backlog on their calendar and aggravation for their staff members.
4. For appellate judges: More controversial decisions! OK, this is a selfish wish. As a columnist, if all appellate decisions were appropriate, I’d have nothing to write about. While most appellate decisions are well reasoned and correctly apply the law, fortunately for me, we occasionally have decisions, for example, which do not recognize the importance of avoiding litigation and encouraging settlement. Fodder for me!
5. For divorce lawyers: The ability to choose the lawyer on the other side of every case. The most difficult case can be manageable if the lawyer on the other side is professional. The easiest case can be a nightmare if the opposing counsel is not professional.
6. For divorcing parties: A copy of the “Serenity Prayer” to put on their walls and read whenever needed. Your spouse is not going to change, but you can change the way you react to him or her. Your children can change based on the degree to which they are made pawns in the battle. So stop banging your head against a brick wall and realize what you can change – and what to let go.
7. For the general public. A free subscription to the Wisconsin Law Journal. Reading it demonstrates how the vast majority of lawyers – not all, unfortunately, but most – are truly professional, care deeply about their clients and the system of justice.
8. To everyone. Good holidays and a peaceful, healthy 2014.
Did I forget anything? Let me know in the comments below.