Blowback, specks and planks

Only inexperienced or unthinking family law attorneys take aggressive action against an opposing party without expecting blowback against their client.  It’s animal nature to strike back when attacked and being served with a pleading or motion that challenges one’s behavior feels like a personal attack.  Typically whatever good will the opposing party had towards one’s client will diminish–sometimes greatly; sometimes forever–when one’s client files and serves the opposing party with a contentious motion, pleading or contempt action.  Counsel who assume that such filings with be consequence-free are simply not paying attention.  An attorney who fails to inform clients of the risks of possible blowback from filing and serving such paperwork is not serving his or her client well.

Even when warned of these risks, clients tend to minimize them.  For a state in which most of its residents profess to be Christians, few family law litigants seem to have internalized many of the lessons from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  From Matthew 7:3-5:

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Many filings in family court highlight the speck in the opposing party’s eye while ignoring the plank in one’s own client’s eye.  A client may complain about the opposing party’s conduct but if the client’s conduct is even worse that client is unlikely to achieve success in family court.  The opposing party, upon responding to the aggressive filing, will certainly note the even greater defects, if they exist, in one’s own client.  The likely end result: the client incurs attorney’s fees without achieving successful results; the client may be ordered to pay the opposing party’s fees; and the client may even lose some of the rights he or she previously had.

Before focusing on the speck in an opposing party’s eye, it is useful to discuss with a domestic client whether there might be a plank in his or her eye.  If there is, the blowback from bringing that speck to the court’s attention will likely outweigh the benefits of doing so.  Instead such clients should be counseled to work on removing their plank before they worry about the other party’s speck.

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