Doubling down on stupid

Sometimes the greatest service an attorney can offer a client is to walk the client back from looming disaster. However it requires skill and experience to recognize that disaster awaits, and a different skill set to successfully convince the client that a conciliatory approach is necessary.

A decent sized subset of domestic cases involve situations in which one party’s misbehavior has provided the other party sufficient leverage to achieve most or all of that other party’s goals. Often the misbehaving party will fail to recognize, or will even attempt to justify, such misbehavior. An attorney who buys into that client’s viewpoint will allow–even encourage–that client to double down on stupid. The results are typically ugly.

It is hard enough to get good results in the family court for clients who abuse substances, commit adultery or violate restraining orders. It becomes much harder when such clients lie about this behavior or attempt to justify it. A habitually intoxicated client who gets treatment will have better results than the same client who denies the heavy drinking. An adulterous client who doesn’t expose the child(ren) to the adultery might keep custody; if that same client denies the adultery, how can the court be sure the children aren’t being exposed? Someone sending offensive texts to a spouse is better off apologizing than justifying. The family court understands humans aren’t perfect but it expects parties to be contrite when they aren’t.

Getting a client to acknowledge, apologize for, and correct bad behavior can result in obtaining much better results for that client. The client who simply continues to engage in such behavior while lying about it or justifying it typically gets found in contempt and gets horrible results in court. It may be hard for humans to acknowledge their failings but doubling down on stupid is never good litigation strategy.

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  • Bill Clifford

    There is much to be said for emotionally fortifying your client with more than vengeance. Helping your client to become independent and overcome a relationship that has debilitated and degraded Him or her helps them to become better parents and is every bit as important as the material goals which are too often the beginning and end of marital litigation.

  • Some very interesting points here. A huge part of this profession is learning to tell clients this sort of thing. Thanks for sharing your insight!

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