Most legal codes agree that certain behavior is wrong. Most demand simple justice: you did this bad thing, you get this punishment. Our legal code allows for that beautiful element of mercy to be blended with justice. The history of the law shows us that the Old Testament is the first legal code which allows for mercy to be blended with justice, producing “judgment.” In California, I see this magical blending of mercy and justice to render wise judgment, quite clearly in our family law courts. And I find it beautiful.
Beautiful, for the military man who has suffered a loss of custodial time because he acted out in anger at his wife after three tours in the desert… because he made amends, recovered, reestablished that relationship with his children and worked his way back to equally shared custodial time.
Beautiful, for the menopausal woman who smacked her husband of 40 years one time when she caught him cheating, and suffered agonies regarding her future – would her right to spousal support be terminated by her own conviction for domestic violence? Then the court states this is merely one factor of many that must be considered and she does, after all, receive an award of spousal support that will allow her to live with a measure of security.
Beautiful, for the child who has never known a biological father, and who is facing the loss of the only father she’s ever known when her mom breaks up with him… only to have him fight to be named her presumed father, and show the court they consider each other father and daughter – and in spite of her mom’s new boyfriend the child finds she gets to keep the man who has raised her from an infant as “her dad” – named forever as her legal father.
Sometimes the court finds that mercy is not appropriate. I have found that tragic, but beautiful as well.
The tears on a woman’s face as the court issues the findings and order protecting her and her children forever from their abuser – tragic, but beautiful.
A father’s weak-kneed collapse when he realizes the court’s appointed agent has found his children in another state and recovered them, and they’ll be home tomorrow, and then… then he hears the court order that mom will have only supervised visitation from here on out because she tried to permanently deprive him of those children – tragic, but beautiful.
The Court’s decision to award 100% (not merely half) of an extremely large, concealed community property asset to the party who had to jump through two years of legal hoops to find it, and to prove the other party’s concealment of the asset was intentional – not tragic, not quite beautiful, but certainly very satisfying.
For all these examples I have given above, the good results depend on two things: being able to get admissible evidence before the court so the Court is able to grant us the relief we requested; and ensuring our clients have the moral high ground so the Court is inclined to grant us the relief we requested.
At Hartley, Maxwell & Castellano we are very serious about ensuring our clients obey the law, follow the court’s orders, generally “do what’s right,” and sometimes do what is downright generous, at every opportunity. Because courts don’t make dramatic decisions like those discussed above based on one incident alone, whether good or bad; a course of conduct is what the court requires to take such definitive action. In family courts, there are too many cases where both parties are competing to be the most vengeful, most vindictive, most selfish party. In family court, two wrongs don’t make a right; a pattern of mutual wrongdoing gives the court the opportunity to believe neither party and generally does not get good results for either party.
Be the party the Court is inclined to help. Then, make sure you hire an attorney that knows how to get your evidence before the Court in admissible form.