In the practice of law, especially in domestic cases, there are many steps along the way towards a final resolution. There are of course rules and procedures to follow in the courts, and interim or temporary orders that must be followed until a final settlement or final hearing can be had. As a litigant, you can often become impatient with the slow progress of a case or frustrated when the opposing side continues to throw up road blocks or hurdles. This is ever truer in divorce cases. The decision to divorce is emotional and often thought out and planned for a significant time prior to actually making the move to start the legal process of divorce. Often, one spouse has come to the emotional conclusion of the marriage far sooner than the other (usually the one who takes the first step to file for divorce, but not always). Once the decision is made, it can be hard to be patient, as you just want to move on with your life, but have all these decisions and issues hanging over your head.
As with any case, there are hiccups along the road towards the conclusion. Some problems are imposed by the system (rules, waiting periods, and overburdened court systems). Other problems arise due to the opposing side’s actions, possibly in not replying to discovery requests timely or making efforts to slow the proceedings because he or she is just not accepting the divorce, etc. The question that arises in all civil cases, not just divorces, when roadblocks and hiccups happen is how should you react, if at all?
Attorneys as a profession may have a reputation to fight, fight, fight, but often times being a good attorney, and a good litigant, is about choosing which battles are worth fighting. It may feel good to fight every issue, and injustice along the path, but that may not always get you the right result in the end. Courts pay attention to the litigants and their behaviors during the proceedings. Fighting against every injustice, objecting to every request of the other party, may leave the court frustrated and annoyed with having to settle every little dispute between parties. Sometimes, there are occasions where even if the other party has done something wrong, to object and fight it, will get you nowhere. Here is an example:
- Discovery responses from the opposing side are due next week and the opposing counsel contacts your attorney and asks for an additional 15 days to reply.
- While the rule states that the opposing party should reply on time1 (and you may even ask the court to compel them to reply in certain circumstances), and an extra 15 days is delaying the process, when determining if you should agree or object, the question is: how will the delay harm you?
- If the harm is slight (the hearing is not set for another 3 months), agreeing would show civility and courtesy, rather than objecting will show inflexibility and stubbornness. The courts pay attention to these behaviors, and may develop a certain opinion of you.
Fair enough, roadblocks and delays in the process are frustrating, and when you simply agree to let the other side bend the rules, it may feel as if they are winning. However, it is important to keep the end in sight, and the overall picture in mind. Being flexible, fair, courteous, and considerate to the opposing side are better qualities to portray to the court, which will come in to play when the court is making decisions that will affect your life. Moreover, if your goal is to settle the matter at mediation or through your attorneys negotiating a settlement, the more courteous you are along the process to the opposing side, the more likely they are to meet you in the middle, and acquiesce to some of your requests. As the old adage goes “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” (Meaning: It is easier to get what you want by flattering people and being polite to them than by making demands.)
In law, as with many areas of life, you need to pick your battles in order to see a more successful outcome in the end.
We hope that this blog post has been helpful in understanding some of the nuances of civil law practice. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Lori Schmeltzer.